In 2020, I worked with Educators within the schools where I am President, and I have watched my youngest daughter take online college classes.  I have heard the complaints that online is not as good as in person.  As someone who’s family has homeschooled, I agree.  In-person, 10+ hours a day with a one-teacher to one-student ratio is the best.  What is best is not always practical for everyone.

In this post, I want to share some thoughts on how you can make online education better if you are doing it.

Lectures – If you are simply moving classroom lectures to online lectures, you are no doubt having issues with attendance, learning, and educational results.  With this topic, remember that lectures in the classroom are probably not any better.  The difference is that you have a more captive audience.  Also, with in-person interaction, you can keep attention better by engaging more, brining up an interesting sidebar topic briefly, and asking more questions to cultivate discussion.

Lecturing is considered one of the least effective models of teaching, yet it is still common.  When you take a worse method, change the medium and ask an educator with less online teaching experience to teach, you are almost always going to be getting worse results.

If you must deliver lectures, consider these things to improve the learning.  I have added some other items as well in the list to think about and help you improve.

  • Pre-Record your lectures in small segments (depending on age) that students can learn at their own pace.  Shorter recordings are easier for students, and also easier for educators to record.
  • Make live sessions more interactive.  Ask students to watch presentations in advance and then engage them during live time.
  • Facilitate participation from everyone in smaller groups.  When scholors expect to be engaged, they will pay more attention.
  • Be fun, sometimes.  After online lectures our daughter would be so excited to tell us about how the professor’s cat kept interupting the class.  Technical problems are not fun, but a pesky cat made everyone love that day’s class.  The same can be done by integrating funny still comics, or short funny video clips.  
  • When designing quizes or test, do not assume everyone cheats.  Some educators make online harder, while others make it easier.  I have seen several courses at the college level become nightmare courses, because clearly the assumption is cheating and honest students are put into impossible situations.  I have also seen software used to detect cheating log students off part way through tests, forcing them to retake tests.  This can result in hours of wasted time and frustration to students who would not cheat anyway.  
  • Design for the medium – which means use your delivery to the best of your ability.  Online teaching means you can easily provide study guides and practice tests, you can provide links to YouTube videos where people can get a different perspective, and you can monitor discussion areas to see what people are struggling with.  Just showing up and delivering a lecture is simply not going to be effective.

This should give you some ideas on how to improve your teaching online and better keep students engaged, so they will be more successful.