Online lessons can be super awesome if you know the right methods, tricks (yes, tricks!), and tools to use.
I’m thrilled to have been able to take a course on online learning recently, and I cannot wait to share some of the top tips I gleaned for engaging students in online learning. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Huge thanks to my friends at Advancement Courses for allowing me to take this 2-credit course, Engaging Students in Online Learning. I’ve been working with Advancement Courses for years now, and I love that their courses are designed to be more engaging, meaningful, and enjoyable– with real feedback and application in today’s K-12 classroom.
And if you want to jump all the way down to the bottom of the post to learn about how your Donors Choose project can get funded, no problem. Jump down now.
Now I feel like I could totally rock online teaching now that I’ve taken this course. I’ll share a few of my main takeaways below.
Here’s the skinny. . .
How to Make Online Lessons Awesome
I learned so much in this course, that I want to share every, little detail–but I’ll spare you and just give you some of my most important take-aways.
A bit about the course
Engaging students in the online classroom is tough. What’s the best way to communicate with students? How do you reach reluctant learners through a screen? How do you plan and make learning fun when everyone’s in a different room?
In this course, you’ll explore several strategies for promoting student engagement online. You’ll learn how to use both synchronous and asynchronous learning techniques to build relationships with students and create a strong classroom culture. You’ll also investigate what scaffolding looks like in an online setting, including how to use pre-assessments to gauge readiness levels and direct future instruction. Finally, you’ll learn how to create and use videos in your class, as well as how to conduct online activities such as discussion boards, reflection logs, project-based learning, e-portfolios, and more.
Using the tools from this course, you’ll be able to plan fun and interesting online instruction that meets a variety of learning needs.
What is a 2-Credit Course Like?
From the Syllabus:
A two-credit-hour graduate course consists of 90 hours, 30 hours of which is in-seat time and 60
hours of which is practice (outside of class) time. To meet the requirement for the 60 practice
hours, you will be prompted throughout the course assignments to reflect upon how you are
working to implement the course concepts in your professional environment and how
implementing them is helping you meet your professional goals.
Why a class on Online Learning?
So many of us aren’t sure what back to school will really look like this year, so it’s important, as educators, to have as many tools and strategies in our back pockets as possible.
Many of us may start out in person and then switch quickly to online learning for several days, weeks, or even longer, while waiting for test results or healing.
But no matter what situation your school is in for this year, knowing some worthwhile strategies for teaching in an online platform just helps to make us better, more well-rounded educators.
Biggest take-aways from the course
This infographic is something I created as a final project in my course, and I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. My idea was that I’d share the infographic with colleagues at back-to-school in-services and do a short presentation as a refresher for them.
What I found most valuable in this course was an in-depth look at these concepts:
1.) Establish a culture of trust
It’s important to establish a structured culture of trust in the classroom, the online classroom especially, and to do this, Module 1 introduced us to TRICK. T stands for ‘trust’, R stands for ‘respect’, I stands for ‘independence’, C stands for ‘collaboration’, and K stands for ‘kindness’.
All of these elements should be clearly established in the online. This concept resonates with me because it makes sense and it’s easy to remember.
- Trust: Some ways to build trust are to engage students in setting class expectations and asking for their feedback on lessons, concepts, activities, and projects as well as admitting my own mistakes and faults.
- Respect: A way to establish respect in the online classroom is by demonstrating respect towards all students, ideas, cultures, and ethnicities. Showing respect is not a matter of letting go of expectations; rather, it is establishing a safe space where all ideas and views are heard.
- Independence: Independence can be established by allowing students choice in their topics, reading material, lessons, and projects and by not trying to micro-manage all aspects of the lessons.
- Collaboration: Collaboration is a 21st-century skill that all students need, and this can be done by establishing clear group norms and behaviors and by frequently allowing students to work together in different capacities.
- Kindness: Finally, kindness can be established in the online classroom by the teacher modeling gratitude at all times and by pointing out or identifying kindness in any situation so that students understand clearly what kindness looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Kindness and collaboration can also be established by sharing student moods and feelings at different ‘check-in’ times or by allowing students to work together on online puzzles or games.
2.) Differentiation by Readiness
Differentiation is something that many educators know and use in instruction, but one thing that really struck me in Module 2 was the idea of Differentiation by Readiness. Differentiation by Readiness means that students are usually at different levels of ‘readiness’ to learn.
The idea of growth mindset reminds us that every student is able to learn, but differentiation by readiness tells us that students are all at different places in their ‘readiness’ to take on that new material and learning. Teachers can—and should—use Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Framework (DoK), to create a learning environment that engages all learners.
- DoK questions at Level 1 focus on Who, What, Where, When, and Why;
- Level 2 questions focus on a skill or concept;
- Level 3 questions involve strategic thinking; and
- Level 4 questions require extended thinking or synthesizing.
Students at lower levels of readiness, for instance, may be asked to answer questions at DoK 1 or 2, while those who are at higher levels of readiness may answer questions at DoK 3 and 4.
Teachers can differentiate for readiness through varied content, using platforms such as NewsELA or CommonLit.org; these platforms provide various levels of texts. Using varied videos found on Youtube, Vimeo, or Khan Academy will allow teachers to find videos to meet the readiness levels of each student.
3.) Discussion Boards as a platform for learning
Discussion Boards can be a great way to boost conversation and engagement with students, but there are a number of things to think about before starting a Discussion Board.
I love that the 3 P’s were discussed and explain how educators should think through the use of Discussion Boards in class. The 3 P’s are:
- Purpose [which learning objectives does the board serve? Does it build community? Is it used for reflection?];
- Practicalities [what type of board to use? How will students be assessed? Do all students have access? What is the timeline and due dates?];
- Possibilities [how can you be creative with this? What authentic materials/ resources/ scenarios can you incorporate?].
When using Discussion Boards, specific rules must be followed, and the board must be monitored continually. Teachers can facilitate discussion in many ways, including having an “Icebreaker” or “Introduction” forum; a “Course Café” forum:(gives students a space where they can discuss anything they want); or an “Ask the Instructor” forum where students ask questions about homework assignments or anything else.
Students can use a Reflective Journal to evaluate and assess students. A Reflective Journal should not be graded on grammatical or syntactical errors; rather, it should encourage free thinking and responses to prompts like: How did you feel after today’s discussion? What about the discussion changed your mind?
The platforms used for Discussion Boards differ considerably and each teacher needs to look at them to determine what works best, but some options are: NowComment, Turnitin, Kialo, Backchannel Chat, YO Teach!, Padlet, Socrative, or Flipgrid.
This is just the beginning!
There’s so much more I want to share about this course, but it’s best if you take it yourself so you can learn first-hand!
A perfect time for YOUR Professional Development with Advancement Courses’ Give 10 Get 10
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2015, Advancement Courses began donating 10% of all sales during each back to school season to DonorsChoose.org projects, partnering with the online charity to help students and teachers in need. They are honored to give back and support some of the many dedicated and inspiring educators who do such important work in our schools.
HOW IT WORKS:
Through the Give 10 Get 10 initiative, Advancement Courses offers 10% off your purchase at checkout with the code GIVETEN. Advancement Courses then donates 10% of every purchase to DonorsChoose.org projects. Educators can submit their projects for funding consideration via the Submit Your Project page.
Educators can submit their projects for funding consideration by clicking here.
fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Advancement Courses, but as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.