In the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic, people are transitioning to distance teaching. Classroom educators are rolling out emergency strategies to offer their coursework online while business leaders are moving to virtual conferencing. And, not knowing which tools and resources are reliable and helpful is a problem.
When you go from offline to online teaching, there is a bit of a learning curve. And, you will want to utilize many of the existing tools you use to run your physical classroom. Doing so will encourage less confusing changes for you and your students to make. But, once you settle into your new operations and notice areas for improvement, what should you do?
Here, we’ll answer the following questions:
- Are your distance teaching processes sufficient and how do you know?
- What online learning tools and resources should you be using?
Let’s get started.
First, Self-Analyze Your Existing Educational Processes
When you begin to spot holes in your educational methods for distance learning, what’s the first step? The answer will depend on the level of the learners and your skills with technology among other things. And, if you’re completely new to technological tools for distance learning, you may or may not have any idea how to gauge your processes.
So, the best way to get a baseline for early analysis is to understand best-practices.
1. Break your lessons into bite-sized learning modules
2. Give students accountability partners and assign group projects
3. Deliver multiple lesson formats to accommodate all learning styles
4. Make sure students have access to educational resources
5. Conduct regular live instructional sessions (Zoom, etc.)
6. Record your live sessions and give students access to archives
7. Use gamification in the form of points systems and leaderboards
8. Communicate directly with individual students and to the class as a whole
There will ultimately be more advanced tactics and tools you can execute to optimize the learning experience for your students as you move forward. Still, use the practices above as a checklist to establish a strong distance learning foundation for your students.
Are you doing everything listed here? If not, think about how you can implement these tactics right away. And, use the tools below to help.
Now, the Online Teaching Tools & Resources You Need to Create an Optimized Distance Learning Environment
For the sake of urgency, let’s keep this simple.
#1. Communication Tools
How will you stay connected with your students and keep them connected with one another? Most instructors use email. Text is also a great way to connect since people still have their phones on them nearly all the time. But, you may also want to leverage a tool exclusively for your virtual classrooms to keep conversations separate from others.
Consider using a messaging app that can be accessed (from both mobile and PC). And, you could use an existing tool to create your own with the features you need. If you’re tech-savvy, you could even take it a step further by using a messaging platform to build a custom app of your own..
#2. A Learning Management Platform
Next, a learning management system (LMS) is essential. Your students need somewhere to meet you, if not in a classroom. And, an LMS will provide this. Try to use a platform that incorporates gamification for points systems, leaderboards, and grading as these features make the learning experience more enjoyable for students.
Now, you could be more creative and use an open-source social networking alternative or another outside-the-box platform to organize your lessons and keep your class connected. But, unless you’ve been doing this for a while, a simple platform designed specifically for online learning is probably best.
#3. Conferencing and Presentation Tools
“Zoom” seems to be a buzzword right now. And, while the video conferencing tool is in widespread use, it doesn’t have the most user-friendly interface. So, consider alternative conferencing tools and test them out. Enlist the help of a colleague or two to do a dry run with a few platforms before you decide which is right for you.
Next, you will need to deliver presentations. And, there’s no reason you can’t use PowerPoint or Slides. But, again, keep in mind that there are alternatives and consider shopping around if you want your presentations to pack a stronger punch.
#4. Educational Resources for Yourself
As an educator, you are certainly already subscribed to a ton of newsletters. And, the last thing you need is information overload. But, you do need to stay up-to-date with ideas and technologies that can help you out. So, do a bit of digging and try to find some quick ways to update yourself each day.
Consider some of these resources for educators:
- Distance Learning Resources for Schools Affected by COVID-19
- US Department of Education’s Distance Learning Updates
- Resources for Virtual Instruction and Online Learning
Check with your institution to see what resources are recommended. And, follow industry-specific authorities to stay relevant to your teaching subject.
Tip: Set a Google Alert to update you about the distance education topics that are most important to your area of expertise.
#5. Design Tools
The final essential is design tools. And, you don’t have to be an artist to create aesthetically-appealing course materials. With modern technology, you can find simple and free online design tools around every corner. Keep in mind that you should be looking for the most user-friendly platforms.
You may need separate design platforms to help you create visuals for presentations, charts infographics, videos, and other images for your lessons. If so, try to keep your operations as uncomplicated as possible by selecting no more than a few tools. Test out your options to see which systems offer the most diverse features.
The online teaching tools above will help you optimize your students’ experience with distance learning. And, once you have a system in place, you can move on to more advanced tactics and technology. Do you know of additional tools and resources to build a strong foundational distance learning environment?
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