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10 Must Know Tips for Virtual Teaching

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Virtual teaching may sound like teaching at a more relaxed pace and flexible schedule, but in reality it involves as much work as teaching in a traditional classroom. Here's a list of important reminders that every virtual teacher should keep in mind.

What Every Virtual Teacher Should Know

If you're thinking of jumping into the virtual teaching profession then you may want to read up on a few do's and don'ts before taking the plunge. Here's a list of 10 tips that can save you a lot of time and give you a head start as a virtual teacher.

1.) Virtual teaching takes a lot of time and preparation

Virtual teaching takes as much if not more preparation than teaching in a traditional classroom. Be prepared to take what you've learned in the classroom and re-construct it for a virtual setting. This means re-thinking how you present materials, coursework, and daily assignments. In addition to creating the curriculum, you will need to map it out in a way that can be presented online. It should be easy to access and simple to read. Remember, students attend online courses for flexibility and speed. Virtual students are most likely multi-tasking between coursework and outside work.

2.) Familiarize yourself with the virtual classroom

Before you can even start developing the material, you will need to set aside time to learn the web-based classroom programming. You won't be able to simply walk into the classroom, smile at your students and start a conversation. Think of ways to welcome students. For instance, does the virtual classroom program allow you to provide a welcome message after login? As for the actual course material and assignments, practice uploading, assigning, retrieving and even grading. Make sure you know what to do before you start teaching.

Virtual Teacher

3.) Don't re-use classroom curriculum

Things that worked in a regular classroom may not work in the virtual classroom. For instance, your class time in a traditional setting may have been a discussion on last night's reading assignment. With this method the majority of the material is covered as students share about the material, ask questions, and explore the subject matter together. This method; however, won't work in a virtual classroom and it's best not to re-write it to make it fit. Instead, start with a new plan for exploring material, sharing insights, and engaging interaction. Make good use of the message board and group chat areas instead.

4.) Communicate

Communication is critical since there is no face to face time in the virtual classroom. In fact, some students may assume the classroom is always open no matter the hour day or night. Be prepared to frequently check e-mail, message boards, and chat or text messages. Plan time to respond to students and provide feedback in a thorough, complete and timely manner. This will take much more time than in a traditional classroom where one student's question may have answered the questions of two or even three others. However, it gives you the opportunity to work one on one with students that may need additional aid in the course.

5.) Easy navigation is a must

Make sure your coursework is presented in a clear and concise manner. Students see online courses as a way to speed up their education and they expect to log in, check out the material for the day, submit assignments and move on. With this in mind, you will need to make sure everything is laid out in an easy to use setting. If you can't navigate your way around your virtual classroom then how will your students? If possible, log in as a student and test drive the course to see if there's anything you need to add or take away to make the course run smoother.

6.) Assignments will take longer

Don't be surprised if assignments take longer than you expected. In the classroom, you may have students work on their own for 30 minutes to complete an assignment, but don't expect this online. Students will be popping in and out of the classroom at various times of the day or week so plan assignment due dates accordingly. Don't forget you're not presenting the main material either. Students will need to read the lecture plus the material before even beginning an assignment.

7.) Build a strong online community

It's up to you to build a strong sense of community in the virtual classroom. You will need to encourage the use of message boards, e-mailing back and forth and taking part in group chats. Students will be prone to log in, skim through the material, complete the assignment and leave. Develop engaging questions and discussion starters. Engage students in conversation and encourage students to communicate with one another through message boards. Students need to feel like their opinion matters and are welcomed in order to come back each time and take part.

Online classroom community.

8.) Always answer questions

There will be times when a student will message you for help in a particular area. Make the time to respond to that question even if you've already responded in a different post or you've made it clear within the course material. It's easy to ignore questions expecting students to figure it out, but don't. Simply guide or direct the student to the appropriate area of the page that will provide the answer.

9.) Live teaching with care

If you're live teaching, make sure you know the system ahead of time. If you're frazzled because you don't know how to operate the program, students will sense that. Prepare ahead of time and greet students with a welcome slide login. Students don't want to log in to a blank screen or an absent teacher so log in early too. Don't forget to keep the chat options turned on so students can ask questions and interact with other students.

10.) Ask for feedback

Be open to feedback as this will help you grow as a virtual teacher. Don't wait to ask for feedback at the end of the course. Ask at the beginning and in the middle too. This will help you reach the students in a more impacting way especially if there is something you need to change to make the material more online friendly.

By Amanda Johnson
January 2017
opinion virtual teaching

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