Continuing with our series on analyzing whether the canons of foreign language teaching can still be applied on e-learning, we refer this time to how to achieve full interactivity when giving large group online classes.
When we are assigned a course, one of our main concerns is to know how many students we will have in our class. Why? Because we teachers know that there is a lot of work that remains unseen but may affect the impact of our teaching: paperwork, evaluations and updates in the platform among others.
We generally consider that there is an ideal number of students when teaching face-to-face. Does the same apply for online courses? Experts do not agree on this issue since technology is supposed to facilitate interaction, but at the same time may deter it, especially for the instructors that are not used to it.
Is it possible to have large classes with much interaction? Yes, it is, but it will demand planning the strategies we will use in advance and make some adjustments if things do not go the way we expected.
Let’s start by setting some ground rules about the ways you expect your students to interact, the way in which they may organize their work, the roles they may assume and, most importantly, always remark the purpose of the activity. If a student knows what is expected from them, it will be more likely to have their cooperation.
Combine choosing random or self-enrolled groups; it all will depend on your students´ interests and in arousing expectations about each other’s performance. Nothing like unexpected answers contribute to enrich the outcome of the task.
Involve everyone in the task: allow students to evaluate their peers, promote debate and a healthy exchange of ideas. Encourage students to express their thoughts either in front of the class or within small groups. Always monitor their work and summarize what you have heard or seen during their time working in groups. Students will know for sure that you are very aware of their efforts.
Incorporate resources that are at the reach of your students´ fingertips: use web resources, allow your students to use Zoom or Facebook live to meet when further information is needed if they do not want to share their phone numbers to use WhatsApp. We need to be one step ahead in privacy issues as well.
Evaluate yourself: are things going the way you planned? Is it advisable to make some activities to measure? Will you need to make some adjustments next time? Go ahead! A minor change sometimes has a great impact. Students who take online courses must be motivated and independent learners. That is one aim of ours: helping them in the transition.
And last, but not least important: create a safe environment: make your students feel the class is the place to learn while making mistakes, because slipping up is part of the process; make them aware that you evaluate their work, but you are not there to demand perfection; that formative and continuous assessment is as important as summative assessment, and remark the importance of enjoying the experience. Promote incorporating the information they get in your course into their daily lives and bringing their daily lives into the lesson; this two-way road is an excellent tool to make the learning process meaningful
And what about you?
Have you tried out successfully a different strategy towards this matter? Let us know!