Now that even the few remaining digital skeptics can no longer deny the fact that online education is here to stay, educators do not need to further deliberate on the pros and cons of online learning. The top priority on today's educational agenda is improving the effectiveness of online lessons. The question is how the teacher can engage the students, keep them alert, encourage their pro-active learning, and increase their motivation without being in the same room with them.
There is no silver bullet that can immediately help teachers around the world make their online classes both extremely interesting and maximally effective. But there is one main principle that every educator should keep in mind: digital lessons should always be student-centered.
If you start planning your lessons by defining the needs of your students, you will definitely come up with lots of creative ideas that will brighten up every digital class. Below you will find 7 useful tips that are meant to help you make your lessons more impactful, colorful, and productive.
1. Be Flexible
Try new types of homework, experiment with the tasks, and offer your students a choice. Traditional essays are a good way to check the student's understanding of the material and writing skills, but today when students can always use domyessay, the teacher has to come up with more creative assignments that force the learners out of their comfort zone and motivate them to become more proactive.
For example, you can ask your students to record a short video recap of the covered material, do a podcast, create a meme or a collage based on what they have learned.
2. Prioritize the Socratic Method
Asking thought-provoking questions, challenging stereotypes, and encouraging critical thinking, and allowing your students to make their own conclusions are all extremely welcome in the digital classroom. Educators can no longer expect students to keep listening to traditional lectures for several hours. Information should be divided into sizable portions and interspersed with practical tasks, discussions, and feedback sessions.
Questions asked at the beginning of every section of your digital lesson and revisited at the end of it will bind the parts together into one synergistic unity and keep the students alert and active.
3. Make Use of the Schema Theory
A schema is a cognitive tool that helps systematize, understand, and store information. In other words, schemas are concepts that are formed in the human brain as a result of cognition. Here is a helpful piece of advice from the East Tennessee State University Faculty Support for Instruction: "Make sure students' existing schemas are up and running at a conscious level." For this purpose, you can use 'advance organizers' before introducing new material, e.g., a summary of the previous classes, mind-mapping, or asking students what they already know about the topic.
The other way would be to offer your students a familiar synonymous notion that will facilitate easier comprehension of a more complex concept. For example, when teaching a foreign language, it might be helpful to highlight the similarities between grammatical structures in the students' first and second languages.
The usage of schemas is especially important in the digital learning environment as it allows the students to organize the prior knowledge of the subject better and build on it when dealing with new information, thus decreasing the stress and confusion caused by the switch to online learning.
4. Help Students Unleash Their Creativity
Even one tiny creative task can help the learners relieve the study-related anxiety and activate cognitive circuits. Ask them to come up with a metaphor that illustrates the problem you are discussing. Offer them to imagine that they are journalists interviewing a renowned expert in the field or are primary school teachers explaining the relevant notions to the first-graders. It will empower your students and make them feel more competent when they deal with other tasks at hand.
5. Use Pertinent Visuals
The visual channel is the primary way of information intake. Information visualization supports deeper learning and better memorization of the material. For example, infographics are extremely popular as an appealing, intuitive, and highly digestible way of visual representation of information.
You can make relevant infographics using widely available online tools or ask your students to create their own infographics. There are also many digital whiteboards (e.g., Educreations or Miro) that allow you to create appealing visual aids, which include drawings, photos, and even audio fragments.
6. Focus On the Authentic Context
According to the Situated Cognition Theory, knowledge is inseparable from the context and culture in which it is obtained. By providing your students with the authentic context (pictures, films, maps, video and audio materials, etc.), you offer them an opportunity for effective cognitive apprenticeship and let them discover the applicability of the skills they are acquiring.
The materials and media you are using should be up-to-date and relevant. Offer your students assignments that are strongly linked to their real lives and have a practical outcome. For example, they can write a CV and a cover letter, a biography, create a blog or a vlog entry, compile a portfolio, write an instapoem, etc.
7. Do Not Neglect Face Time with Your Students
Let students see your friendly face and feel that you are happy to be able to talk to them. Make use of facial mobility, gesticulate, show the learners books you are relying on or find interesting. Turn on your camera when you are giving feedback. This will allow you to make up for the lack of live face-to-face communication in the classroom. Your students will surely feel a stronger connection with you and the subject you are teaching and be more inclined to take ownership of the learning process.
We hope that with these 7 tips, you will be able to become a true digital education guru. In this new, quicksilver, replete with challenges and opportunities educational environment, may the words of John Cotton Dana guide you toward success: "Who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."