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#41: Tips for Teaching Live, Synchronous Online Classes

#41: Tips for Teaching Live, Synchronous Online Classes

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

Teaching live, synchronous online classes can be stressful and challenging, especially for teachers who are not used to this form of online teaching. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips for engaging students and creating opportunities for students to interact with the instructor and other students. Learn about polling software, screen sharing, video sharing, and other technologies that can help make synchronous classes fun and engaging. Also learn why it’s important for teachers to adopt a flexible mindset as they prepare to teach live online synchronous classes.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

In today’s podcast, I’m going to share with you some ideas about how to engage your online students during the class in live, synchronous online teaching so that you can hook their interest and help them stay motivated to learn throughout your time together.

I’m not really talking about formal assessments or discussion boards specifically, but I am talking about how you might get them to interact during the lesson itself. Many of you out there are teaching online, but you’re doing it live, where you and your students are all at the computer at the same time in real time.

This is what we call synchronous online teaching. At the same time, there are some of you out there teaching classes where you have put all the lesson content, all of the lectures and other things into an online platform for students to consume or interact with on their own schedules, whether you’re there at the same time or not. The second type is what we call asynchronous online teaching.

Engage Students in Synchronous, Live Online Classes

Today we’re looking at ways to engage your students in live real time, as you are with them in synchronous live online teaching. Why does this matter? Your students will be one step further disconnected from you online than they would be in a face-to-face situation and you cannot walk around through the group to help them stay alert and focused on what’s going on.

If they get up out of the chair and walk away from the computer for a minute, they can easily get distracted by something else going on and lose sight of being in class altogether. And when that happens, you might lose them completely.

For these reasons, part of your role when teaching live synchronous online classes is to be more engaging, and part of your role is to get your students to act. Whether it’s by moving around in their chair, clicking on their smartphone in response to something you ask, writing things down, or speaking to each other in live breakout rooms.

Whatever level you’re at, whether it’s elementary school, high school or college courses, teaching live in the online world takes a little more energy. You might have already guessed this from what I’ve described to this point. You need to be more animated and, at some points, even entertaining. You will need to look at the camera so your students think that you’re looking at them.

And of course, you might want to record yourself in front of the camera, as if you’re teaching, just as a test to see how you project your voice on camera, how you convey energy and how you project your enthusiasm.

In the things that you say, you will also need to tell students what they will learn, why they will need to learn it, and what they should expect and be able to do with the information once they have learned it. Your students are less likely to patiently sit and absorb information just because they’re in the class, especially if they are younger learners.

In today’s podcast, we’re going to cover two specific areas of your live synchronous online teaching. First, we’ll look at your preparation and mindset, and this is really split into two avenues. The preparation means that you need to clearly know what you’re teaching in each lesson, fully plan it, and know exactly how you will teach it and engage your students.

And the other avenue of this preparation is looking at your mindset about how you’re teaching and how well it’s going. This aspect is something you need to focus on before the class is happening because it can really affect the way you think about the entire experience. It also affects the way you plan and prepare for the lesson. And lastly, it impacts how forgiving and flexible you’re going to need to be with yourself and with your online students.

And second, we’re going to look at some ways where you can get interaction from your students when you’re in that live synchronous online class setting to help them move, talk, and engage. These interaction strategies are going to be super helpful to keep your students’ attention focused, but changing pace throughout the lesson can also help your students mentally rehearse and more fully learn the content as well as learning to apply it.

So before we jump in, here are some ideas about the focus of live synchronous classes and totally online asynchronous classes. If you have a choice about whether your online class is going to meet live just as you would in a face-to-face class, or whether it meets asynchronously where students can log in at their leisure, when convenient, and participate on their own schedules, here is a good way to decide between those two options.

The number one factor is what you as the instructor are planning to do. If you are not going to interact back and forth with your students like in a question/answer type of interchange, and if you’re not planning to lead various interactive activities during the time together, if you’re only planning to lecture to deliver the course content, then you don’t need for this to be a live class. You can stand by yourself in front of a video camera and record yourself lecturing to an empty room, then put that video out there for your students to watch at their own schedule. Don’t make them come and sit in front of their computers only to be passive observers of your lecturing.

If they need to attend at a set time, then use that time to the best of your ability to get them interacting with you. Get them to ask questions, interact with each other, and do something that helps bring them into the learning mode to really engage and get something out of that time with you.

Preparing to Teach a Synchronous, Live Class

So let’s begin. First, we look at the preparation phase. You’re going to create a lesson plan for each lesson, and it needs to be detailed. Decide what students should know and be able to do by the end of this lesson. And decide how you want them to be able to demonstrate their learning at the end as well.

This will likely lead up to your design for assessments and knowledge checks or smaller formative activities leading up to something bigger coming up. Of course, today, I’m addressing only the way we deliver synchronous online lessons and not the actual assessment activities specifically.

If you’re teaching online, you must prepare the content ahead of time, even if you’re teaching live at a specific time. It’s not pretty to improvise in front of a camera feed with your students all sitting there. And it’s also very easy for your students to disengage, turn off their cameras, and find something else more interesting to do.

If they start doing this, they might even stop attending your class. To help them learn the best you can, you will need to be interesting, and engage them with you and with each other. Of course, the class doesn’t have to be live if you choose some other method.

You don’t need to see this experience as if you’re sitting on a stage delivering your lecture or monologue in real time as if you’re in a live classroom. Instead, if you’re going to just put everything online and let students come and go to participate at their own convenience, you can create many different types of content for that and you can make it an asynchronous class.

Maybe one of those, if you go that route, is going to be a short set of videos where you’re explaining or demonstrating a concept. Then there can be some reading material, and maybe you have a few videos that also help teach the concept. And students might be in a discussion area chatting among themselves in an asynchronous discussion as well.

There are a lot of options to help you, if you realize that you don’t really need them to be there live in real time. Whatever you do, be prepared and plan the lesson content, and the way you would deliver it as well, in advance.

Share Expectations with Students, Out Loud

You should be more specifically prepared in your online etiquette expectations. You can begin the class by sharing your standards about what they can expect from you and what you can expect from them in terms of how often and in what ways they will interact during your class. These instructions could include some kind of guidance about muting and unmuting their microphones, as well as what kinds of things can be written in the chat box, and whether they need to be on video or just have an image on the screen and their cameras turned off.

You should share these expectations out loud. Tell your students in front of the camera, when you’re actually there in the live class. Don’t just send them by email and expect your students to read them. You’ll want to reiterate them a few times and emphasize them, especially if you’re going to have these live courses throughout the semester where you’re meeting online, yet at the same time.

There are some additional ideas, like telling your students that online engagement is expected and required as class members. Camera issues and technical issues are not as common of an excuse for not engaging. Students can always use their smartphones as a backup if they have tech issues on their computer, and it can be helpful to engage the classroom support team early and often if there are any issues with technology access.

If you share your beliefs about why they need to engage and about how it’s going to actually cement what they’re learning, this can help your students purposely engage and be much more involved in your live classes.

Make Participation Part of the Grade

I also make participation a part of the grade during a live class, and you might consider doing the same thing, especially for younger students and if it’s a Gen Ed college class. You can use all kinds of brief exercises to interact or chat or get ideas from students throughout the class. And you can even call on students individually and take volunteers to answer questions.

So there are a lot of strategies to help you prepare. And as you think through what types of engagement you might want to use; you can plan your content throughout the lesson around these different methods available to you.

Adjusting Your Mindset

Now, the other half of the preparation is looking at your mindset. What are you thinking about your own teaching generally? And what will you expect to happen when you’re teaching online? How do you see yourself when you’re on video or when you’re coming across an online platform? And what might you do if everything goes wrong?

Let’s talk about that mindset a little more. Even though you will plan and prepare, be prepared for backup plans. In the past, you might have been able to deliver masterful classes and engage your students face-to-face remarkably well. But online, sometimes what you think will be a wonderfully developed and clear lesson turns out to be flat, confusing, and unengaging.

If you are new to teaching online, you will need to prepare with a beginner’s mind. Realize that you might not be as polished or put together as you would like to be. Have a plan B. You can share this plan B any time with additional content, different methods to teach the content. And if you have these backup plans, this is going to help you to feel calmer and help you stay calm if things don’t go according to plan. This is especially helpful if major adjustments are needed.

Because you might need to move to a backup plan, also realize that if it’s your first time teaching online, you might need to be more patient and flexible with yourself while you’re teaching. And you will also need to be more accommodating to your students who are trying to learn your teaching style as well as how to navigate that online space.

It’s really easy to clam up, get a little tense and hold students to a higher standard when things become frustrating for you. So, dial it down just a bit and be more accommodating to yourself and your students equally.

Improving Student Interaction with Polling Software

Lastly, we’re going to look at some ways you can get interaction from your students when you’re in that live synchronous online class to help them move, talk and engage. So how can you interact with these students during this live class?

One of the ideas I’d love to share with you today is to use polling software. There are many kinds of polling software. I’m going use four different kinds today and the first one I’d like to tell you about is called Poll Everywhere. This is one great option. They have interactive activities, attendance methods, quizzing, and ways to check understanding in real time.

You can add Poll Everywhere into a PowerPoint presentation that you already have. This makes it an easy way to add polling or any kind of interaction there. Once you’ve collected the responses, you can save them on the slide deck so if you’re going to share them with students later, those responses will be right there in the slide deck.

This Poll Everywhere also works with Keynote and Google slides. So with Poll Everywhere, you can make live synchronous online classes far more engaging and interactive without really having to change your slide deck very much from your traditional lesson you might’ve given in the past.

A second piece of software is called Mentimeter. Mentimeter lets you build interactive presentations right there on their platform, so you don’t have to go to something like PowerPoint. You can also collect polls, data and opinions from your students using their smartphones. They have 13 different types of interactive questions that can include word clouds and quizzing. The word clouds are especially beautiful because as students add their comments, any repeated statements become bigger in the word cloud and it starts to form right before your eyes.

You could put your whole lesson presentation in a Mentimeter presentation, and the engagement parts could appear throughout this lesson where students will respond, where they will interact, and where they will reply to your questions through Mentimeter. This platform includes themes for your presentations and free stock images to spice it up. And once you’re done, you can analyze the data, export it in a PDF file or in Excel, look at the trends and do some deeper analysis.

A third area is in the Zoom platform, which many of you might already be familiar with. Zoom has polling software built in. And if you’re having your live sessions in Zoom, these can be set up ahead of time and then they can be put on the screen when they’re needed and you can show the poll results to everyone afterwards. The Zoom polls can be conducted anonymously, or you can have participants names recorded, especially if you’re going to download them afterwards and take a look at those responses.

The last thing is the chat feature, which probably comes in whatever video platform you’re using for this live lesson. So the chat feature in the video platform allows students and you all to add your comments and ask questions.

You can monitor what’s going on there and include some of these comments as you’re teaching the lesson in your own speaking to connect to what students are also saying. You can also call on students who are there on video and just ask them to unmute and speak out loud as they would do in a traditional face-to-face class.

Some students are uncomfortable with this and very shy on camera, but once you encourage this kind of participation repeatedly, it grows. And it encourages more students to also participate in the same way. Those four ways of interacting, polling and getting answers from students can really help your students to wake up, stay alert, and really engage with the content.

Engage through Screen Share

Another way to engage your students is a screen share. There are many ways to do this and of course, if you’re in a platform like Zoom, you can either share an app through the platform or your entire screen from your computer right there in Zoom, and you could also share the interactive whiteboard.

When you use the whiteboard, you can just write on it like you would in a face-to-face class although it’s on the computer instead of on the wall. If you’re using Google, Google Classroom, Google Meets, or any of those types of platforms, you can also screen share there. There’s a Jamboard app that you could bring into your Google Classroom to also allow your students to collaborate on those whiteboards.

Video Share with Students

And then of course you can video share. You can stand up in your home office, just like you might in a classroom, put a whiteboard on your wall, and draw concepts on it while you’re teaching during the lesson and as you’re engaging with your students, just as if you’re standing in a regular classroom in front of that class.

These are all ways to engage your students, to get them to stay alive, alert, awake, to help them manipulate the content and interact with each other, explore ideas, and really learn during your live synchronous online class. I hope this has helped you think about how you might include students to engage them during that live synchronous online class.

Summarize the Lesson at the End of Each Class

As you close the lesson and the class for the day, find a way to summarize what they have done, what you’ve learned together and all that you’ve covered. Ask a student to tell you what their takeaway is from the lesson. You can either call on individual students to speak, or if you’re in a video platform with a chat feature, you can ask everyone to type a one-sentence takeaway from the lesson. Here again, this is going to cement their learning and help them repeat it again and again to remember what was taught, but also what they worked on.

You could ask your students to respond through polling software, if you prefer, to this section of your lesson, or you could have them add their answers to a Mentimeter word cloud. Whatever you do, asking students to help you sum up the lesson is another great way to help them engage more and solidly sift through their learning by sharing out.

Reflect After Each Class, Send out Email Reminders to Students

After everyone’s offline, take a moment to reflect on what went well. Was your preparation adequate? Was your mindset in the right place for this kind of situation? And did you prepare the situation itself with all of the steps needed for success? What would you like to adjust before the next go round? And then send a follow-up email to your class with a few key points and reminders about the next time. This will help them remember how to contact you as well when they have questions and it’s going to help them keep thinking about class when they’re away.

Thank you for being with me today. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week, especially if you’re teaching live synchronous classes.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

This content first appeared on APUSEdge.Com

It can be challenging to keep online courses engaging and interesting. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares five methods and strategies to help online educators enhance their classroom. Learn how to increase student engagement through asynchronous discussions, online group work, gamification, guided exploration, and leveraging the full power of your school’s learning management system.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

I thank you for joining me. It’s wonderful to be with you here today, to talk about methods and strategies teaching online. There are so many ways you can engage with your students in the online classroom, many of which involve special tools, interfaces, apps, or other items that might be considered bright and shiny objects.

Just to help you avoid getting overwhelmed, I’m going to introduce you to five specific methods and strategies you might consider using in your upcoming courses to help you keep the overwhelm at a minimum and get excited about trying something new and creative.

You might already know this, but choosing methods and strategies that work for your online environment and also guide your students appropriately through the topic, it’s challenging but it’s also necessary.

Creative strategies are so needed because students otherwise will disengage. Online education can be very isolating. If we always use an essay and discussion board approach, it can also be very dry and boring. Engaging your students and getting them excited about what they’re going to learn and how they’re going to learn is only part of the battle. We’re going to talk about that: how to learn it.

Think about the typical online class that focuses mainly on a lecture and some kind of assignment the student will give back to you. This is somewhat an imitation of a live class, and most of us would see this as the typical way a college class occurs. Online students need way more opportunities to interact with each other, with the content, and with you.

Online learners are a bit different than the residential students you might have at a traditional face-to-face university. Many of them have busy lives and need to be able to look at smaller bits of information, like a little video clip or something engaging they can click through or several of these things.

If you take the time to chunk information and use special strategies to create engagement, these strategies will really help your students be interested in your online course and help them throughout their learning and help them enjoy the process.

The tools that give your students the opportunity to work through the content that they need to learn, compete with their own performance, and manage the overall learning process can really help your online courses become more exciting and motivating.

As I’ve already mentioned, this could quickly lead to overwhelm for you. So choose one thing to try in your upcoming course, keep it small and simple, and you will be very pleased with the way this leads to a better result for you and your students.

Five Strategies for Improving Student Engagement

So here are the five methods and strategies I’d like to share with you today to help you get something more interesting going on in a small and simple piece.

Asynchronous Discussions

The first is asynchronous discussions. Asynchronous discussions are the hallmark component of online courses. Most people expect to see a discussion forum at some point in an online class. Some people use discussion forums throughout the entire course. Discussion forums give students the opportunity to teach and learn from each other. They can try on ideas, analyze, explore, debate, discuss. They can really get into the content through a discussion. They can also engage in dialogue with you, the instructor.

The discussion can include text. It could be based on images, audio, video, or multimedia, or you could include some combination of those things. In a previous episode of the Online Teaching Lounge, I explored a lot of different ways to manage your online discussions and creative a forum prompts you might consider trying. I hope you will take a look at those previous episodes. They’ll give you a lot of ideas in the asynchronous discussion area.

Online Group Work

The second method and strategy I would like to suggest is online group work. Learning can be a collaborative endeavor and group work can promote dialogue while refining understandings. This can be done in a way that fits the subject matter that you are teaching.

Group discussions, group projects, and peer-to-peer activities can also make online learning much more enjoyable for your students. This will reduce the tendency to have just lecture and discussion-based courses, and it will also make it more interesting when they’re forming connections with their classmates.

One of the drawbacks of online learning is that students do not really get to know each other deeply. When they work in a group, they have a better chance of getting to know each other, connecting and maybe even knowing a familiar name when they go to the next course in their program.

Group work can be very difficult to manage. I used to do an online project in the music appreciation class that I am teaching most. In that course when the group work came up, sometimes I would specifically assign students groups of people that were in the same time zone. My students tend to be all over the world at any given point, so I like to creatively manage that.

I had also chosen groups based on similar demographics. Maybe they’re in the same military branch or maybe some knew the subject of music a little bit and some didn’t, and I would combine those to give everybody a better chance of engaging about the content.

Group work needs clear instructions, creative activities to explore where each group member can contribute something. And, of course, some kind of criteria for grading that makes it worth the student’s time.

When I say worth their time, I mean that they’re going to actually be graded on their own contribution and not solely on the group grade. Students get very discouraged when they’re graded on the work that classmates have not done.

It’s also very helpful in group work assignments to let students choose some component of the assignment themselves. Maybe there are some creative elements they can put in there. Maybe there are several choices of what could be created or discussed in the assignment, and maybe there is also the opportunity to choose what the output format is going to look like whether it’s an essay, a PowerPoint, or some multimedia presentation.

Considering group work as the opportunity to really engage in a real-world fashion, this is an opportunity for you to also coach your students on how to work as teams, especially online.

Games and Simulations

The third method and strategy I’d like to introduce, this is the area of games and simulations. Games and simulations are opportunities for your students to apply new learning in real life scenarios. These can be supplemented through hypothetical situations, maybe they’re even role-playing or through specific apps and platforms built for some kind of educational gaming.

You might consider badging. Sometimes students get very excited about earning these little badges that appear as tokens of their achievement. There might be something built into your LMS that allows badging or up-voting or some kind of other engagement about the game or simulation itself.

Sometimes a little bit of competition actually makes the learning process even more fun. Games and simulations are becoming increasingly popular. I was at the Online Learning Consortium Conference a couple of years ago where a faculty member actually introduced the idea of using a Dungeons and Dragons scenario in a class, for gaming options.

If you explore the possibilities of gaming and simulations that are available, you just might find one that works fabulously in your subject matter. Simulations are a little bit different than games. They’re a little bit more applied and real-world oriented and might revolve around a case study or a role-play.

A simulation is something that might have a decision tree. For example, maybe the student enters a crime scene and they’re in a class where this is the area of focus. In the simulation, they might need to examine evidence and make a choice. With a decision tree, when they click on one choice, it will go to one avenue, and when they click on a different choice, it will take them someplace else. It’s a little bit like the 1980s example of choose your own adventure books. You get to choose the different options and the program takes you in different directions.

There are a lot of apps and things available that allow for decision trees. Even a simple PowerPoint presentation could be rigged so that you have a decision tree option available. You can create a slide where a student clicks on one or the other item on the slide, and depending on what they click on, it moves them to another slide entirely, skipping over a whole bunch of slides in between.

If you’re not sure what to use for a simulation and you’d like to try, I recommend starting with a simple PowerPoint. You might also consider reaching out to your classroom management team, whoever is working on your LMS at your institution, to see what’s available. Some apps can even be integrated into the learning management system to make this a lot easier for your students and for you.

Going back to the idea of gaming, I will go back into an app that I’d like to recommend today. There is one called Quizlet, which is well known for flashcard studying. Quizlet hosts flashcard-style tools to create simple interactive and game-like components that are easily embedded into any LMS.

A lot of students search for subject matter content online, maybe they do a Google search for items related to your class that you’re teaching. And many of them actually find Quizlets already available that help them study the terms that are taught in your class.

If you decide to create a Quizlet, it can be very simple to just create a list of terms or ideas, concepts, scenarios, and you can set up various options in the Quizlet program, making it fit your subject matter and your strategy the best.

Keep in mind that any new technology you may be learning as the instructor might be equally challenging for your students. There is a learning curve to everything, so when you’re trying a new interface, a new app, or a new program, keep yourself limited to one. This is going to help you avoid the overwhelm that comes with bright and shiny object syndrome. And when you get overwhelmed with a lot of new options, it can be paralyzing, making it difficult for you to integrate that into your classroom.

If you’re able to develop simulations, role-playing games, or other gamification that might go into your courses, this could be really engaging and fun. It will generate interest in your class and in the content of your course. And also guide your students to learn at a deeper level, and the results will definitely be worthwhile.

Guided Exploration

A fourth area I recommend is called guided exploration. Guided exploration helps your students quite a bit. It can be delivered as an instructor-made video. Perhaps you are doing a screencast that walks through the entire classroom, showing your students around. Maybe it’s a narrated screencast. It could be a classroom tour, a list of steps for investigating a topic, a guided exercise in the subject matter. Maybe it’s an analysis presentation of some kind of case study or other issue, or other teacher-led tools.

When we think about guided exploration, this is often the idea of lecturing on a content matter. If you use guided exploration, really what you’re doing is giving an overview of a subject or the topic, walking students through it, and describing, discussing, and analyzing it as you go.

As the instructor, you’re giving a little bit more information about the thinking for this kind of subject, maybe what we might notice. One example I’d like to share is from the music appreciation class, because of course, that’s my subject area. Guided exploration in this case might be a recording of a performance where I’m going to pause it, point out a few things in that video, discuss it and record myself doing this, and then continue recording a little segment and talk through which musical devices are showing up.

As I do that kind of guided exploration video, my students are going to have a lot more hands-on guidance so that when they listen to their musical example and have to analyze it, they feel a little bit more prepared.

Leveraging Your Learning Management System

The last method or strategy that I would like to share with you today is your LMS. Your LMS, of course, isn’t a strategy itself, but it comes with a lot of different components to help you track student progress and create creative assignments. You can communicate with everyone through your LMS, usually. You can also reach individuals privately. There might be some kind of messaging feature. There might be something also that enables interaction or even live video. Leveraging your LMS and all of its different components could allow you to create things that are new and different.

Some learning management systems have a group setting. You can take a forum discussion and randomly assign students into different groups so that they’re just discussing the topic in smaller groups than they normally would. Sometimes this alone is a very engaging method for students to get connected and a strategy for helping them dive to a deeper level.

Just in review, we’ve talked today about asynchronous discussions, group work, games and simulations, guided exploration, and learning management system components. Methods and strategies in your online class are a little bit different than deciding what to teach, it’s more about deciding how you will teach it.

As you spend the time creatively deciding your methods and strategies, you’re going to be able to be creating something that is more interesting for your students and more engaging overall. It will also give you that feeling of trying something fresh every so often. So that you don’t get stuck in patterns that you teach every single semester, but that you keep trying something new.

I hope you will try at least one of these methods and strategies today to freshen up your online teaching. And I wish you all the best this week in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

 

5 Tips to Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

5 Tips to Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

This content was originally published at APUEdge.com

Five Tips to Help You Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

If you have traditional, face to face teaching experience and want to teach online, you’ll need to know how to prepare for an online teaching position interview. Online education is a growing field, and getting hired to teach online is increasingly more competitive. It can also be difficult to focus your interview comments toward online education specifically, when you have focused on live classes throughout your career. I’ve interviewed hundreds of prospective faculty in recent years and share these tips from my experience, to help you stand out in your next online teaching interview and hopefully land the job you’re looking for.

Do Your Homework

Before you interview for an online teaching position, do your homework to learn about the institution. Each school, college, and university is unique in its mission and philosophy. Many cater to specific populations or have focused programs that distinguish them. Knowing about the specifics of the job for which you’re being interviewed gives you an advantage during the conversation. And, your insight about the programs or populations for which the interviewer is responsible can be included in your interview responses thoughtfully.

Interviewers will want to know how your skills and expertise will be a good fit for their reality. Most educational institutions have informative websites, where the mission and vision of the institution is provided. Take the time to read and understand these areas. Also explore the specifics in the program for which you have applied. You might be able to find details about the student population most likely to enroll in the program, such as whether they are mostly adult learners, military and veteran students, or within other demographic groups. Use the information you find to help tailor your approach when answering interview questions to help you stand out among others interviewed.

Learn What Matters About Online Education

If you are not familiar with online education practices, learn about the Community of Inquiry model, andragogy, and strategies specific for your subject area. There are many well-known “best practices” in online education, and applicants for online teaching positions are expected to know about these practices. As you learn about what matters in online education, find practices you already use that align to these practices. Then, practice explaining how your present strengths and abilities work well online.

Even if you have little experience, knowing how to move your teaching online will prepare you for an interview much better than guessing. As you learn about what matters in online teaching, you can think about the potential job expectations for the role you’re considering in light of what you already know about the academic institution, its priorities, and its student population. Mentally connecting these areas can help you generate a list of questions you might ask during the interview, if you need more information about the job expectations to decide whether it’s a good fit for you.

Get Clear About Your Strengths and Weaknesses Teaching Online

Regardless of your online teaching experience, interviewers want to know about your strengths and weaknesses while teaching online. The first way to explore your focus is by taking the “Teaching Perspectives Inventory.” The TPI identifies teaching priorities and can help you get clear on your goals for teaching generally. Once you’ve identified your focus, you can describe your teaching strengths and focus together—something few teachers are able to do concisely.

After you’ve thought about your teaching priorities, connect these to what matters in online education, as well as what works well for you and what doesn’t. Decide how you stand out uniquely through your strengths and teaching approaches, personality, teaching philosophy, and the ways in which you help students learn. Likewise, identify your weaknesses. No one can be good at everything, and being clear about where you’re still growing ads validity to what you say in your interview. It’s a bonus if you also have a plan about how you address your weaker areas or a plan to regularly improve these areas.

Share Your Key Ideas Clearly and Concisely

Find ways to express the unique and authentic details about yourself concisely, without jargon. I’ve been in many interviews where time was limited, and interviewees were asked to share their most important thoughts in just a few minutes, yet many were not able to do it. As you prepare for an interview, aim for a response that shares the best details up front, so that you get out what is most important to you and those interviewing you without running out of time.

It’s obvious when an interviewee has previously written responses prepared for an interview that they are trying to fit into the questions they have been asked, only to fail to answer the actual question that has been posed. Think about potential interview questions and practice your responses, and also be flexible enough to answer clearly and concisely during the interview. Your ability to adjust in this area helps a potential employer see how you might also be able to say a lot in a short space, to show that you can adapt when needed.

Listen and Respond Well

After you’ve taken the time to do your homework about the institution you’re interviewing at, learn what matters about teaching online, increased your self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and prepared yourself to respond clearly and concisely, give yourself the time and energy to listen and respond well. When listening to those who are interviewing you, take the time to consider what they are asking. If you’re unsure what is meant, ask for a bit of detail or clarification.

Once you’ve fully grasped what you’re asked during the interview, take a breath, and respond confidently. If you’re anxious, close your eyes a moment, and bring your awareness to the present moment before answering. You’ve done your homework and are prepared. You have much to share. And you will be able to do it clearly and concisely.

Hearing your interviewers and connecting with them during the interview allows you to build a rich conversation that sets you apart as a potential faculty member. You’ll notice things you might have otherwise missed if you are anxious, jump in too quickly, or don’t catch the meaning of your interviewers’ questions. By slowing down and being intentional during the interview, you will be able to leave the experience feeling great about the way you presented yourself and your unique expertise, and you’ll have the best chance of being considered for the role you are seeking.

Tips for Creative Alternative Assessments Online

Tips for Creative Alternative Assessments Online

Here are some tips for alternative assignments sure to add variety and relevance to your online teaching.

Students today tire easily of the typical discussion board and essay-style course design. And as an educator, these can tax your time and patience as well. Alternative assignments use creative topics, formats, and approaches to avoid this cookie-cutter approach.

Because alternative assignments use non-standard methods, they might at first catch your students by surprise. For this reason, it’s helpful to introduce the tools and ideas you will require in alternative assessments early, so that students can tackle the job one piece at a time.

One use of alternative assessment is for formative assessments. Dr. Major shares these helpful ideas in her article about Keeping Students Engaged:

  • Use a technology for students’ introductions, like Flipgrid or VoiceThread.
  • Use polls through LMS tools, Poll Everywhere, or a synchronous, live video meeting, to ask students to contribute their learning goals for the course or unit.
  • Use a quiz to check students’ understanding of course policies and syllabus items.
  • Use a scavenger hunt activity to guide students through the online classroom and give them a content preview.

Additional creative methods can take students’ creativity even further, as shared by Dr. Melanie Shemberger, of Murray State University, at the OLC Accelerate conference November 9, 2020:

  • Use infographics, created in Pictochart or Canva, so students can collect and present details from their learning.
  • Allow students to present their ideas through creating a podcast, by making a “how-to” video in which they propose what their final assignment will include, or by representing the details on a mind map.
  • Give students directions to present their assignment as a Pecha Kucha PowerPoint show. This makes the presentation concise, to the point, and an opportunity for prioritizing ideas.

Whatever creative approach you use, be sure to give clear instructions, tie the assessment directly to the learning objectives, and provide grading details to help students know exactly what to expect. These creative approaches open the door to creativity. And, your students will even have fun learning!

#29: How to Make the Most of an Online Conference

#29: How to Make the Most of an Online Conference

This content was first published on Online Learning Tips. 

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a major change in the way that instructors, ranging from elementary schools to colleges and universities, taught their classes. Out of necessity, many instructors adapted their classroom material for an online format, using tools such as Zoom and Google Classroom, and have used technology for additional purposes, such as meetings with other instructors and administrators.

Attending an online conference is a new experience for many teachers. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses the benefits of attending an online conference and tips to get the most out of it. Learn how to find professional events, strategies for attending sessions, how to engage and interact with presenters and attendees, and ways to network in a virtual setting.

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This is episode number 29, how to make the most of an online conference. This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the online teaching lounge.

Why Attend a Virtual Professional Conference?

You might be thinking, “What is an online conference?” An online conference is your typical professional development or industry conference that is presented virtually. Right now, during the time of the pandemic and many other things going on in the world, some of the things that normally would be live attended as conferences face-to-face are being rescheduled to online events.

I myself have attended several of these events. And so I’d like to talk today a little bit about how to make the most of your online conference attendance, how we can do it online, what we should do to prepare and how to maximize our attendance.

And one reason we go to professional conferences is to be part of our professional community. There are so many professional community conferences I have attended in the past. I’ve been to music educator conferences, online leader conferences, online educator conferenceshigher education leader conferences, and all kinds of things in between, as well as those in the tech field.

Because I teach primarily online and worked online for a long time, I have been very interested in various modalities, various platforms. And sometimes, I’ll go to Adobe conferences or other things like that. So there are a wide variety of conferences that you might consider attending as an online educator in your field, in online education itself or in industries.

When you attend an online conference, this might seem like an awkward experience, compared to your face-to-face events. At a face-to-face event you’re going to meet people, you’re going to get to know someone in the hallway, maybe have a brief conversation.

You might exchange a business card and follow up for future conversations. You attend a presentation, and you see that person face-to-face. They might make a real impression on you, and you might have a side conversation after they’re done presenting.

Or maybe you’re the presenter. And you see the people that you’re presenting to live in that room or auditorium, and you make real connections there as well.

There are, of course, those networking opportunities and the big speaker, some kind of keynote. Things like that really strike us and they come with us afterwards and stay part of our memory. They also become part of our long-term learning and growth. The question is, how can we do this effectively online?

Search for Upcoming Online Conferences and Register

Well, first I’d like to suggest looking around and seeing what is available online as a virtual conference. If you were to conduct a brief Eventbrite search, you would see there are a lot of virtual conferences already listed there that are in a variety of industries.

For example, there’s a Data Science go virtual, there’s a tech summit, there’s an AI and the Future of Work conference, there are things like Courageous Conversations About Raceschool anti-racist strategy. There’s the 2020 virtual One Health conferenceAPI World 2020TEDxMileHigh and so forth.

So there are a lot of different kinds of conferences you’ll find on Eventbrite, and you might also find a listing of virtual events or virtual conferences in your professional areas. If you attend normal, live face-to-face conferences, those same organizations might be having a virtual event this year, next year, and you can find that information on their website.

When you find out about a virtual event, some of these are free, some of these have a registration fee. Either way, you’ll want to register for the event. Once you register for the event, you’ll receive some kind of confirmation email.

Just like with a live event, you’ll want to take that confirmation email and save it, print it, or do something to note it so that you don’t lose it. Not all of these events are going to send you reminders or calendar invitations.

You might have to take the time to schedule it manually on your own calendar and also save the access information. So the first step would be to find the conference, register and then save the registration details.

Identify the Structure of the Online Conference, and Determine How You’ll Attend

Once you’ve done that, you’ll find that most online conferences have a similar variety of things that you’d find in live face-to-face conferences. For example, some of these are orchestrated on a complex platform that includes places for keynote presentations where there’s a video frame. Maybe there are captions, maybe there’s text or somewhere to interact with other participants, or even with the presenter.

There might be education sessions. Education sessions are the type of session where you might have 30 to 60 minutes, or maybe even longer, where a subject is presented in your area or some topic where it’s more lecture style. And there’s a presentation and then an opportunity for Q&A afterwards.

There might be hands-on workshops where you might have something you’re doing while you’re engaging in the conference and watching the presentation, and it’s interactive. There might even be networking and social events or other additions like yoga and morning exercise, virtual coffee breaks, virtual coffee hours, cocktail parties, social networking opportunities, and other areas for vendors or exhibits, just like you might have with a live conference having an exhibit hall or an exhibition space.

The activities in a virtual conference might actually take place in real time synchronously. And if that’s the case, you would want to put those dates and times for all the sessions you’re going to attend on your calendar and block out the day that you’re going to attend the conference.

Alternatively, a conference might have on-demand sessions. These would be asynchronous. And that means that you can watch them at any time so you can look them up during your free time, after work, or block out the day and attend them all at once.

Or you might find that a conference has some combination of those two options, real-time and on-demand sessions. Either way, you’re going to find a rich opportunity to learn and grow, be part of your professional community, network with others, and get a broader vision of what’s happening in your field and where you’d like to go with it in the future.

Once you’ve registered and you’ve looked over the information about your professional conference, you will find that some tips could serve you well when you attend this virtual conference. The first tip is to focus on your perception or attitude about the conference itself.

Adjust Your Perception of What You Can Get Out of the Conference

We have this sort of subconscious belief that an online or virtual conference just isn’t as good as the face-to-face experience. That doesn’t necessarily have to be true. In fact, in some ways, that conference might be even more effective as you sit without the distractions of the environment and simply tune in to the content itself.

So an online session can be done very well. And of course, just like in a live conference setting, you might also have the session done poorly. It depends on the presenter, the topic, and how things have been organized. However, if you really approach this with your best attitude of getting something out of it, it’s going to just heighten that experience for you and make it a more positive one.

Schedule Time on Your Calendar to Attend Live Sessions

Secondly, calendaring and making this calendar a priority just as if you were attending live is critical to really engaging in that conference. In my own experience recently, I registered for one conference. I received the confirmation email. I got the login information. I did log in and watch one session at that conference. It was a free conference. I wasn’t really highly motivated to engage any further and I missed all the rest of the sessions, and I tried to do work when I should have been at the conference and I really just missed out.

So limiting distractions starts by putting those sessions on your calendar and blocking out your calendar, so that your time doesn’t become scheduled to do other things. Then when you cut your distractions out, you might even close your email, you might turn off the notifications on your cell phone and just really act like you’re just attending a conference, really focusing on the conference experience itself. When you do that for yourself, you’re going to get a lot more out of the experience.

If there’s an option to buy partial or full access to the conference, I highly recommend buying the full access, even though it is virtual, because you’re going to get a lot of background material, additional information and all that good stuff that’s going to make it a better experience for you.

If you need help turning off your distractions when you’re connected to the conference itself, you might consider putting up a Do Not Disturb. If you have something like Skype Business that tells whether you’re online or if you’re in Slack, you can use Focus Assist on your computer. This will stop the notifications that pop up on your screen. You can use an out-of-office responder for your email. You can also turn on Do Not Disturb on a cell phone.

Interact and Engage During the Online Conference to Cement Your Learning

And then when you’re in the conference itself, there should be at least some way to interact. If it’s like some of the online conferences I’ve investigated recently, there might be a platform where chat can happen. You can also post to Twitter and different places about different things you’re learning at the conference.

The more you interact, the more you’re going to really get something out of that experience. So use the interactive features that might be present in the conference platform. There might be the opportunity to raise your hand and ask a question, or a session might include a poll or some other kind of engagement opportunity with the session.

The more you actually participate in those things, the more you’re going to get out of it, and you’re going to be thinking about whatever is being presented. Especially if this is a topic of interest to you, engaging is worthwhile and it cements your learning.

It goes with that idea that neurons that fire together, wire together. As you’re thinking about the concepts that are being presented or shared, if you’re engaging and interacting at the same time, it’s going to help you form better connections in the brain and remember the experience.

Take Notes During Sessions for Later Reflection

Another thing I would recommend for a virtual conference is to take notes and review them and reflect afterwards. Not sure how you are at conferences normally, but my conference attention span is somewhat limited.

When I attend a few sessions that are of interest to me, I find that I need to slow down, take some breaks and review my notes and summarize what I got out of that. If I don’t do that, I end up with information overload. Too much information, too many details, and it starts to all blur together and become lost.

At the end of each day at a virtual conference, just like you might at a live conference, take a break, review your notes, think about what you gained that day, what insights you might have and how you might use that information. Any kind of thought and reflection you put into what your experience has been is going to really take it that much further for you in attending this virtual conference.

Network during the Virtual Conference to Grow Your Community

Another idea is to network at the virtual conference. Now a lot of people like to go to these conferences to meet people, to make new professional connections, and also get to know people that are in the field that they’re studying.

You can network in whatever kind of social media chatter might be going on at the conference. For example, if there are certain conference hashtags happening on Twitter and you want to post and engage, you can see what others are posting and also get more takeaways that you might’ve missed.

There’s often, as I mentioned, the chat feature in many webinars or presentations, and if you’re engaged in that chat, you’re going to be able to get to know what others are thinking, share your thoughts, and even react in real time with additional questions, comments, and things of that nature.

If you find that you really connect with other participants, you might even decide to invite them on LinkedIn to your community to pursue additional professional connections after the conference. I’ve met a few people in various online education chat areas where we’re at a webinar together and we’re all talking about the same thing, or maybe I’m at a coaching conference and we’re meeting each other and we want to follow up on some ideas we shared.

That has really surprised me, personally, and I hope it would be a pleasant addition to your virtual conference experience. Engage in the networking opportunities and grow your network.

Schedule Time to Watch Virtual Conference Sessions You Missed in a Timely Manner

Another thing that you can do at a virtual conference is you can also watch the replays of different sessions that you missed. Most of these events actually record their sessions and they’ll share that recorded material, but it’s best to schedule time on your calendar when you plan to watch those recordings so that you don’t just set it aside and never get back to it. And then get back to it in a pretty decent timeframe.

If you attended that conference this week and you wait five months to watch the replay, it’s often out of sight, out of mind, and we’ve forgotten completely about it. So if you put it on your calendar next week or the week after and follow up on any sessions you still wanted to watch, this is going to help you keep all that learning together and understand your takeaways better, and also apply it in whatever area that you’d like.

Attend After-Conference Social Events or Activities for More Connections

Lastly, some of these virtual conferences have interesting additional things like concert nights or virtual trivia, a game night, or virtual happy hour. It might be in Zoom, Google Meet or some kind of breakout room.

It’s an interesting opportunity to engage in those additional things you might be part of at a real conference, and so I highly recommend finding out what those additional things are to help you feel like you’re really at an event and engage with other people and feel the impact on your professional growth and your social abilities as well.

Dress Professionally to Improve Your Experience

Many people recommend that while you’re attending a virtual conference, that you dress as if you were attending that conference live. When you put on your professional attire, it can add to your focus and give you a better sense that you are doing something significant. And it will also help when you’re on Zoom if you should end up in a chat with other people and be on video so that you feel confident and look professional, too.

Overall, the online virtual conference option is a new trend this year, and I’m personally very happy to see it because there are a few events we can attend during the pandemic. So opportunities to go to teaching conferences, professional conferences in my field of music education, and also coaching conferences, these have all been really great opportunities for me, personally. And I hope you’ll check out the options that are available to you in your field as well.

Again, these are great chances to be part of your professional community, to disconnect from the daily routine that you have, to network with others, and have a bigger vision of what’s going on in your field, as well as learning and growing. It’s what keeps the passion alive and helps us to stay interested in our day-to-day work. All the best to you in your online teaching this week and your exploration of virtual conferences.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

Wiley Educational Research

Wiley Educational Research

Today, I saw the Wiley Educational Research posted on Linkedin. You can view it here: https://edservices.wiley.com/ .

What does it mean for online education?

First, the researchers have been conducting this study repeatedly for several years. They report having surveyed over 15,000 fully online learners during the bast many years. I’ve used some of their reported statistics and trends in my own work, and particularly in my recent book Teaching Music Appreciation Online. I believe the data is useful and adds insight to online higher education.

Second, it’s unclear whether any survey respondents were impacted by COVID-19 yet, because the authors noted that data were collected in January and February 2020. Broad effects of the pandemic did not impact higher education until late March 2020 and onward. Regardless, the needs and preferences of online learners are well represented under normal circumstances. Next year’s report will definitely be worth a look!

Here are some of the key insights that returned this year:

  • Online learners prefer to take classes from institutions located close to home
  • Online learners typically prefer affordability and reputation when choosing where to enroll

And, new findings about what online learners really want include the following:

  • Pride in the institution and are willing to pay more tuition for an institution’s reputation
  • The fastest route to completing the program and speed throughout the process (including applying, accepting transfer credits, and goal achievement)
  • Specific programs (and they will go elsewhere to find it rather than opting for an on-campus option)
  • Career services
  • Options to learn via mobile devices

As we look to the future of online education, considering the preferences and needs of online students will help us continue to provide what they most want.