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Online teaching has become a regular part of our everyday lives as of late. That is particularly true due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has moved many classrooms worldwide to the online realm. However, not all teachers managed to adapt fully to the sudden changes in teaching practices. And with another school year drawing near and the pandemic still not waning, we can safely bet that many will be returning to online classrooms once again. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a list of best practices for online teaching to help teachers who haven’t yet fully adjusted to these changes.

Although the online classroom isn’t that much different from the regular one, it does require some degree of mastery of tools for online teaching and minor methodological tweaks here and there. That is why we decided to make this list of tips in the first place. Regardless of your level of online teaching competency, as long as you stick to them, you’re sure to take your online classroom to a whole new level!

8 Online Teaching Best Practices to Help You Master the Virtual Classroom

Here are eight best practices that can help you get your online teaching game to the next level: 

Without further delay, let’s check them out!

Determine Your Online Classroom’s Rules of Conduct

The first thing you should do when holding your first online lesson is to make the rules of conduct during classes abundantly clear. All students know the general rules of behavior in physical classrooms, but since online lessons are still pretty novel, many students might be tempted to test the waters. Also, not all of your learners might be tech-savvy, so they might not know some of the unwritten rules of online communication.

That is why you must give your students clear guidelines on your online classroom etiquette. Some of the things you might (and probably should) insist on are:

  • To attend lessons in a quiet environment.
  • Only to use the necessary resources during lessons (closing all unnecessary tabs, etc.).
  • To mute their microphones when not speaking.
  • To have their video feed turned on whenever possible.

By being straightforward with what kind of conduct you expect, you will minimize distractions from potential lack of information or students coming to class unprepared. 

Oh, and while we’re at it, this would be an excellent opportunity to make your course expectations clear as day. You can shed light on everything regarding technicalities like grading, assignments, and similar, after this. That will make your life a lot easier down the road by minimizing future student questions.

Use Both Synchronous and Asynchronous Video

online teacher showing pointing to a piece of paper

Video is an essential part of your online classroom. However, how you use it can make all the difference in the grand scheme of things. Ideally, one of the best teaching practices you can implement in your online lessons is to utilize both asynchronous and synchronous video

The former is a prerecorded video you can send to your students as an exercise or assignment or even structure your entire course around such material. The latter is like live streaming, where your interaction will take place in real time.

Because these types of videos are so fundamentally different, you should use them accordingly. But how do you use video in a classroom adequately? Here’s some advice on the best practices of using each of them:

Asynchronous Video

When using asynchronous video, there are two primary ways you can do it:

  • You can prerecord your entire course and distribute it to your students.
  • You can use it to give your students engaging prompts and tasks.

There are a few things to keep in mind whichever of these options you decide to go with.

The benefits of prerecording your course are that you will free up more time for yourself, but the primary downside is that your students might not be as engaged as they could be. Also, you won’t be immediately available to assist them with any potential queries they might have. However, if you decide to go for this option, ensure you break your course down into multiple short segments and provide your students with a clear roadmap. That will make it much easier for them to find their way around your lessons.

If you decide to use asynchronous videos to give your students learning prompts, keep them short and concise. And don’t forget to use some humor to lighten the mood! That could make an otherwise dull task much more exciting!

Synchronous Video

You will likely be using synchronous video for most of the time you spend teaching online, so you should prepare adequately! Because live streaming your classes is different from teaching in a physical classroom, you will have to do a few things to adapt:

  1. Rehearse — Teaching in front of a camera is different from a live classroom. That is why you might need to practice a bit before a lesson to get the hang of everything.
  2. Ensure all your equipment works correctly — The last thing you want is to find out your camera doesn’t work the moment you connect to your online classroom. So ensure all your tech works beforehand!
  3. Always remain visible in the shot — Getting used to paying attention to your positioning can be tricky at first, but you’re sure to get a grip on it quickly. You don’t want to angle your camera poorly and have your students only see a part of you, do you?
  4. Mind your pace — Unlike in a physical classroom, when teaching online, it’s more challenging to pick up cues from your students. That is why you should pay attention to your pacing and how much time you give them to finish prompts.
  5. Use visual aids — You can apply this teaching practice in physical classrooms too, but it’s particularly useful online. Teaching over a computer opens plenty of new possibilities for using visual aids. That is mostly thanks to the “share screen” option. Such presentations are significantly easier to see than cards or images from afar in a regular classroom.

As long as you keep the above in mind, you’ll be one step closer toward holding a smooth and productive online lesson!

Teach in Multiple Group Sizes

Although teaching online poses many challenges, it also provides plenty of opportunities that regular classrooms lack. An excellent example of one would be the opportunity to experiment with different group sizes.

Although various group sizes have their advantages and disadvantages, all seasoned teachers know that students have learning preferences. These include ones on group sizes — some perform better in smaller groups or individual lessons, while others thrive in large classes. The online environment allows you to alter group sizes and tailor your lessons to suit your learners’ needs better! If you ask us, you’d be wise to use that!

Structure Your Lessons

Another excellent practice of online teaching is always to have a clear lesson structure. Structuring your online course will help you stay organized and better manage your time while also allowing your students to get used to a particular lesson format. For example, you could consider segmenting your course into various topical chapters and cover a different sub-topic in each lesson.

Also, we advise you to provide your students with a complete course syllabus during your introductory class. Giving them an insight into what they’ll be learning is an excellent way to earn their trust and offer them an opportunity to prepare for each lesson in advance.

Provide All the Necessary Learning Material

a woman rolling her eyes while being bored in a library surrounded by books

The primary difference between online teaching and regular classrooms is that you will need to find an alternative way of supplying your students with the necessary learning material. In most cases, you have two options:

  • Gather all the learning material yourself and send it to them over the internet (email, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Incorporate easily accessible material in your lessons, such as news of recent events, content from popular websites, etc.

Either option is feasible — you’ll just have to find what works best for you and your teaching goals. Just remember that the first option is often more reliable because once you are sure all your students have received your handouts, you won’t have to worry about down the line.

Encourage Students to Cooperate and Use Chat

Just because you are in an online environment doesn’t mean that you can’t utilize group activities and encourage communication. Although this useful teaching practice might be harder to implement online than in a typical classroom, it’s far from impossible! Thankfully, we have chat rooms to save the day.

Once you delegate some group activities, you should engage your students via separate chat rooms and encourage cooperation. That way, you can make up for the lack of physical closeness and make your lessons more exciting.

Set Strict Deadlines

a clock on a pile of books

If you thought deadlines were vital in a standard classroom, they so much more valuable in an online learning environment. Your lack of physical presence can cause many students to tend to slack off or hand their assignments in late. Also, many people don’t tend to take online lessons as seriously as they would regular classes, which can make them more negligent of deadlines.

That is why you have to emphasize all the deadlines and ensure that they take your online classes as seriously as they would in a real classroom.

Make It Abundantly Clear You’re Available to Help

Like you might be new to holding lessons online, your students might be in a similar situation. If they don’t have much experience with online lessons, they might be more reluctant to participate or ask questions than in a physical classroom. Some of them might even be camera shy, which could be the reason behind their reluctance. If you think that might be why they don’t ask questions, you should help them overcome camera shyness.

After all, open communication is essential for any learning environment, and your students must know that they can count on you for help. If you need any extra tips on how to deal with students’ reluctance to ask questions, may we suggest you give this article a read?

Online Teaching Doesn’t Have to Be Hard!

As you can see, online teaching is not as challenging as it may seem. It even has plenty of benefits compared to regular classrooms! However, you will need to prepare before you start. All it takes is to implement the best practices for online teachers we’ve showcased above, and you’re bound to become an online teaching master in no time!

We hope you found this article helpful and that you have a blast teaching online! If you’re interested in more similar material, check our article on online learning tips for remote students. Or who knows? Maybe send it to your students!

Until next time!

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