Since the “new normality” happened to become part of our lives, we all had to sail on the same boat and try to adapt to the now generalized way of instruction: online.
Indeed, this is not a new way of teaching; it has existed for quite some time, and in different modalities: either in synchronous or asynchronous courses and/or certificates, diplomas, and master’s, among others.
However, since in the present this is the one and the only way of keeping up with our work, we have to cope with different challenges: timetables, teaching styles, demands for using different platforms, continuous training and, above all, different dynamics when interacting in class.
When it comes to pair work or group work, some students may leave the class pretending to have connectivity problems. That, in turn, makes the other participants feel uneasy, and we need to have a plan B and C to make the activity flow as smoothly as it was planned. How can this be achieved? Keep a close eye to the interaction of the groups, monitor the internet signal strength, be ready to change students to a different group so they do not feel unattended. It is quite demanding at times, but it pays up.
One important aspect that, by the way, has been portrayed in a number of memes is that of participation and honesty in class. Have you ever wondered about the right things to do to prop it up? Does the responsibility rely on the teacher, on the institution or on the student? As teachers, at least we are expected to show our students what it means to be a digital citizen, make them aware that they are online citizens, and that this is the new real world.
On the one hand, teachers must make sure that their classes are dynamic, with a clear sense of direction, and be aware of all the distractors students may have around them. Let’s face it: just a few of the learners have the ideal environment to study in: a silent space where they can concentrate and follow the class without interruptions.
Last, but not least important, is the patience we must develop when we have already explained an activity sequence and tried to make sure it was understood. Invariably, there will be a student who asks: “What do we have to do?”, “Number…., right?”, “Yes, Miss?” This leads to another important topic: academic honesty, which in turn implies how independent, academically speaking, students are regarding tasks that are assigned, exams, quizzes and other evaluation means.
There should be an introductory session about the importance of these aspects before taking a course or registering in all kinds of educational institutions. This is a shared responsibility: students and teachers are key participants and both parts should be eager to support each other. Little can be done if one or the other is going in their own direction.
To have a broad perspective, it is important to keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of online learning. Below, a short list of characteristics:
- It is student-centered.
- Students can go at their own pace if the timetable is flexible enough.
- There are many resources available to complement the course.
- The teacher becomes a facilitator.
And keep in mind:
- Students should be autonomous and manage their time productively.
- Students are expected to contribute more in class. (flipped classroom).
- Accessibility to technology and computer literacy.
- Internet and platform reliability.
Teachers have a lot of new responsibilities, and so do students. In this new scenario, as well as the two actors working cooperatively, empathy coming from both sides is also a must. I really believe that the support of each other is indispensable to be able to succeed in the attempt.
I would like to end this brief essay with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
What about you?
Have you ever struggled with the new normal when it comes to teaching online?