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6 Habits of highly effective e-teachers

Some of us can distinctly recall a charismatic, persuasive or empathetic teacher – someone who cut through our teenage turmoil and managed to teach us something.

The hope is that even future generations, who will have been taught using a blend of face-to-face and online education, will nonetheless still recall the teachers (rather than the software) that made a difference. There are a few habits that great online instructors — or e-teachers — employ to find that tricky balance between mapping out yards of content and adding a pace, personality and enjoyment to their subjects:

  1. Focus on learning objectives

    A “copy and paste” process from face-to-face instruction seldom translates into vivid, effective online lessons. It is essential that you design each online module not as a replica of the real-world lesson, but as a digital stand alone product. The e-learning environment broadens, not limits, the teaching options - and with a clear focus on the learning objectives, instead of the technology, online lessons can be as dynamic and personalized as the traditional class.

  2. Stimulate prior knowledge

    In line with the constructivist approach of most blended and e-learning models, good online teachers explicitly mine for a student's baseline of previous knowledge, and build upon that. Once you have established your streams of prior knowledge, you can use branching scenarios (built into most good LMS packages) to take each student on a highly personalized journey, where they build on what they know already regardless of what that prior knowledge is.

  3. Invite responses

    Interactivity is often quoted as being a characteristic of life online. Invite students to reach out to you, and ensure you have set correct expectations for when you will respond and stick to it. In the interests of remaining personable and approachable, consider doing this through your LMS system’s chat or messenger application. If students feel that you are responsive, they in turn will be responsive when you invite them to offer their opinions, theories or questions.

  4. Share enthusiasm

    The most successful teachers invariably have an enormous passion for their subject, and furthermore manage to imbue their lessons with the same joy. Asking teachers to capture that same enthusiasm online can be a tricky, but not impossible. Digital tools, from YouTube videos, PowerPoint voice overs or podcasts can not only help the gifted teacher to reach more students, but can in fact package and encapsulate that passion.

  5. Set clear expectations

    A solid set of expectations at the beginning of the course and module is essential to keep all students on track. It is essential that you make clear what the assessment criteria will be, what coursework and homework is required, as well as what students can expect from you in terms of availability, support and communication. A list of expectations for parents would also be a good idea, as well as dedicated parent-teacher online channels.

  6. Curate

    Good online teachers understand that the Internet provides far more content than a single teacher could ever hope to create. As curators, rather than creators of information, teachers are able to focus their students’ attention on quality, in-depth learning content while freeing up time to engage, debate and discuss the content with students. This sets the tone for what will often become a vibrant, surprising and rich learning environment for both teacher and student.


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