Planning for teaching online

Before you teach

Creating your teaching materials

  • consider pre-recording short, weekly introductions as video or audio podcasts so students can access them when convenient (if you have at GTA, get them to help you create, edit and upload these)
  • include international case studies
  • use diverse images on your slides
  • use relevant images to reinforce the key message of each slide
  • review your references and try to make them less white, western and male
  • provide a glossary of any specific terms
  • keep text on slides to a minimum
  • always use a light coloured background on your slides and handouts (green, pink, orange) to reduce glare and aid comprehension (this helps all students, not just those with dyslexia)
  • where possible, try and make learning materials (e.g. readings, videos, activities) available 2 days before a taught session. This benefits all students by giving them time to look at the materials and tackle any potentially problems before the session.

Planning your session

  • consider dividing your session into ten minute sections, and change the activity every ten minutes to keep students engaged. E.g. talk for ten minutes, then give students a question to discuss in breakout rooms for ten minutes, then recap the breakout discussion for ten minutes.
  • use the chat panel to increase engagement, e.g. ask a question and ask students to respond in the chat, or run a ‘true or false’ activity
  • ask yourself how / where might you prompt learners to find solutions to problems
  • ask yourself how might you facilitate students’ learning rather than simply delivering content
  • ask yourself how might you help learners locate content that is useful to them
  • create opportunities for students to share their experiences of the topic and their cultural references – this is especially valuable for BAME and international students
  • create regular opportunities for students to work together in pairs or small groups. Use breakout rooms, and ask each pair/group to respond to a problem or question. Students will often find it easier to talk with their peers rather than risk looking silly in front of the whole group.
  • consider using active learning activities e.g. putting students in pairs and giving them a list of questions to answer about the briefing document, rather than just telling them the information

While you teach

Be mindful of your delivery

  • keep the briefing as short as possible
  • speak slowly and use simple language, avoid jargon and slang
  • make sure any spoken instructions are also provided in writing

Set clear ground rules

  • explain the rules of the online classroom e.g. please:
    • respect everyone’s opinions and viewpoints
    • keep yourself muted unless you want to speak
    • keep your camera switched on
    • be mindful of what is behind you
    • use the chat to post your questions

Talk about the challenges of group work and effective collaboration

  • for example, different cultures perceive being interrupted during conversation. in some cultures interruption is rude, but in other cultures interruption shows that you are engaged in the conversation, Spanish/Greek/Italian students often talk over each other, whereas Japanese students are likely to expect pauses in conversation and active listening. This can prevent the latter students from contributing effectively.
  • consider asking students to assume different roles in group work – e.g. someone who takes notes, someone who ‘chairs’ discussions and ensures that all group members have an opportunity to contribute their views.

Use appropriate technologies to improve learning

  • record your session and make it available online
  • if you have a GTA, ask them to edit and upload recorded sessions
  • consider using Rev Live Captions to provide real-time captions (currently $20 per month direct integration with Zoom)
  • consider using tools such as Padlet to create opportunities for collaboration
  • consider providing an online discussion space and asking students to respond to a weekly question or prompt, then bring their responses into the next taught session. This enables students to learn at their own pace during the week, and contribute at a time and pace that suits them. However, an online discussion space will only be successful if it is actively used by tutors – you will need to decide whether you are happy/able to commit time to it. If you have a GTA, one of their weekly tasks can be to monitor the discussion space and respond.

Explain the amount of ‘learning hours’, not just ‘contact hours’

  • give students a clear indication of what they need to be doing each week, and an estimate of how long each task will take them
  • give guidance on what they might need to prepare for the next scheduled session

Explain assessment clearly and regularly

  • a key problem for all students is a lack of clarity regarding assessment. Consider asking a Learning Development Tutor to run a session about the unit assessment for all students, and possibly one specifically for international students.
  • take time to explain how the brief is designed to help students meet the learning outcomes (LOs) and assessment criteria (ACs)
  • refer to the LOs and ACs at the start of each taught session, so students can see how the session aligns with the LOs and ACs
  • explain regularly that you are assessing students’ learning, not what they produce at the end. This is really important, as it can help students gain a clearer understanding of what you are looking for in their assessment.
  • consider using short, reflective breakout activities which ask: What have you learned this week? How can you apply what you have learned? What do you need to learn next?
  • where possible, provide a range of ways for students to evidence their learning e.g. pre-recording a presentation, producing a video essay, creating a portfolio.

Be mindful of the specific needs and behaviours of international students

“online instructors need to design courses in such a way as to remove potential cultural barriers, including language, communication tool use, plagiarism, time zone differences and a lack of multicultural content, which may affect international students’ learning performances…a culturally inclusive learning environment needs to consider diversity in course design in order to ensure full participation by international students.” (Liu et al, 2010).

  • attendance: be mindful that students from Confucian Heritage Cultures (e.g. China, Japan, Korea) are heavily conditioned to view the timetabled lecture as ‘teaching’, and anything else (e.g. workshops, seminars) as not important. This can often explain why many international students don’t turn up for a lot of timetabled sessions unless they are formal lectures. Also, you will also need to consider time-zone implications for some international students when timetabling sessions.
  • group work: group work using breakout rooms can help international students by giving them more opportunities to learn socially. Manage group composition and mix international students with home/EU students to encourage cross-cultural learning. If possible, keep students in the same groups for a meaningful number for sessions to enable students to get to know each other. Set clear expectations regarding participation and etiquette.
  • encourage speaking in taught sessions: ensure that you receive any spoken contributions professionally. Even if an international student has missed the point, thank them for their contribution and encourage another student to offer a different point of view. Remind all students that obtaining a range of viewpoints is essential in developing a deeper understanding of an issue or a topic.
  • ask students to use the ‘chat’ tool to share their thoughts, and respond to your questions: remind students that their contributions in the chat must be in in English, and also respectful and constructive.
  • remember that ‘have you got any questions’ translates as ‘have you got any problems’ in Mandarin!

Competencies for effective online teaching

(adapted from Shé et al (2019) Teaching online is different: Critical perspectives from the literature)

Tutor roleHow to be effective onlineCompetencies required
Be socially presentEncourage student-tutor contact as this establishes presence that will encourage a supportive learning communityCommunication skills, written and oral; modelling of good online behaviour; maintain a cordial learning environment.
Facilitate learningEncourage cooperation among studentsPromote interactivity within the group;Facilitate interaction; manage group work and build communities; advising/counselling skills; facilitate participation among students; resolve conflict in an amicable manner.
Facilitate learningCommunicate high expectations which will provide clarity and relevanceCreate significant real life problems with rubrics for guidance; Demonstrate commitment and favourable attitude; Sustain students’ motivation, demonstrates leadership qualities;establish rules and regulations.
Support studentsEncourage active learning and be agile in how you move between different learning and teaching approaches    Create and facilitate novel, reflective and pedagogically sound activities; use teaching strategies/models and general education theory; Use internet tools for instruction; access various technological resources;select appropriate resource for learning; suggest resources to the students.
Support studentsGive prompt feedback and timely responses which supports students success  Provide opportunities to perform and receive feedback; Monitor individual and group progress; assess individual and group performance; Suggest measures to enhance performance.
Support studentsRespect diverse talents and ways of learning Provide clarity and relevance through course structure and presentationAcknowledge when students are succeeding in their work and treat them with respect;provide different types of learning activities;address Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in all created materials; comply with ethical and legal standards; suggest measures to enhance performance; provide guidance based on student needs.
Manage the courseEmphasise time on taskTime manage activities to provide student time efficiencies; Manage the time and course;Establish rules and regulations.
Create an effective learning environmentDevelop and maintain an online environment that supports effective learningDemonstrate managerial skills; structure online learning resources so materials are one click away.
Be currentBe a content expert who is research-informed about both the topic and the teachingContent knowledge; library research skills;undertake efforts to update knowledge;suggest resources to the students; conducts research on classroom teaching;interpret and integrate research findings in teaching.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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