Some tips for online teaching

Like with many people’s jobs around the world, academia has had a large switch up this year with social distancing and lock down restrictions implemented across the world. This has meant that many of us have been adapting to life online for teaching. I have been fortunate enough to land a year contract as an online course facilitator (online lecturer) for the online campus at my university. 

My university has had the online campus for three years now, so it was not a response to changes this year and has meant we have some clear structure around online teaching. I wanted to share a few things I have learnt regarding lecturing and teaching online.

How do I record lectures?

I have had a lot of questions regarding this. I use the software Panopto, record with a Yeti microphone, and just use the webcam on my laptop.

Rather than recording straight 1 hour or 2 hour lectures, we record ‘concept videos’ which are usually 10-12 minutes long max! So for example in a social psychology topic I had four concept videos: obedience, conformity, bystander effect, and social influence techniques. 

I just record audio voice over rather than having my face in the concept video and then record an introduction to the topic with just my face. If possible we record these in a green screen although I know that is not possible for everyone. 

Student engagement.

Many people think that it is hard to engage students in online learning or that it is hard to keep track of student engagement. However, I find the opposite to be true. Depending on the systems that your institutions use you will likely have access to a range of analytics not available in internal teaching. Just something as simple as knowing which students view concept videos. Use these analytics to your advantage and contact students with low engagement, check in with them and ask if they require assistance.

Zoom Sessions.

Oh how I wish I purchased stocks in Zoom a year ago! For my courses I run 3-4 zoom ‘drop in’ sessions each week. These are not compulsory however are an opportunity for students to ask questions and meet each other. I record one of these sessions each week to upload for students who can’t make it. Also if there is a question asked in a zoom session that I think is important for all students to know about, I post this in my weekly announcement. 

Create Comradery.

One of the things I love most about online teaching is the diversity of students, from all walks of life and from all over Australia (and the world in some cases). Encourage students to get to know each other. In a forum having an “off topic” thread can be effective, where students can just chat about life things. 

Be Kind & Be Flexible.

Many of my students work full time, and have kids, and are carers, and run businesses, and do all other kinds of life things. That is why Online Uni exists, to capture a different demographic of students. Be flexible with students and show understanding and empathy to their situations. Particularly this year where there is added stress and anxiety for many. 

I hope that answers a few questions about Online Teaching and I have a plan for more posts on this topic.

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