This post was written by NCTE member Sharonica Nelson.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been expected to kick their methods into high gear for teaching online. Many teachers were uncomfortable given their limited experience with full online teaching implementation. However, just as teachers always do, they rose to the occasion. Many flew the plane as they built it, while juggling home life, teaching their own children, worrying about their personal lives, and locating and attending virtual professional development. And they did all of this while responding to students, parents, and administrators, and contemplating whether the next school year would begin with us in the same situation as the previous spring.
Simply perusing social media yields the voices of many teachers sharing panic, confusion, and uncertainty about the proper methods of approaching and implementing remote teaching and learning. Many groups have sprung up dedicated to sharing resources, articles, techniques, and technology guides to help teachers. In fact, much emphasis has been placed on technology and creative, dynamic ways of using it.
These ideas were necessary as teachers begain to navigate remote teaching and learning, but there is a gap in the flood of resources to teachers. Resources on effectively managing the online course have been glossed over. Many teachers took the approach of simply using as many Web 2.0 tools as possible. However, as teachers have figured out the tools, figured out ways of effectively communicating with students and parents, and all of the newfound professional development has been completed, the question still remains: how do you effectively manage the actual class to incorporate the new ideas?
As Jennifer Mathes and others have suggested, the biggest need right now is an understanding of how teachers can be most effective when teaching remotely. Below are ten suggestions to provide guidance as teachers continue creating, implementing, and navigating remote teaching and learning.
- Set clear due dates. Choose one day of the week for assignments to be due. This alleviates the guesswork for students, provides consistency, and makes planning for assignment completion easier for students. A syllabus style layout of due dates is helpful.
- Set clear assignment expectations. Because students can’t readily access teachers remotely as in brick and mortar buildings, expectations must be clear. Provide a purpose and rationale for the assignment and give clear, succinct directions.
- Provide rubrics. Rubrics are useful in the online environment to provide clear criteria for success on assignments. They help students further understand the expectation and should be provided for each graded assignment.
- Use images and live links. The online class should be easy to navigate. Using live links helps students navigate easily to embedded resources, and images provide landmarks to associate content with as they navigate.
- Grade and provide feedback in a timely manner. In the online environment, and in light of the current climate of greater change and uncertainty, students may be more sensitive to indicators that measure their progress and success. Receiving prompt feedback and/or grades on appropriate assignments can help students remain engaged and plan for success.
- Utilize Web 2.0 tools. Do not rely solely on web 2.0 tools such as Youtube or Edpuzzle to teach the course or to run the course. Do not overrun the course with these resources either. This could lead to confusion as students navigate the course.
- Incorporate a well-planned curriculum. The curriculum content must be well-planned so that student learning can be properly and adequately assessed. Stay away from creating a “cute” course. Create a course that is creative, yet standards-aligned and academically sound.
- Keep it simple. The online class does not have to be overrun with information in order to be considered a good, academically sound class. Simplicity often wins, because if students become frustrated, they will engage less and produce lower quality work. Rigor does not necessarily mean elaborate, but it does mean challenging while still developmentally appropriate. Give students simplicity and rigor.
- Communicate regularly. In order to keep students engaged and abreast of course happenings, communicate often and consistently.
- Set boundaries. It is very easy to become consumed and overwhelmed with online teaching and learning; but teachers must keep self-care at the forefront. Teachers cannot pour from an empty vessel. Set office hours, provide a time frame for expected email responses, and if possible, create an anonymous virtual phone number to avoid giving out your personal number. Have a set time to end and begin. When the day is over, disconnect in order to rejuvenate and refresh.
As teachers continue to tread the wavy waters of remote teaching and learning, they should understand that proper management of the class is a high priority in ensuring the success of the course and students. Utilizing these ideas should allow teachers to be confident in themselves as they teach online and confident that the logistics of the online courses will support and not hinder student learning.
Sharonica Nelson, EdD, is a writer, researcher, and educator. Her interests are urban education, literacy, and writing instruction. She has served many years as a classroom teacher of English, adjunct instructor of literature, college teacher educator, and professional development consultant. She also has many years of experience teaching online. She is currently pursuing the publication of her first poetry collection.
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