Three Online Teaching Tips that can Save you Time and Reduce Stress

Three Online Teaching Tips that can Save you Time and Reduce Stress

(Suggestions from the Rookie Instructor that Learned the Hard Way)

I taught my first online class three years ago. My initial reaction to online teaching was that I loathed it. That might seem dramatic, but my outgoing personality and teaching style seem to require human interaction. I love bringing excitement and enthusiasm to a room full of students. I base my lesson pacing off my students’ reactions and feedback throughout class, so sitting at a computer trying to lead a discussion and communicate clear expectations to my students was not successful for me, well not at first.

I learned to adapt my own teaching style and leave my comfort zone in order to best reach my students.

Here are some things I learned.
1.   Keeping students engaged in online classes is challenging. The students often feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading each week in an online class. They have to read their traditional assignments in their textbook, all of your announcements and instructions posted in the online LMS (Learning Management System, such as Moodle or Blackboard), as well as their classmates’student-reading responses. I learned the hard way that students do not read everything you post. My first term online teaching I would post these thorough announcements at the start of each week. I would outline the assignments for the week, due dates, where to find attachments and links, reminders, etc. I thought I was being thorough and helpful. Then I would get the same question three times in a row, pointing out to students that this question’s answer is located in the weekly announcement. That’s when I realized they weren’t reading the whole post.
  1.1 I soon learned to keep my announcements short and sweet, but more frequent. So rather than one big post at the beginning of the week, I broke it up. I alsostarted to pay attention to the formatting of my announcements; I played around with color, font, and text size. After tackling the issue of getting students to read my instructions and messages, I also struggled with students not posting the required minimum amount in the discussion boards.
1.2 I now use open-ended questions as much as possible.
1.3 I post short videos with follow up questions.
1.4 I give the students incentives to post early and post often. I have had a lot of success with posting a trivia question for each day. The students must include their answer to the question at the end of their discussion post. I draw a name out at a set time in the evening and if the student correctly answered the question, then they get one extra credit point on a quiz or assignment that week.


2.   Breakthrough the technology and make a human connection. My first two semesters teaching online classes I kept all communication in the LMS: messenger, feedback on assignments, announcements, and student email. It wasn’t working, so I stepped it up a
  2.1 I conduct phone and Skype conferences with students to discuss their papers.
  2.2 I also send handwritten cards at midterms to all of my online students. These are short, encouraging notes telling my students to keep up the good work. I often summarize what they are doing well and give them an area of improvement to focus on the second half of the term.


3   Students need deadlines, reminders, and follow-up from the instructor or they will get left behind. If a student in one of my traditional classes is falling behind and missing deadlines, I make a point to speak to them before or after class. As teachers we know the importance of reaching out to students and making sure things are okay. In an online class the personal connection is often missing, so it is easier for a student to fall between the cracks and literally get left in the dust. Time management skills are hourglass-1468474_1280essential for student success in an online class, yet the majority of students struggle with these necessary skills. We can’t simply write off all of these students and blame their failure on their lack of skillset.
  3.1 Instructors need to reach out to every student for every missed deadline. It is exhausting but necessary to keep some students on track.
  3.2 Communication regarding deadlines and missing work can be emails and messages in the online learning system or more personal, such as texts and phone calls. When you call a student because it is half way through the week and they haven’t signed on or posted and you express you’re concerned they’ve been absent, you might actually get some insight into what is going on personally with the student or what aspects of the course he/she is struggling with. If you send an email, more often than not, it goes unanswered.


BOTTOM LINE IS: teaching online classes is tough. Not only does it require a lot of writing: remember you’re writing, posting and attaching all of the reading the students are doing; a lot of emails (ah- more emails!), and if you’re like me, your skillset as a traditional classroom teacher doesn’t necessarily translate in an online format. But hopefully your passion for teaching will initiate you to adapt your style so your online teaching is just as successful! If you have tips and tricks that have worked for you, PLEASE share in the comments.

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