Teachers’ Guide to Preparing an eLearning Lesson
Today, eLearning is on the rise. As schools shut down, more and more students and teachers are shifting into online education. Although eLearning is no longer a new concept, adjusting into it still takes time, most especially those who have never tried it before.
Based on the Washington Post, online education has gone so far during the past five years. This is because of how flexible and accessible it is. For teachers like you, this has become an avenue for career growth and advancement.
Transitioning from classroom teaching to online teaching is not an easy adjustment. It is a process. But with a little research and a lot of determination, you will surely ace it. In no time, you will get its rhythm and maximize the accessibility and flexibility it has to offer.
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But before anything else…
Here are some pre-lesson activities that you should do:
1. Plan Your Classes
You are not physically in front of your students. And in most cases, they will not all be available online at the same time. This makes planning an essential part of an online class.
Virtual students have different needs from classroom students. They might be your students before, but that doesn’t mean that their needs are still the same. For starters, the set up alone is already far different.
This means that before anything else, you should already have a clearly laid out syllabus and materials before any of your classes begin. Doing so will help you and your students see if what you have prepared fits them well. Also, this will help you find a time where all of you are available online.
Surprises are a big NO in eLearning, most especially when your students are living in different timezones. In a physical classroom, you could say “Let’s have a quiz” right on the spot. But in a virtual classroom, you can’t say, “Surprise! We have a quiz due by midnight.”
2. Prepare and Master Technology
As obvious as it seems, teaching online will require “technical finesse”. You are not working in a company where technical support is available. In simpler terms, you can only rely on yourself in this.
To start it up, invest in the right software and hardware. Your computer must be reliable. Your internet connection should be strong. And you should only use one of the best platforms to meet your needs.
There are actually a lot of choices out there. Classwork Zoom, for example, is an excellent online platform that you can use when teaching online. It is an online tool that allows you to assign work to students that they need to complete in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. Trello is another tool that you can use to assign specific tasks to students.
The choices are vast, so make it a point that you do good research and settle for the best for your online classroom.
3. Set Up An Adequate Working Environment
Generally speaking, working remotely is very challenging. There is a lot of temptation that comes with—sleep, watch a movie, take a long bath, and so much more. Without discipline, this could become your nightmare.
But with a good plan, this can be handled well. Setting up a workplace also helps a lot. In as much as possible, the workplace that you will set up is for work purposes only. Do not have other things that would distract you while teaching online.
Make the space friendly, inviting, and encouraging at the same time. Your workspace should encourage you to be productive knowing that a lot of students are looking at you. The lighting should be enough and the ambiance should be relaxing.
If possible, only have a table and a chair with you. Prevent other people from coming in and out, especially when you are teaching. This will help you stay focused on delivering the online lessons you are supposed to teach your students.
Step-by-Step Guide in Preparing an eLearning Lesson
Identify Your Objectives and Skills
Every lesson starts with an objective and each objective develops a certain skill. What do you want to achieve at the end of the class? Are your objectives achievable within the time period?
Objectives are the so-called key elements when making an effective lesson plan. Having an objective is a must for you to measure how much you and your students have achieved during the class.
When you are creating objectives for your online lesson, you must consider these two elements:
- Your objectives must define what your learners will learn at the end of the class.
- They must indicate how students’ learning will be assessed.
In as much as possible, keep each of your objectives into a single sentence only. It should contain an action verb that will help your students what they are going to do and how they will be assessed.
For both classroom and online classes, an excellent way to identify your objectives is through Bloom’s Taxonomy of Education. It is a set of classification of the different objectives and skills that teachers set for their students.
When teaching online, make sure your students know your objectives. You must clearly state the skills they have to develop. There is a high chance you won’t meet them regularly, so at least letting them know your objectives is a big help to guide them through the lesson.
Arrange your syllabus into short courses.
How your class materials are organized is the very first step in creating an effective online lesson. Shifting into online teaching might give your students the perception that the class will be easier. In a way, that is true; but in all honesty, it takes a lot of dedication.
Students might have misconceptions about online learning. They might expect that it would be more convenient for them since they do not have to go to school. They might be surprised by how online learning can be complicated that they will opt-out.
To avoid this from happening, present your lessons in smaller chunks. This will make it easier for students to manage their time and digest the lessons. Remember, you can’t explain to them well the lessons and more often than not, they will be interpreting the lessons on their own. You can’t give them the cues like you usually would in a normal classroom set up.
Dividing and presenting your lessons into smaller units is actually a balancing act. There are lessons that are harder than others. Therefore, giving the hard lessons all at once could be a burden to students. But mixing the easy and hard ones together makes the lesson bearable for them.
Maximize Lesson Plan Templates Available Online
Teaching online does not necessarily mean that you can’t use whatever is available online or offline. You can always use your traditional lesson plans with a little modification in order to fit your students’ needs.
Actually, there is a lot of online teaching help readily available to you. Using an online lesson plan template can be highly beneficial for you. For once, it serves as your guide in creating a clear and concise lesson. This will also help you come up with a lesson plan with a good flow.
Innovate and Stimulate Discussions
As mentioned before, online teaching is different from classroom teaching. In a traditional classroom, making your students participate in your class is not that hard. You can easily ask them stimulating questions, initiate and discourage discussion, assign reading materials and so much more.
But in a virtual classroom, it’s not that easy. What now? Well, you have to come up with alternatives to how you can stimulate discussion virtually.
In as much as possible, make class discussions mandatory when teaching online. Let your students know the importance of it and encourage them to participate. And, give importance to quality over quantity.
For example, you can stimulate discussion in your online classroom by creating a string board wherein all your students are required to participate. In a string board, the student must answer the first question first before proceeding into the next. Each of the students should also answer two questions from their fellow students.
You can find other tools to stimulate online classroom discussions here.
As an online teacher, you must be consistent when it comes to your online presence. To be consistent is to communicate with your students on a regular basis at the same time, if possible.
Your students can easily get lost and get overwhelmed with the daily activities they have in mind. Thinking of these activities might already make them give up.
Unlike in a regular or traditional classroom where you can see your students regularly, meeting students every day in an online classroom is a struggle. The interaction that you expect might not really happen. If the worse comes to the worst, you might not be able to ‘see’ your students at all.
Maintaining regular communication with your students through online tools such as Hangouts Meet and Kinteract can help them overcome the difficulties they are facing. This will also help you give them the assistance that they need.
You can require your students to check in regularly at a time that is most convenient for all of you. Also, let your students know about the best time that they can contact you and the means for them to contact you.
Create an Engaging Content
In an eLearning lesson, a PowerPoint presentation is now enough. Your content must be exciting and engaging that your students will look forward to every session with you. Also, your content must encourage participation during classroom discussions.
You can use Kahoot! to create fun and engaging content. Zoolingo is also a good app for your learners to play and have fun at the same time. Also, you can use Quizlet to create flashcards and quizzes that you can share with your students.
Regardless of the subjects that you are going to teach, engaging content is a must if you want your students to be active and participative. Since you are in a virtual classroom, make your activities easily and readily available online so that your students can easily access it even without your assistance.
Ask for Help and Feedback
Your best critics are your students. They are the ones who can give you valuable feedback about your class that can help you know the areas that need improvement. They know too well your strong and weak points which make their feedback of high value.
Do not be afraid to ask them the things that they do not understand about your class. Also, you can ask for the help of other teachers who are working online. If not, look for online articles that can help you kickstart your online teaching journey.
Education is organic. Sharing is constant. Improve your online teaching by seeking help in as much as possible from both your students and fellow educators.
Nurture A Supportive Online Community
In eLearning, the online space is your classroom. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a teacher to give your students the support that they need at any time of the day, if possible.
Creating a supportive online community also entails accommodating the differences of your students. Each student is unique and so are their needs. They are very diverse from one another which makes it challenging to cater to all their needs at once.
Creating a variety of dialogue formats is a good start to accommodate all learning styles. Encourage your learners to participate in general discussions, but also divide them into small groups. The groups should be based on their learning types.
It would also be good if you encourage your students to communicate with one another and share their insights. Set a good example. Also, do not be so strict when it comes to them. Being too strict will just make them uncomfortable.
If you have enough time, talking to your students individually builds an effective and strong foundation for communication. There are some students who will feel left out even when your classes are done online. Make it a point that you reach out to them.
Supplement your Lessons with Videos
Videos play an important role in eLearning. They are a staple. Including videos in your online lessons come with a lot of benefits such as:
- Increases the motivation of students
- Improves the learning experience of students
- Stimulates classroom and peer to peer discussion and interaction
- Develops potential for a deeper understanding of the lesson
- Advances learner autonomy
- Enhances teamwork
Another good point about why you should incorporate videos into your online lessons is that it allows students to access your lessons whenever they are available.
When adding videos into your online lessons, keep it brief. Remember, the attention of the span of your students is very short. Recording long lectures won’t be as effective as you thought. It might bore them and they will end up not watching it.
In fact, videos should not be more than six minutes long to keep the attention of your learners. Anything that goes beyond six minutes is already questionably engaging.
Include Short, Non-Graded Quizzes
Aside from presenting your students with the lesson, another good way to help them internalize it is by giving them quizzes that are not necessarily graded. The main goal here is to help them retain what they have taught and measure also what they have learned.
Giving your students frequent short quizzes help improve their performance. It also encourages them to study and lets them verify if what they know is right or wrong. Furthermore, this acts as their feedback whether they are actually learning or not.
But why are the quizzes not graded? Well, frequent graded quizzes will just pressure the students. In fact, the students might be intimidated. Without the pressure about grades, the students can freely and naturally use these quizzes like the educational tool that they really are.
Provide Early Wins
Efficacy is not a small word; it greatly impacts your students’ ability to learn something new. In simpler terms, efficacy refers to how confident your learners are to succeed.
One good way to help your students build efficacy is by giving them early wins during your online classes. Giving them short assignments at the beginning of the class can help them build their confidence.
Providing them early wins will give them the impression that they will get through your lessons come what may. It gives them the drive to go on by removing their inhibitions about your class.
Teaching Strategies to Engage your Students
Cooperative learning, oftentimes called as small-group learning, is an instructional strategy wherein students are divided into small groups and work together in one task. The task could vary from a simple math problem to a complicated science experiment.
But how come that students in an online classroom can be divided into smaller groups and interact with one another?
Model learning software is the answer. Applications such as Webroom Education, Netboard.me, and Loom are great ways to activate interaction among your online learners. Your learners can co-author and come up with blogs, polls, surveys, and so much more.
As the term implies, differentiated instruction is all about teaching the same thing to your learners through different teaching strategies. Differentiated instruction might require teaching your students at a different time.
As mentioned above, every learner has a different learning style; no two learners are exactly the same. They have different backgrounds, experiences, preferences, and innate skills. This makes it a must to address their differences even when teaching online.
Teaching them the same thing with the same strategy reduces the effectiveness of your lesson. That is why differentiation is very important.
Sadly, developing different teaching strategies for the same content is not easy. It will require a lot of time and effort on your end. But since you are teaching online, doing so is somewhat easier.
How? You can simply assign your students’ different tracks at the same time: one for beginners, one for those who are already familiar, and another one for those who have already mastered it.
Each track will have the same lesson but presented in different ways to accommodate the differences and preferences of your learners.
Another effective way to teach online is by letting your students learn at their own pace. Let them have control over what they will learn and when they will learn it.
There are students who easily understand the lesson and there are also students who take time to get it. Do not compare them from one another. There is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to learning. Also, none is better than the other.
Aside from the preferences and habits of your learner, there might be other reasons why they can’t study your lessons straight. This makes self-paced learning the best way to accommodate these types of situations.
Self-paced learning is an effective way for students to learn better. Keep in mind that education is not a race. Let your students digest your lesson at their own pace and do not pressure them as well! They might just fake learning if you do so.
All in all, eLearning is a good opportunity most especially in times of crisis. Its flexibility is an undeniable benefit. It gives you the opportunity to reach your students wherever they are. It is not something that you can just simply jump into but it is not also as daring as you thought it is.
The best thing that you can do is research, plan your methods carefully, and take one step at a time. Be a teacher and a learner at the same time! With a little research and a lot of preparation, you will find yourself at the forefront of online education in no time.
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