Online Learning Best Practices for Educators

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

At AVI-SPL, we understand that the coronavirus outbreak is stressing your online learning systems, administrators, educators, and students. The educational system changed in a heartbeat. We’re here to help you fulfill your goal of delivering quality education to all students in these uncertain times.

Some educators may teach occasional online classes, while others are completely unfamiliar with teaching remotely. You can help make the transition to full-time remote teaching and learning easier by sharing our online learning best practices with your teachers. You’ll find our social share buttons at the end of the article.

Get to know your distance learning tech

It’s helpful to do a trial session before you deliver a live online class. Your organization may use a Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform to provide virtual classes. To get to know your system, rehearse a short session and record it. That way, you’ll be familiar with the tools you’ll need to deliver your class.

Test how to switch from the camera to sharing tools like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards. Here are some resources to get started with common platforms:

Get comfortable teaching higher ed classes online

If you’re new to teaching online classes, take time to get comfortable in front of the camera. Rehearse a short session and record it. Watching the recording can help you gauge the best distance to stand from the camera. Aim to get a “medium close-up” shot that shows you from the waist up.

You’ll also be able to tell if you have adequate lighting. You may need to move around the room, close shades, or bring an extra lamp into the space. Avoid standing in front of windows with bright light behind you, or you’ll show up in silhouette. If you’re at home, be mindful of what’s showing in the video behind you. Move any personal items such as family photos that you prefer not to share.

Consider that the camera represents your remote students. Make occasional eye contact with your students by looking at the camera while you’re speaking.

Keep remote college students engaged with video

Keep remote students engaged by breaking up distance learning sessions by sharing video. If your organization does not have enough video to use, check into free resources.  In response to coronavirus, TEDEd has launched TEDx@home, a daily newsletter that offers lessons for all ages, including university-level lessons with video. TedEd also provides online videos grouped into themes, like this video package on visualizing data.

Don’t forget YouTube can be a video resource too. A few channels with educational content to check out include National Geographic and NASA.

Ensure online lessons are accessible

Students with impaired vision or hearing may have tools that make working online easier for them. You can also help by designing online class materials that are accessible to everyone.

  • Verify that attendees can hear the sound in any videos that you play online. If closed captions are available, turn them on.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint slides, use the accessibility checker under the Review menu on the ribbon.
  • Provide handouts in formats that are compatible with screen readers. Microsoft Word files with text should not be a problem. Machines can read PDFs if they are created with accessibility in mind. Adobe offers a tool to create PDFs and verify accessibility.

Connect with students before, during, and after class

To help your students stay connected and prepared for class, send out session topics the week prior. Include information on how to log on to class sessions. Ensure students know where and how to get class materials like downloads and videos. Provide passwords to access materials if needed.

For live classes, remind students how to submit questions during the conference.  Take time to answer your students to help keep them engaged with your online class. During the class, have an assistant or student volunteer keep an eye on chat and Q&A windows if possible. That way, you can focus on delivering the lecture without missing any questions.

After class, follow up with an email asking for feedback on the session. Ask if everyone was able to connect to the video conference and follow along. Since students can’t see you in person, hold virtual office hours too. Try a tool like Calendly to allow students to make their own appointments during available time slots.

We hope your teachers find these distance learning best practices useful in delivering quality online education. Also, if you need to build or upgrade your online learning technology, your organization may qualify to shop for solutions using our national procurement contacts. Watch the video for more info.

AVI-SPL is here to help

If you have questions, we’re here to help. For assistance with upgrading up your distance learning technology, contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.

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