Enhancing Your Online Teaching

By Steffen Parker on October 06, 2021 hst Print

Zoom. Microsoft Teams. Skype. Google Meet. Facetime. Web- Ex. GoToMeeting. Terms we never heard of a year ago are now a part of our daily conversations – in-person and otherwise. Conferencing software and online platforms have allowed business, education and personal connections to continue through the challenges of the pandemic.

Most people have become fairly adept at attending meetings, setting up connections, communicating with others through microphones, built-in cameras and computer screens, and dressing for comfort and company. None of those adequately replace in-person meetings, one-on-one conversations and lessons to be learned, but most have struggled through and made it work. Education has been the most affected by this transition and has had the most to lose.

Teaching styles vary from school to school, curriculum to curriculum, even classroom to classroom. All teachers consider their roles in their students’ lives in a different manner, bringing their own philosophy, sharing it through an approach honed by years of experience. Every teacher has had to change how they teach in response to the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created in education. And the online or hybrid versions of teaching most common now have generated some new tools and new uses for others.

Regardless of which online platform being used, there is likely either a feature within the program or an app that works with it to provide these types of enhancements. The ones mentioned here are primarily connected to Zoom, being the most popular program used for this purpose in education. A simple Google search will find the appropriate one for the others.

  • Whiteboard: The ability to mark a virtual version of your classroom chalkboard/whiteboard; can be a screen-share option and use of the mouse, an extension that uses an external device (such as a tablet or iPad), or one that is a stand-alone connection. Allows more spontaneous responses to students to help clarify or further explain material. Some versions can be shared with the participants so others can add their own information.
  • Polling: Posting a question, survey or series of questions to those connected to your session; can be conducted anonymously if desired with the results available to view and share, or download after the meeting. This is a great way to solicit responses, engage students who are not following along well, and to evaluate how well the lesson material is being retained.
  • Recording: Having the session recorded as an MP4; creating and saving a video of the session (good use for a shared folder on Google Drive or something similar) allows students who were not able to attend to catch up or students who need to review that opportunity. This is often a part of the platform, but there are third-party apps that will do this as well.
  • Annotation: Being able to mark on a shared document. Mostly used to help bring attention to a specific portion of a document, this tool will allow you to draw, highlight and connect sections being displayed.
  • Video Overlay: Having your video source on the screen with the camera image; don’t lose that personal connection when you share a video, but keep both on the screen for students to view. Be a part of the video by enhancing what is being shared with props, gestures, whiteboard, etc.
  • Breakout Rooms: The ability to separate the participants into smaller groups; just because they are miles apart does not mean that your students cannot collaborate in small groups. Use this feature to encourage discussion and keep students connected. Small group reports can then be brought back to the entire group and shared in multiple ways.

In the rush to get online last March, schools provided little or no training in how to use these types of enhancements to provide better educational opportunities for students through online platforms. And a year in as we continue to need this type of technological support, making those sessions more productive, more collaborative, more informative and more fun becomes essential.

Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet – they all either have these features or there is a third-party app that provides it. And there are many more, especially ones that connect the session to other resources (YouTube, Wikipedia, Google Drive, OneDrive) to expand the possibilities. Online learning will not end with the pandemic and the better we use the tools available, the better the learning.