Tips For Great Online Teaching

Noah Teitelbaum

Noah Teitelbaum, executive director of Empowering Education spent years training teachers in how to deliver a best-in-class live online instruction and helping move in person courses online. He is currently the executive director or an education nonprofit that is pivoting to help K-12 teachers deliver social-emotional learning lessons.

Here are three tips for delivering a great virtual classroom experience (with a focus on live online delivery):

Stop looking at yourself. It can be tiring to look at yourself while teaching and it can diminish our ability to connect to students (imagine trying to connect with someone at a cocktail party while looking at yourself in the mirror the whole time).

After making sure you have no spinach in your teeth, shut off your view of yourself. Some platforms (e.g., Zoom) allow you to turn off the picture of yourself while still showing it to students. For those platforms that don’t allow this, pick up a PostIt note and put it over the square of yourself and get focused on your students. Encourage your students to do the same.

End the tyranny of the fastest. Remember when there was that one kid in class who always had the answer and would shout it out, leaving you uninterested in participating? That also happens online, especially if the teacher relies on the chat window for student participation. One way to avoid this is to have everyone type in their answer without hitting enter — then have everyone hit enter on the count of three. (Take the class culture up a notch by having participants read and comment on one another’s answers.)

Another option that is particularly useful if you’re going to call on one student to answer a question is before calling on a student,  give everyone time to jot down their thoughts or answer on a piece of paper. Then ask everyone to listen to the person you then call on and to consider how that student’s answer is different from their answer.

Move around. Many teachers move around when they teach in-person and so it can be helpful to pull back the camera, set up a whiteboard or easel, and give yourself the ability to move your arms and write on an actual board. Similarly, students appreciate moving. Have students use hand gestures to react, or have them write answers in large print on paper and show it. With younger students, give them assignments to retrieve some sort of item from their house and then show it on camera.

Virtual Learning During COVID-19: Tips From Educators

MigicovskyResponses by Elizabeth Migicovsky, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at San Jose State University in San Jose, California.

One of my biggest challenges in transitioning to online learning is maintaining consistency for students. They signed up for an in-person class at the beginning of the semester not an online class, so I tried to keep it as close to the in-person format as possible. Many of my colleagues have been using voice-over with Powerpoint slides or writing on a tablet, but I find that a bit too impersonal.

I have also been using an educational tool from Osmo called a “Reflector”–it is basically a mirror for my webcam. Right when classes started going online, Osmo came out with a free Projector App for iPad that allows their Reflector to be used as a projector [of my desktop]. This way, I can take the Osmo Reflector off of my camera and speak to my students face-to-face, then I can put it back on and write notes, answer questions, or pose problems for them to do. [i.e. They won’t see the professor’s writing notes as “backward writing” on the wall, like when you do using Face Time.]

Furthermore, I use 3-D models in my chemistry course, and I wouldn’t be able to utilize these if I were only in a Powerpoint or tablet format. The Osmo Projector App makes online interactions feel more like a normal class, and many of my students have commented that it made the online transition much smoother than other courses.

In terms of adjustments I had to make in the transition to online teaching, I have had to omit certain assignments from my course because of the online format. Since I teach biochemistry lab, there are some experiments that the students simply cannot do from home.

Instead, I give them “fake data” and challenge them to write lab reports as if they had done the experiment themselves. Regardless of any changes, I still have high expectations for my students. The courses that I teach are preparing them for more challenging courses, and they will be expected to know this material in future semesters.

New AI/ML Technology Helps Schools Pivot Their Student Recruitment Strategies

By Matt Guenin, chief commercial officer, ElectrifAi.

Matt Guenin

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education institutions are now facing increasing challenges to attract students and grow student enrollment. This challenge has been magnified by the financial crisis with a large number of students reluctant to begin or return to school this fall, especially as concerns with growing unemployment spike record numbers.

Colleges and universities face unprecedented challenges to ensure full classes of qualified and promising students, and traditional recruitment tactics are proving ineffective.

Institutions must find a better way to define their target student and optimize enrollment in a more competitive market. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is offering higher education an innovative way to do this more effectively.

Momentum building to drop test-based admissions scores

Up until recently, schools have used SAT/ACT/GMAT/GRE scores as a key measure of qualification for admission. But even before the pandemic hit, there was much debate over the efficacy of how these scores could predict academic success or even career potential. Now, with online classes and virtual testing adding another layer of uncertainty to this process, major university systems like California have dropped this requirement given concerns about fairness.

Many more schools are considering dropping test scores entirely and several institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, and Marquette University, have already moved to a test-optional policy to help attract a broader range of college applicants.

The University of Rochester, which generally receives a high number of applicants, found that having a “test flexible” period made it evident that test scores added little value to the admissions decision process. Marquette chose to drop the requirements for test scores as part of a campaign to attract a more diverse student pool.

The impact of the COVID-19 on student enrollment

While numerous higher education institutions have worked for years to compete more effectively given declining enrollment trends, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Lower enrollment is forecasted this fall as a result of financial disruption, social distancing policies, and concerns with shift to online learning.

Many universities also must face loss of international students given latest restrictions. Essentially, pent up concerns that have been building for years regarding the admissions process for higher education are being exasperated by COVID-19, paired with travel and social distancing restrictions – we’ve created the perfect catalyst for a year of enrollment unlike any before.

Admissions departments will face increasing challenges and disruption given these structural and macro issues in higher education, resulting in a cascade effect across the system covering Tier 1, 2, 3, down through the community colleges.

We will have to learn new ways to make admissions decisions in the face of uncertainty and increased competition by other schools, of which will require largely different approaches for large state schools, regional universities, or small private colleges.

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Distance and Remote Learning In The Age of Coronavirus

Nick Schiavi

Responses by Nick Schiavi, vice president and global head, high education, Unit 4.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

The conversations we’ve had lately with our customers, from our people in the field who are leading projects, and those who are in touch with the macro-responses by the global industry, are pointing to a couple of things:

I doubt in-classroom education will go away for good. Will there begin to be a sea-change? Potentially yes, considering all the ways we learn today, during any phase of life, there is a combination of in-person instruction and training; experiential and immersive learning; and self-paced knowledge consumption.

From what I’ve been reading and hearing from educators and other vendors, this situation could create a time to re-focus on curriculum design and delivery methods to increase student engagement. Having family members who are educators, I know the rigors of transitioning instructional design and faculty enablement to effectively deliver online courses can be substantial but enduring them is important to be successful in that transition.

What might institutions need to do to attract and retain students in a climate where supply may begin to outpace demand?

This is an interesting question since enrollment and retention have been common challenges for a long time, even prior to this pandemic. Ultimately I believe that institutions will double-down on their interest in differentiating themselves from their peers. Competition for fewer enrollments may occur in the near term; however, this also offers opportunity for institutions to create more demand for education from a wider age-range of students.

Many institutions already look at “traditional vs. non-traditional enrollments” but this situation may be a catalyst for every institution to focus more on how they can engage new segments of the population as students. I suspect it will provide an opportunity for institutions to become more creative as marketers – potentially even thinking of themselves as product managers seeking to understand their target segments more deeply and re-packaging their offerings to attract new enrollments that are the best fit, which should also help with retaining those students.

How do you continue to support the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, and staff with everyone distributed remotely?

I look at this from the angle of prioritization of the urgent-important items first. Imagine if all of our customers lived, worked, and ate in our offices – day in and day out – and they also happened to be young adults not yet accustomed to being on their own. In that scenario during a pandemic crisis I’d first look at how we transition all of our customers back to a safe and protected place, how we monitor and account for their successful transition, how we handle the same monitoring and accounting for our own staff, and only then start looking at basic operations and service delivery needs which in many cases include providing equipment and communications tools to staff that they don’t currently have.

So on top of accounting for everyone, you need to ensure you have the supply chain moving to equip them all. That’s the type of scenario institutions are facing around the world right now – it’s a version of Maslow’s Hierarchy where everyone is reset to ensure the basic needs are met first. Only after that phase, which I suspect many US institutions are emerging from now, can they look at continuity of operations and academic delivery beyond the immediate term.

In the long run I suspect this increases the prioritization of digital transformation and organizational change management but those cycles can only happen after the first layers of the Hierarchy are addressed.

McGraw Hill Offers ALEKS MathReady As An Online Direct-To-Student Personalized Math Learning Plan

McGraw-Hill Education wordmark.svgA new online math learning program from McGraw Hill makes it easy and affordable for students and adult learners to prepare for their math placement test, get extra help over the summer, or refresh their skills before returning to college.

ALEKS MathReady is a direct-to-student version of McGraw Hill’s personalized ALEKS program that is used by millions of K-12 and college students to accelerate their math learning and help them succeed in their courses. It is $9.95 for the first month, $24.95 for three months, and $19.95 for each additional month after that.

For students entering college, math placement and college level math courses can be a challenge and are among the contributing reasons that students fall behind or drop out. College math courses often have high failure rates, largely because many new college students lack the foundational math skills needed to be successful. For some, a trusted tutor is a proven model for learning math and reducing math anxiety, yet the high cost of tutoring and scheduling tutorial sessions are barriers. ALEKS MathReady is an affordable alternative for those who are looking for math support.

ALEKS MathReady is a self-paced, online math learning program that is rooted in research and analytics. ALEKS efficiently guides learning by identifying what topics students don’t know and then focusing them on practicing topics they are ready to learn next. With this personalized learning approach, students learn and retain topics efficiently with real-time feedback to keep them motivated and engaged, while reaching their goals.

For more information about ALEKS MathReady or to sign up for access, visit: http://bit.ly/ALEKSMathReady

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Lessons Learned Delivering Virtual Learning Experiences

By Melinda Kong, director of instructional design and learning management system, Nyack College

Melinda Kong

As we emerge from the last few months of the sudden online teaching shift for courses intended for classroom settings, there are a few glaring lessons learned that will help propel educators forward into the future. While much is still unknown for what the next several months will hold, it is certain that online classwork will be a predominant feature in education.

The methods of online teaching will look different within each education context from K12 to higher education, but one thing is certain; online learning is here to stay and we must adapt to the needs of current and incoming students.

We will likely see a mix of three offerings when thinking about the new normal of distanced learning; the continued implementation of hybrid courses, full fall terms taught online-only, and even HyFlex courses, in which students will be able to be in either face-to-face classes or join virtually when needed.

As educators, it’s important to look at what happened as courses were quickly moved online and learn from what was able to be accomplished. Understanding what worked well and what didn’t will help all educators grow and adopt better pedagogy for online instruction.

Foundationally all courses, despite their delivery makeup, involve diligent planning. All teachers, whether in a face-to-face classroom, online course, or a mix of the two, plan extensively for their courses.

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Back to School or the Dining Room Table? How Schools Can Prepare for Back to School

By Ellen Paxton, Chief Learning Officer, Professional Learning Board 

Ellen Paxton

Like everything else post-COVID-19, schools are going to look different this fall. As teachers, we are grappling with that fact and trying to determine exactly how we will help our students come September. Will in-person classroom instruction resume? If so, will wide spaces between desks suffice, or will districts rely on staggered schedules to keep COVID at bay? Will cafeterias and playgrounds remain closed, and what could take their place?

While the future remains uncertain, we can count on one thing: distance learning will remain a part of the plan. Fortunately, this time around, educators have time and experience on their side. Following a tough transition period for most schools, Summer break provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate, invest in, and enhance school-wide PD and distance learning programs.

Educators can use this time to heighten their professional development by taking an online course that helps them transfer their skills from the classroom to a virtual classroom setting. As leaders in teacher training, Professional Learning Board responded to the stay-at-home orders by providing a free, five-hour course, giving teachers the tools they need to succeed in a virtual classroom.

In districts across the country, several common problems have slowed, even prevented, consistent learning this past semester. The priority needs to focus on these important areas:

Removing barriers to equity in remote learning. Every student and instructor needs access to a device and reliable connectivity at home. Some cities have developed partnerships with foundations and technology companies to provide free high-speed internet access to families, and a congressional measure to make it more widely and consistently available is on the table.

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Why K-12 Learning Needs More Connection

By Bridget Duff, director of vertical sales solutions, education, Cox Communications

Bridget Duff

Although numerous factors contribute to student success, many of today’s digital learning activities that drive great achievement begin with consistent broadband access. And while most of the nation’s schools have internet access, a recent report by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), indicates that the quality and type of connectivity varies significantly – resulting in digital divides across the country.

When upgrading their IT architecture, school districts will sometimes fail to ensure their network has the capacity to support a growing number of devices and technologies coming into their classrooms, which area necessity for 21st-century learning. But luckily, there are a few ways that education IT leaders can plan to ensure their infrastructures can support school technology for years to come. Here’s how:

Wi-Fi connectivity needed for growing number of devices

Today’s K-12 students will enter a workforce that demands tech savviness, problem solving and critical thinking, among other skills. To be prepared, students must have the tools, in school and at home, to thrive in an increasingly digital community. Therefore, addressing sufficient broadband and ensuring digital equity aren’t simply wants – they’re needs.

When thinking about technology in schools, what comes to mind? Augmented, virtual or blended reality, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence? What about high-tech whiteboards, smart pods and one-to-one laptops or tablets?

To embrace these innovative learning environments and advanced methodologies, and others like them, schools need adequate intranet infrastructure. Without it, teachers who want to employ innovative, technology-enabled pedagogical methods are forced to abandon their lesson plans. As 87%of the country’s teachers use digital learning in their classroom, those left without the proper digital foundation can feel left in the dust.

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“Education-as-a-Service” is Suddenly Here… and There’s No Turning Back

By Matt Yeh, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Delphix

Matt Yeh

Nearly ten years ago, Marc Andreesen, one of the world’s most influential investors, famously proclaimed that “software is eating the world.” At the time, no one understood the magnitude of what that meant. But today, the world’s most powerful and prosperous companies are software companies that have brought a tidal wave of digital innovation and disruption to almost every industry from retail and banking to manufacturing and insurance.

And the next frontier for software? Education.

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic and mandated “social distancing” measures, the demand for digital services and software has skyrocketed. Schools across the country have begun planning for what just weeks ago was an unthinkable scenario: a fall semester without students on campus.

As educators prepare for what could be a dramatically different start to the upcoming school year, students and teachers alike need much more than “Zoom University” (which is going through its own coronavirus growing pains) in providing high-quality online learning experiences.

From K-12 to community colleges and public and private universities, the education industry needs to adopt a new playbook for the digital world. For example, the automotive industry is undergoing a tremendous shift towards digitally-enabled car-sharing, ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles.

In order to transform their road to success, organizations in this industry have had to transform how they leverage data and software to meet new business models.

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Virtual Learning Is Changing Education: Here’s What We’ve Learned

Andrew Gaent

By Andrew Gaent, CEO, Wyzant.

Even prior to COVID-19, online tutoring had become the norm. However, many students and parents were still hesitant. Now 100% of lessons are happening online, with all the real-time interaction that you’d experience in-person.

COVID-19 has changed the way that school is taught in America, at least for the foreseeable future. Online classrooms, parent-assisted homeschooling, and academic “dips” are just a few of the challenges that teachers and students face today. Now, more than ever, educators and parents have discovered a need to be armed with strategies to engage students to not only keep their attention but help them navigate this seismic change in learning delivery methods.

What lessons have we learned from the transition to virtual learning?

As schools begin to consider plans for reopening across America, parents, teachers, students and administrators are looking to evaluate what worked when schools closed this past spring, and what didn’t. What they find will help to inform decisions around how to incorporate social distancing and online learning into traditional K-12 education in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that the transition out of the classroom and into virtual learning has taught us about how kids learn, both in the school building and online.

  1. There isn’t one style of teaching that works for every student

Rather than choosing only one method of teaching, it’s important to consider each learning style to create an environment that boosts the value for all types of students. In a virtual learning situation, teachers find that using tools such as digital breakout rooms for group discussions, having a real-life whiteboard to write on versus a slide show, adding videos, using interactive polls, and group activities can help connect and engage students who are used to face-to-face interactions.

  1. Virtual classrooms can help teachers connect with every student

One unique opportunity in the virtual classroom is making interaction easier for shy and introverted students who may not normally participate heavily in person. Educators can use a roll-call system to call on each student to respond to a prompt and make sure each person is involved. Virtual classrooms and technology allow teachers to connect with students in innovative, new ways that can increase engagement, an important step in helping kids retain the information that is being presented.

  1. Students need encouragement and empathy to keep them engaged

In normal times, teachers create lesson plans that are delivered to kids face-to-face. Now, these same lessons are being delivered virtually and often there is a gap between the teacher-created information and the child’s ability to comprehend the material. In traditional classrooms, this would be handled by the teacher. In the virtual learning space, online tutors have stepped in to help fill this void with supplemental materials and a personalized approach to learning that can help a student continue academic progress, even away from the traditional school building.

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