In my over 25 years as an educator, I've witnessed a remarkable transformation in the landscape of education. From the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom to the dynamic possibilities of virtual learning, the evolution has been substantial. The advent of technology has not only expanded our instructional modes but has also compelled educators to adapt swiftly, especially in the wake of the global health crisis. As we embark on another school year marked by the lingering effects of COVID-19, many instructors will find themselves implementing hybrid teaching strategies, seamlessly blending in-person and virtual learning. Navigating this new terrain requires a quick adaptation to the hybrid virtual teaching environment. However, there are time-tested methods that accounting educators can leverage to make this transition smoother and ensure a successful classroom experience. In this article, we will explore some best practices for online teaching, aiming to connect with students effectively and create a thriving learning environment this fall.
1. Simplicity and Effective Communication
The foundation of successful virtual learning lies in clear communication and setting expectations. Start by communicating expectations clearly and providing step-by-step instructions on achieving learning goals. The first week of classes is crucial, and providing a syllabus or outline that outlines learning goals is essential. Incorporate flexibility into the syllabus, acknowledging the potential impact of the ongoing pandemic on classroom policies.
Recognizing the limited attention span of today's students, break down information into shorter sessions. For instance, if you're covering a textbook with ten chapters, consider breaking it into 20 smaller presentations, using a mix of live teaching and pre-recorded videos. To maintain open communication, consider creating a social media account on platforms like BAND, GroupMe, or Facebook groups. These platforms can be used for announcements, reminders, FAQs, shout-outs, and encouragement.
Incorporate a single, mobile-optimized platform for presenting information to ensure easy access for students. Streamlining content through platforms like Google Classroom simplifies the learning experience and facilitates a smooth transition to a hybrid classroom.
2. Flexibility Is Key
Recognize the diverse circumstances of students, and embrace flexibility in assignment formats. Some students may not have equal access to technical resources, making a virtual environment challenging. Allow different avenues for completing assignments – for instance, a written paper or a PowerPoint presentation for the same assignment. Clearly outline these options in the syllabus, ensuring students have the flexibility to choose the format that best suits their circumstances.
3. Cultivate Participation as a Habit
Engage students through both synchronous and asynchronous learning styles. Asynchronous learning, with pre-recorded lessons, allows students to pace themselves. Despite the asynchronous nature, incorporate avenues for participation, such as discussion forums or interactive group assignments. In synchronous courses, encourage active participation through live interactions, either face-to-face or virtual.
Implement real-time quizzes or polls during live online courses to gauge understanding and present results to the class. Provide regular office hours, whether in-person or online, to offer individual assistance and foster a connection with students. Establishing a consistent office schedule at the beginning of the school year ensures accessibility for students seeking guidance.
4. Encourage Creativity and Collaboration
Building a sense of community in a virtual classroom is challenging but vital. Foster student relationships through smaller study groups where peers explain concepts to each other. Assign sections of a chapter for students to present to their peers, reinforcing the material. Group projects encourage collaboration, critical thinking, and engagement, but ensure equal participation by structuring projects accordingly.
Incorporate real-world examples and current global issues into lessons to capture students' interest. Tying course concepts to contemporary challenges like air pollution, climate change, or recycling adds relevance and meaning for students.
As we venture into a new school year amidst the continued uncertainties of the COVID virus, adaptability and flexibility in the classroom are paramount. Drawing from my extensive experience in both live and online instruction, I have discovered that showing genuine care for students' personal and educational lives sets the stage for a successful semester. These tips for virtual learning aim to assist educators in preparing for the challenges and opportunities that the new school year may bring.
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