How I hope online instruction will improve classroom instruction

How I hope online instruction will improve classroom instruction

Students can access learning anywhere. The way that online learning is delivered has shown me ways I can improve my face-to-face teaching. (Flickr / Ingo Bernhardt)

Online learning isn’t all I thought it was cracked up to be.

I used to think it was mediocre teaching turned to web pages with superficial multiple-choice questions and little to no engagement.

I even blogged about what online learning can’t do — its limitations or impossibilities even (which received a rebuttal from an online course teacher that’s worth checking out).

I might be starting to change my tune a bit.

I recently attended a training for the Indiana Online Academy, which offers high school classes to students all over the state of Indiana. I was fortunate to be selected to teach Spanish during their summer school session this year.

What started as a summer job to save some extra money is turning into an eye-opening experience.

After receiving training and connecting with some teachers, I’m far from an expert in it. But here are some things I’m starting to notice that will make me a better teacher:

1. Student-teacher communication produces results. This is one area where I struggle. I love planning and delivering instruction, but keeping individual conversations going about expectations and grades is a fault of mine. It appears to be a necessity for quality online instruction, so I’m hoping to improve my communication skills with my students.

2. Text messaging doesn’t have to be a dirty word in education. In fact, according to the online teachers I’ve talked to, it’s a vital lifeline. Texting, obviously, is a staple for teenage communication. More than 75 percent of teens text, and they send an average of 60 texts a day. I can see how tools like Remind 101 and Google Voice can help bridge that gap I have with communication with my students. I see them every day, but texting can be a huge supplement in connecting with my students.

bammy award banner for DTT3. Grading turn-around is key. I have trouble getting student work back to students on time. There, I admit it! It’s one of my weaknesses. In online instruction, students often can’t progress to the next part of the course without graded assignments and feedback from the teacher. I know the power of showing students grades and feedback the day of an assessment. They still feel in the moment and remember the decisions they made during it. It creates a strong bond with the content.

4. Online learning is differentiated learning. In some ways, it’s meeting students exactly where they are and providing learning in the way they need it. Students can progress through the course as quickly as they’d like and can slow down and get extra help in areas where they struggle. This is where I think online instruction and face-to-face teaching could blend very harmoniously. I can see how I could accelerate some students in my Spanish classes and provide extra attention to others with this approach.

Hopefully, after teaching in this virtual environment, I’ll be a better teacher face to face. The best thing we can do as teachers is to constantly learn, be prepared to take some risks and do things differently, and learn from the result, right?

How do you view online learning? What can we learn from it? Or why is face-to-face still best? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

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