What is good online teaching?

Online teaching is not the same as classroom teaching. Cut and paste of strategies used in physical classrooms into the online world will not work. As many of my teaching colleagues will concur, the first time online can be unnerving, especially when talking to a screen with minimal non-verbal feedback from the audience. And of course, we have a new audience observing too – the parents, which can add to the pressure.
While we know and acknowledge the above, we also know that we become better with practice. In this context, it is important to ask ourselves, what constitutes a great online class? Teaching in front of a board monotonously or just showing a set of slides often results in students getting disengaged. To become better at anything, we need to know what good is. From a quality perspective, we have four different levels of online teaching sophistication.

Level 1 – Basic
The teacher can communicate and show visuals clearly. He/she always attend class on time and can see and monitor all students. Tools typically used include a good microphone for audio, UPS connected modem with fast internet and a traditional blackboard or power-point for teaching. This level is the basic requirement. Classes stopping because of the loss of electricity, audio being unclear because of poor internet results in all the good work done by the teacher going to waste.

Level 2 – Intermediate
The communication is mainly one-way from teacher to student with visuals used appropriately and all concepts explained clearly step by step. Students are given activities to do occasionally to ensure engagement. Tools typically include a writing pad/tablet / electronic board with a stylus to underline/circle key points and explain step by step.

Level 3 – Advanced
Teachers engage some students actively in class with structured exercises and facilitation. Two-way interaction is smooth between teachers and students. Lecture time is interspersed with active participation time by students. Multi-media is used proficiently and appropriately. Activities are given and individual feedback is provided where required. A variety of tools are used as aids including jam boards, polls to test understanding of concepts, recorded videos to supplement lectures etc.

Level 4 – Expert
The class is student-centric with most students engaged actively. Classes are used for thinking and concept clarification instead of conveying basic information. The three-way interaction between teachers and students and between students happen appropriately, including group discussions and debates between student groups.

So as teachers become more proficient, they must progress across the levels given above. Training and support to teachers from pedagogy and technical perspective are vital as many will require handholding as they transition to higher levels. This requires far more work from the teacher’s perspective than taking physical classes, but we as educationists must do this, as the learning outcomes for students dramatically improve as we improve our expertise.

Vikram Ramakrishnan, Director, CS Academy Schools

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