Being a virtual teacher absolutely has its perks. For educators, it can take the form of giving lectures and leading a class with an established university or teaching overseas. For learners, they can be teenagers or mature adults continuing their education traditionally or learning about specific and niche topics; all while learning in an online setting that is synchronous or asynchronous, fixed or adaptive, interactive, individual or collaborative. The options are endless and aren’t mutually exclusive!
If you’re on the fence, wondering how to navigate unfamiliar terrain and gain a little clarity about what it’s like to teach virtually, read on for a few key points. Even though the virtual school digital
divide is complex and still unfolding, there are many advantages to shifting learning online:
Without a teacher always hovering in close proximity, learners are required to think critically, and help themselves. Of course students require some hand-holding, it’s part of the job! That being said, in an online environment, students have to learn to think for themselves and can’t expect to be spoon fed. For example, if learners have access to all the course material they need, they will learn that most of their questions can be answered. They just need to know where to look. In turn, this also improves how they ask questions and allows for moments of reflection and pause before speaking.
When teaching online using a video conferencing solution, your presence is extra impactful. Your command of the class takes shape in how you present yourself, your background or virtual background, your voice, posture, body language, eye gaze, delivery of content… to name a few!
Teaching online requires teachers to be mindful of their transmission. In a real-life classroom, it’s normal for educators to bounce around topics and trains of thought. Online, however, an educator is required to stay on track and teach sequentially. Lessons are not only predetermined but the transmission must be clear, concise, easy to follow and be without multiple disruptions.
A teacher’s role goes beyond just teaching in a classroom, even a virtual one! Behind the scenes, you might find yourself having to design a curriculum, set up online instruction, work with other colleagues to tweak or produce course content. With an online course and the right video conferencing technology, it becomes easy to collaborate with others whether behind the scenes or in the online classroom with students!
(alt-tag: Young woman sitting on floor against couch, at home with open laptop and textbooks, writing in notebook.)
One of the biggest concerns with virtual school is that students can’t connect 1 on 1 or in smaller groups. By implementing virtual social opportunities and smaller groups via breakout rooms, the opportunity to meet and interact with others becomes more possible.
There are multiple ways in which teachers can also connect with students more easily. On top of email, and newsletters, video conferencing that comes with text chat, an online meeting room, and dial-in numbers works to keep people connected from all corners of the world.
Life moves quickly! For both teachers and students, when it comes to meeting in a digital space, timing is of key importance. Staying true to time, being punctual, and not veering off track is required when teaching virtually. It’s a matter of respecting people’s time, other commitments and maintaining integrity.
Even though everyone theoretically gains time since there’s less commuting, it’s important to remember, especially for continuing education students, that they might have families, careers and other commitments as part of their schedule. Putting off assignments to the last minute might not be recommended, however, recording classes for those who can’t attend now but can watch later, is very advisable!
Consider how much a teacher truly can impact the learning and transformation of a student in an online setting:
For younger students, if one student is acting out in a traditional classroom, it can affect the learning environment and be a huge distraction for other students. In a virtual setting, the teacher is the center of attention and students aren’t as easily affected by others. This makes for a more conducive and smooth-running learning experience!
Feedback is critical for development and learning. In a virtual school, students do better when they are keenly aware of what needs to get worked on, as well as celebrated or recognized. In a more traditional school setting, teacher responsibilities don’t always allow for the time to connect. Online, however, relationships can be better built and supported in smaller groups that invite constructive criticism, critique and opportunity feedback, as well as one on ones and parent-teacher meetings.
Everything a student needs to succeed is available online. Whether through a portal, email chain, online storage accessibility, online meeting or course site, students are provided with the necessary documents, files, media, videos and links so they can complete assignments, accurately and on time. Plus, if any collaboration is required, it’s easy to host a meeting or present remotely in the online meeting room where everyone can join in and work together in real-time.
(alt-tag: Three young girls sitting outside in park, looking and laughing at a laptop the girl in the middle is holding.)
Of course there are some very real and tangible benefits for teachers too:
Virtual teaching offers a unique opportunity to save money. When commuting is reduced, not only are educators able to cut costs, many hours are saved too! Plus, without having to commute, teachers can live in the neighborhood, city or country of their choosing. No longer is anyone relegated to having to be in one place commuting to and from every day.
As a teacher, educator, coach and more, you can move and work remotely, working part-time or full-time depending on your set up. And if you do want to stay in one place, if you have children and want to remain local, then the flexibility of virtual school becomes obvious. The flexibility of working around your baby’s sleeping or partner’s schedule as a teacher; or attending classes live or recorded as a learner, offers time shifting advantages never available before. Using the right technology enhances and amplifies the learning and teaching experience to keep up with the times.
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