Online learning has now become a regular part of our day. Whether it’s a student attending classes or a lecturer teaching a class, with the onset of Covid-19, social distancing and staying safe and healthy. While the switch to learning and teaching online happened with alacrity, the process of developing the skills to do so was…somewhat slower. That didn’t stop educators from zealously trying their best however- which culminated in numerous online articles and videos summing up handy tips and tricks for online teaching. One such session included our recent Work Different Talk- The Art of Conducting Virtual Class by Ms. Thevaroobini Chandrasekaran.
The talk got off to an energetic start following Ms. Thevaroobini’s entry. In her introduction, she wasted no time in getting down to the bare basics of her topic. From her energy and enthusiasm, it was clear that Ms. Theva was a keen proponent of methods evolving with the times, and actively moved to ensure that she did so. Right from the gate, she admitted to finding it difficult to teach online when she first began (a universal experience for most educators at that point)- admitting that the stress of being recorded, and having everything she said and did during class on record as well, was a stressful experience. Ironically, Ms. Theva admitted that stressing about having any accidental mistakes recorded only resulted in her becoming even MORE nervous and making even more mistakes. However, she says, she kept at it long enough to find methods and strategies to cope, as any educator would, divvying up the talk into 5 key points, namely:
- Pay Attention to The Scene Behind Your Screen
- Set The Tone Early On
- Foster Primacy and Recency Effects
- Integrate Technology
- Engage and Connect With Your Students
Pay Attention to The Scene Behind Your Screen
Her first bit of advice for those teaching online was to pay attention to what was going on behind the screen- as this was the backdrop to whatever class one was teaching. This, she emphasised, included own personal appearances, making a quick transformation from bare-faced to a simple but eye-catching make up look. Summed up, this simple effort- be it dressing up (especially while in lock down), or even just wearing a smile, is a subtle but effective way to show your students that you are putting in an effort to be there- and consequently, that you’re equally willing to put in the effort for them to have an interesting class, and are showing them mutual respect! This also included using suitable gadgets and tech, including lighting, screen backdrops and (depending on the circumstances) earphones!
Set The Tone Early On
Something Ms. Theva learned early on in teaching (both online AND offline) was that one had to set the tone of the class early on- in her case, this was done by breaking down the material covered for the duration of the class so that students would be aware of her expectations of them. Additionally, Ms. Theva also included a list of classroom “Do’s and Don’t” in the form of fun facts- this showed the students what she expected of them, and in turn, what they could expect from her, establishing a clear line of communication and understanding. This, she noted, was particularly important to lay down right off the bat, as the students would still be developing their first impressions- establishing clear cut lines for the class to be run on at that stage made it easier for them to follow and understand what to expect.
Foster Primacy and Recency Effects
Ms. Theva was also an advocate of a teaching method known as “fostering primacy and recency effects”. This method consists of breaking down the learning process into two stages- primacy, which involves the memorisation of terms and focus on committing facts learned earlier to long term memory, and recency, which consists of committing facts learned at a later stage to long term memory, and cycling between them. Through relevant research points (and helpful graphs!), Miss Theva highlighted the importance and relevance of this method in today’s system, as well as how useful it could be for students in the long haul, with additional bits and advice of her own.
Another key technique to teaching effectively online included (naturally) the integration of technology into classes. Whether or not you were talented in IT was not the point- the point was that you put in the effort to make the material used in class look good. Among the recommended presentation softwares were Google Slides, Canva, Ludus, Beautiful.ai, Prezi, Power Point, and Powtoon- each categorised according to the type of software and where they’d be useful. She also shared a list of useful video making and video editing apps to use as well.
Engage and Connect With Your Students
Ultimately, the most important thing one could do, according to Ms. Theva, is to connect and engage with your students. Using this year as an example, she pointed out that while yes, as an educator, one was in a position of power, one should also practice empathy. Identifying just what point your student is at in terms of capacity, and engaging and interacting with them is one of the best ways to show them that they matter to you, and that you are there for them. Making jokes, asking them how they’re doing, keeping up with their trends- these are small, simple gestures, but often they mean the world to students.
The talk ended with a Q&A session where participants could raise their question, or share their feedback. On the whole, it was clear that many of the participants found these tips useful- with some making plans to utilise them in their own lessons!
If you’d like a more in-depth look at, or a proper understanding of Ms. Theva’s techniques- no fear! You can check out the session recording here!