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7 Online teaching hacks instructors need to know

The global pandemic has impacted the way instructors teach and communicate with their students. E-learning has now become the primary source of instruction — but this is new territory for a number of teachers.

The sudden pivot to digital learning has thrown the education system into flux. But there are a few online teaching hacks that instructors can adopt now.

Here are seven tips for making the digital teaching experience more fruitful for everyone involved:

1. Using e-learning tech

Technology has never been more necessary than right now. Schools have had to implement new modes of digital teaching almost overnight. The learning curve for teachers has been steep, but they need to be as tuned in as possible to ensure their students can continue their learning.

Read more: On challenges and opportunities: Emergency remote teaching

Institutions that have been able to implement or augment learning management systems have had to offer extra support to teachers on how to make the most of the software during these times. Many teachers are also using video conferencing tools to hold online classes, along with productivity and collaboration tools for sharing assignments with students.

Whatever technology instructors use, it is important to spend some time testing them before starting the classes. You want to make sure that the learning curve for students isn’t too difficult — tools that require too many steps, buttons, or links can become confusing. You want to avoid spending more time explaining how to use a system than actually teaching.

It’s also important to take feedback from students: do they find the system easy to use? What areas can be improved? Not all feedback will be constructive, but if certain points are reiterated by several students, it should be looked into.

2. Create your own routine

Working remotely has meant that schedules, for both teachers and students, have changed immensely. The regular school hours that people have been used to cannot be implemented within the home environment.

Many students are living alongside their parents, who are also working from home — every member of the family now has to work around each others’ schedules. And the same thing goes for teachers — they too need to fit their schedules around their families and duties at home.

This current situation is unprecedented and challenging; even after weeks, people are struggling to maintain a rhythm in their life.

Read more: Top 7 remote learning tips your students should know
While staying connected with your students is extremely important, you must create your own teaching routine so that they don’t feel like they’re on-call all the time. It’s therefore important to set a strict period of availability during which you can interact and reply to your students. Otherwise, you won’t get any time off and will experience disconcerting levels of burnout.

3. Find additional resources

With the overhaul of the education system that we are experiencing right now, it is important for teachers to expand the kind of resources they use to tutor their students. For instance, a number of tools have free versions that limit types of access — this is not something one wants to learn halfway through a lesson.

If the technological options available to teachers are not satisfactory, they need to find alternatives as quickly as possible. Searching for Slack alternatives on Google will give you numerous results, along with reviews, for you to make an appropriate choice.

As libraries and school resources are also closed, teachers need to look for online resources that their students can use to augment their learning. Public libraries, JSTOR, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Smithsonian are all great resources for students to get additional information about the subjects they are studying.

Compiling these can take time but it will enhance the learning experience and lead to better conversations.

4. Make video meetings your friend

The pandemic has changed the way we communicate with each other, and this impacts how teachers handle e-learning.

Nobody could have predicted how much the world would begin to rely on video meetings, but that is where we are now. Video calls are a great way to hold regular meet-ups with your students — you get the face-to-face interaction that helps everyone feel more connected.

However, while video calls have their merits, they cannot simulate the classroom setting. Instead of trying to replicate it, be creative with your video calls:

  • Ask your students to use creative Zoom backgrounds,
  • Bring your pet into the session,
  • Let your students share one fun fact they’ve learned (that doesn’t necessarily have to do with school).

Use video calls as a way to bolster interaction between students and encourage them to discuss topics and share their own observations with each other. You want to teach your students, but you also want them to enjoy your sessions, and video technology can make that possible.

5. Communicate regularly

The conflicting schedules of students and teachers during lockdown will make it difficult to have the regular class interaction everyone is used to. Instead, use the tools available to you to ensure you communicate with your students on a regular basis.

Email them definitive instructions, agendas, deadlines, and activities. Let them know which worksheets need to be completed and sent, and by when. If you can, give them activities to do offline, but within the home, so they don’t have to constantly look at screens.

Regular communication may also have an unexpected side-effect: introverted students who are uncomfortable speaking up in class might feel more comfortable with this method.

Read more: 5 Reasons e-learning is perfect for introverted students

If you are concerned that students won’t understand a point, share an example to clarify it. Clear communication is necessary when you don’t have face-to-face interaction with students; there are too many opportunities for misunderstanding when using technology.

Do what you can to mitigate the possibility of students becoming confused by employing the tools available to you.

Read more: How distance learning fosters global collaboration

6. Be flexible

Lockdown has impacted students in different ways: whereas some students are able to continue their school schedule without difficulty, others aren’t as fortunate. Some students may not have unlimited access to Wi-Fi, or any at all. Others may have to help out at home with chores and work, while some may still have housekeepers, freeing them up to study.

Teachers need to be flexible in their demands on students if they want to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity during this period. Though deadlines are necessary, some flexibility for students who have additional burdens should be extended.

And for students who felt they had to enter a sub-standard assignment just to adhere to the deadline — and consequently got a poor grade — they should be allowed to re-do it. Extending deadlines and allowing students to re-submit work to achieve a better grade will make the learning process during this time more fruitful.

Read more: Exploring new ideas: Student-driven remote learning

7. Repurpose your content

Resources are limited for everyone in education, including teachers. Repurposing content is a term often associated with marketing, but it applies within the education field, as well. You can use a single area of research to generate more content. This will also reinforce the subject in your students.

Instead of creating multiple documents, copy and paste one document and adapt the wording. Create a handful of presentation templates that you can reuse regularly. You will be presenting more often on video calls, so it’s best to have a resource you can dip into whenever needed.

When you’re teaching multiple classes during the day and have to create engaging interactive quizzes, swap out words and phrases instead of designing new questions.

You will have to design a large amount of content during this period, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be created from scratch. Reuse when you can to ease your workload.

Key takeaways

The seven online teaching hacks we have identified here will help instructors make the e-learning process more efficient, while also reducing the pressure on themselves.

To sum up, here’s what teachers can do to making e-learning better:

  • Use online tools
  • Create a work-from-home routine
  • Boost learning with additional resources
  • Put video meetings to full use
  • Communicate often
  • Be flexible
  • Repurpose content

Using these tips, you can make digital learning fun and engaging for your students.