So the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has forced your school to move to online classes and you have no idea how to convert your carefully planned classes into an online format. In fact, you’re probably panicking at the thought of losing the special “spark” that makes your course special. Don’t worry! Teaching online is challenging, but absolutely possible and managable!
I left my brick and mortar classroom in 2018 and began teaching online. I taught Advanced Placement Literature and Composition for several years and the thought of losing all of my wonderful Socratic seminars and project based learning terrified me. It’s been difficult and a rough transition, but one cannot deny that there are so many benefits to teaching online and connecting with students through discussions and in an online setting.
If you are attempting to convert your traditional brick and mortar class into an online class, here is how you do it:
You don’t. Instead, you become flexible and let go of the idea that things will be exactly the same. It’s time to get creative.
The honest truth is that there is not much that can replace that wonderful feeling of community that happens when you are all in the room with each other. That being said, online courses have many opportunities to create connection and community among your students. You can still do all of your fun projects and assignments, but you have to think creatively about how to implement them. You may have to have debates via discussion board. Presentations may now become TEDtalks. Here are a few tips for converting your classroom into an online course while still maintaining your classroom culture:
Tip 1: Choose the right platform. There are many educational platforms out there that can fit the needs of your students. Canvas, Google Classroom, and Thinkific are all options. I highly recommend Google’s products. I use Google Docs for lesson plans, Google Slides for my lecture presentations, and Google Drive to store my lesson plans. I also created a Google Voice number so that my students can text me when they need help.
Tip 2: Be as specific as possible when writing assignments. You need to become an expert technical writer and write instructions as carefully as you can. Be concise, be specific, and write in a way your students can understand. If you don’t, you will be bombarded by calls and emails by confused students. If you want students to participate in a discussion, that means you probably need to lay out your expectations regarding Netiquette and word count minimum.
Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to create and use videos. Youtube and cellphone cameras have made it easier than ever to create videos. I use videos to lecture, create quizzes, and even as feedback for writing. If you don’t want to record yourself, use Youtube! There are so many great teachers on Youtube and Khan Academy so let them do the heavy lifting and include other teachers’ videos to supplement your lessons.
Tip 4: Don’t neglect community building. Just because you aren’t face to face doesn’t mean you can’t still get to know your students and create a classroom culture. If you are a teacher that liked to make jokes in class, you’re still a teacher that makes jokes. Get used to memes! Include silly pictures of yourself! You can also still have community building activities and have a student centered classroom.
Tip 5: Keep your eyes peeled for new technology. I recommend that you stick with what you know at first, but always be on the lookout for new apps, websites, and platforms. There are websites like No Red Ink and ActivelyLearn to help you supplement your online curriculum. Apps like Class Dojo can help you manage your classroom. There are also wonderful websites that will allow you to gamify your classes like ClassCraft and Kahoot.
Online education is still being figured out and so much of what we do is experimenting, but isn’t that the nature of teaching? Experimenting until we find the best practices to reach our students is the heart of teaching.
You got this. Good luck.