Universities and schools around the country are closing or canceling in-person classes as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. While an important precautionary measure, switching to remote learning in a matter of days is challenging, especially for teachers who are used to facetime with their students. One of the biggest challenges of remote learning is the lack of support – physical absence from students makes guiding students and correcting misunderstandings difficult. How can teachers balance virtual learning with being available to their students?
Thankfully in this day and age, online classes and remotelearning are made simpler with technology. We’ve compiled a few tips and tricks on how to use various online classroom tools to better support your students.
Set available hours
For professors who only spend 1-2 hours a week with students, this is critical. When you switch to remote classes, students can’t raise their hands to ask questions, especially if the lesson is recorded and then shared. To counteract this, set aside “available hours” – a time where students can email questions and expect a response in a reasonable amount of time. By making yourself available to students during this timeframe, you can easily clear up any misunderstandings without being physically present.
Pro tip: Set expectations by telling students to expect a response within 48 hours and to only follow-up if 48 hours have passed. This way, they don’t flood your email and you have plenty of time to answer questions.
Virtual office hours
Outside of regular class hours, host virtual office hours. Similar to regular office hours, this is dedicated time for answering questions. You can choose to livestream office hours using Zoom or Google Hangouts and use the built-in chat or Q&A function to facilitate questions. If you’d prefer to have a record of questions, use Poll Everywhere’s Q&A activity type and receive an executive summary of every response at the end. Students can also upvote the most important questions, making office hours even more efficient.
Professors are only one person, they can’t be available 24/7. One way to provide support for your students is to create an online forum where students can ask questions and other students or teaching assistants can provide answers. Platforms like Piazza allow anonymous posting and teacher moderation. A few advantages of an online forum include:
- Anonymity. Erase fear of judgment
- Teacher moderation. Prevent spam or inappropriate posts
- A safe place to discuss opinions and share ideas
Direct message platform
A more casual alternative to the online forum is the online messaging platform. Messaging apps, like Slack and Troop Messenger are great places to answer questions, create quick assignments, or encourage discussions. This is also a great platform to keep students up-to-date on due dates and other announcements.
Pro tip: Install Poll Everywhere’s Slack integration to create polls and collect immediate feedback directly in Slack. Participants reply directly in Slack and you can access your results in your Poll Everywhere account.
Class emails and mailing lists
For many professors, email is the easiest way to communicate with students. However, as classes move to remote learning environments, it may be the only form of communication. Don’t flood your personal work email with questions. Create a separate email specifically for each class (example: psych101SP20@gmail.com) to direct questions to that email. If you don’t want to create 20 different class emails, set a subject line tag (example: [PSYCH101] Question about midterm 1) that students should use so you can easily identify questions from personal emails. If your school uses Gmail, you can filter out all emails with this tag away from your main inbox and into a folder to review during your available hours.
Student engagement doesn’t have to fall by the wayside due to remote learning. If you’d like to learn more tips on teaching with tech, check out our back-to-school guide.