Students are used to being taught face-to-face in class, with some input from the teachers. This is all changed in this time of crisis, with schools being closed and adopting online learning. Is education online different from the face-to-face approach we are used to, and how?
An important element to take into account when teaching online is students’ attention. All teachers know too well that students cannot hold attention too long on one task, and lessons should be varied to be effective. This is even more true with online learning: for online learning to be successful, the subject content should be presented in chunks no longer than ten minutes, and a mixture of videos, audios, PPTs, word documents, and the traditional textbook materials can guarantee variety and keep students interested and engaged.
Instructions should be very clear too, as students do not get the chance to ask the teacher for further explanations as they would normally do in class. Students’ understanding should be checked regularly to make sure they are all engaged in their learning.
The teacher’s role changes from being an instructor in the classroom to being a mentor online, a guide on the side. Reduced instructor supervision leads to increased student autonomy, and ultimately a more individualized learning. Many teachers are finding all this very challenging, as they have had to learn quickly to use tools never used before, or in a different way.
But there are many benefits both for teachers and students. For instance, weaker students can watch a video explanation, or listen to an audio recording as many times as they need to, which is simply not possible in class. They can learn at their own pace. This is also true for fast finishers, who can move onto more challenging tasks when they have finished the tasks set.
Technology can help us have deeper insights into students’ learning. We can make use of learning analytics to collect and analyze valuable data. For instance, we can identify students who are struggling and need extra support, or fast finishers who lack engagement and motivation, and get bored.