7 Tips On How To Prepare For Teaching Online

How To Prepare For Teaching Online

According to the Washington Post, the past five years have seen a significant growth in the shift to online education for reasons such as easier access and general flexibility. This growth opens up new avenues of income and career advancement for teachers like yourself. Shifting from classroom teaching to online teaching is an adjustment, no doubt, but with a little research and practice, you too can gain the flexibility and easy access that the students themselves are searching for. Here are 7 tips on how to prepare for teaching online.

1. Plan Your Classes

Your students are not physically in front of you. In fact, they probably will never all be online at the same time, and they’re probably in completely different time zone. Gone are the days where "just winging it" will cut it. Planning is essential for an online classroom environment. Virtual students are different - their needs are different from their physical counterparts. Be sure to have your syllabus and materials laid out clearly before class starts. This will give students an opportunity to see if your classroom (the deadlines, materials, and other requirements) can fit into their lives. The biggest thing, avoid surprises at all costs. Saying, “Surprise! Pop quiz” in a physical classroom is entirely different from posting “Surprise! Pop quiz! Due by midnight.” in an online classroom.

2. Prepare And Master Technology

Teaching online requires a certain technical finesse, if you will. No, tech support is not right down the hall, but you’ve got this! First and foremost, invest in the right hardware and software. You need a reliable computer, a strong internet connection, and the best platform to meet your needs. There are many options out there. Moodle, for example, is an online platform that leans toward the social and adaptable side of education. Do your research and really play around with your final choice - knowing your online classroom platform will help you make your classroom the best it can be.

3. Set Up An Adequate Working Environment

Working remotely (in general) is the next challenge. Without the perfect environment and a good amount of self-discipline, stay-at-home-job can become a nightmare. With a little planning, this can be avoided. Firstly, set up a workspace. If possible, this space should be intended for work only. You want this space to be friendly and inviting, but also encourage productive work behavior. Keep your work environment free of distractions like television, other family members, or household chores. Natural lighting and an ergonomic chair can go a long way in setting up your ideal work environment.

4. Innovate And Stimulate Discussions

Online classrooms, as mentioned before, run differently than traditional classrooms. These classrooms have the potential to feel cold mechanical. Initiating and encouraging discussions can go a long way in terms of how your students feel in class. Encourage participation, much like you would in class. There are a variety of ways you can encourage participation from discussions to posting lectures, to assigning reading material, to monitoring progress. You want your students involved on a weekly basis as opposed to just turning in assignments. Student involvement (planned, in-depth discussions, for example) gets your students working with the material in ways that they may not do on their own. This leads your students to get more out of your class - more than just a grade.

5. Communicate Regularly

Maintain a consistent online presence. Communication is essential in the online classroom environment. Introduce yourself and give your students to also introduce themselves - help bring humanity and warmth into your classroom that online classes can easily lack. Make sure your students know the best methods and times to contact you. Not having a professor physically in front of them can make some students nervous. Try to ease this by answering questions in a timely manner and providing plenty of instruction and feedback.

6. Motivate Your Students

Everyone learns differently - and motivation plays a big part in the learning process. While some students are self-motivated in that learning something new is all the motivation they may need, some students may not be. Assignments that are not required may be skipped by the latter students. Think of ways to motivate all of your students to get the most out of your class. This may include giving extra points for online discussions or optional assignments. Deadlines may also help push forward your more unmotivated students. Your goal is to find ways to help your students get the most out of your class without the benefit that a physical presence brings.

7. Ask For Help And Feedback

Your students can provide you with valuable feedback that can help move your class forward. With education moving online more and more, your students have probably already experienced an online classroom. This experience may help them to inform you on the positives and negatives of your overall online classroom. Besides your students, also seek out and connect with other online educators. Education is a ‘sharing’ field and so these connections could prove invaluable to your online educator development.

Final Thoughts 

Overall, online education is a wonderful opportunity. The potential flexibility is an undeniable benefit. It is a growing market for educators - and therefore an exciting career development opportunity. You could have the potential to reach students you would never, could never, meet in a physical classroom. Online teaching isn’t something to jump into, mind you. But, it also really isn’t as daring as it seems. Do your research, plan your methods, and take the leap. Online teaching is relatively new, so there really isn’t one set way to do it. With some research a preparation, you could find yourself on the forefront of the online educational movement.

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