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Tips for Effective Online Teaching

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Online teaching is truly a different experience from teaching in the traditional classroom. It can be extremely rewarding but also somewhat challenging, especially in the beginning. These tips can help make a difference for those who are teaching online or those considering online teaching.

1. Find a Mentor

First and foremost, find someone who has taught online before and make them your best buddy. Seriously, they will have many tips and shortcuts that can truly make online teaching much easier for you. Working with others who have taught the same course or in the same subject area can really make the difference between pulling your hair out and feeling like you are really making a difference.

2. Keep Abreast of Student Progress

You should have a system that allows you to be aware of where your students are in their online course at all times. If your school does not provide such a system, then you should create your own using spreadsheets. This is especially true with schools that allow students to start and stop at different times and work at their own pace. The only way to move students through a course is to know where they are at all times. This information can then help you as you make your phone calls and make projections for the rest of the school year.

3. Call and Speak With Parents and Students Often

The more that you contact and speak with both the students in your course and their parents, the more successful they will be. This is even more true for those students who are not moving very quickly through your course. However, don't wait for students to be three or four weeks behind before you call them. If you are following tip number two and staying on top of student progress, then you should be calling students when they fall a week or two behind. Further, phone calls are very important for course integrity as seen in the next tip.

4. Check Comprehension and Course Integrity Through Oral Quizzes

Impromptu phone calls and preset oral quizzes are an important part of ensuring student comprehension and course integrity. First of all, by discussing topics being taught in class, you can feel more confidant that your students actually understand that which is being taught. At the same time, you can also make sure that they themselves are actually doing the work. Students will cheat in both traditional and online environments. Therefore, it is important to have safeguards in place to help catch those who are not actually completing their assignments themselves.

5. Require Progress From Students

Students need to keep working. In the online environment, it can be easy for some students to slip through the cracks and stop working entirely. Even if students are having issues that are causing them to work less, you should require students to continue to show forward progress in their coursework. This is when phone calls and other interventions might be required depending upon the online institution for which you are working.

6. Be Flexible

Online teaching is all about flexibility. This is especially true when working for a school that allows students to start and stop at different times and have some control over their own pace. You might find that you have 30 students starting a course, 60 in the middle, and 30 at the end. Further, you might have half of your students be homeschooled and the other half working on extra courses in the evening. Therefore, inflexible individuals would be well advised to stay away from online teaching.

7. Schedule Around Student Availability

As stated in the previous tip, you might be teaching a wide variety of students. Some might be homeschooled and available during the day. However, others might only be able to work on their online courses in the evening after school, activities, and jobs. If you can determine a student's commitments then it becomes easier to create your own schedule of phone calls, etc.

8. Use Available Technology to Make Life Easier

Your online school should have its own programs and methods to help you stay organized for your teaching assignment. However, there are programs on the web that can really help make things easier. For example, you might find a program that allows you to store often used phrases in a sidebar that you can easily copy and paste. This is especially helpful when grading assignments where you might often repeat a phrase. The browser Opera has this sort of functionality built in. Your mentor and others at your school are a great resource to find these types of programs.

9. Talk With Your Administrator About Problems You Are Facing

You should keep an open door with your administrator about issues you are facing. They should be able to help you find solutions and lead you to veteran staff members who can really make a difference. For example, if you have a student who you think might be cheating, you should definitely go to your administrator with this and come up with a solution to not only determine if you are correct but also create a plan of action to combat this problem.

10. Require High Standards for Assignment Completion

Online teaching is a lot about relationship building through phone calls and assignment comments. However, some students might feel that because a course is online, it will be easier. It is our job as teachers to make sure that we hold students to the same level of high standards that we would in the classroom. If your school allows students to resubmit their assignments, make sure that the student work you finally accept is of the top quality. Give students detailed feedback so that they can make corrections and understand how to avoid mistakes in future assignments. In this way, students will understand that your course is for real and not something they will be able to complete in a weekend.
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