Learning Path

Online Teaching – Methods

Online Teaching – Methods

Learning Pathway: Online Teaching – Methods

Successfully transferring lectures and seminars to an exclusively digital online medium often requires existing concepts and methods to be adapted. Many teachers find this challenging if they don’t have experience of online teaching. Many questions arise, such as: What tools can I use to transfer my teaching online? What kind of methods work well online? This learning pathway will give you a grounding in the methodology of online teaching and learning and support you in the successful delivery of your online classes. 

1

How to Design an Online Lecture


Topic: Prepare an online lecture    Time: 20 min

How to Design a Good Online Lecture

Having a clear objective is central to effective eLearning – you need to know what you want to achieve. You also need to understand how incorporating eLearning will affect your course. Consider broad questions such as: How will you adapt your content? How will it change your interaction with the students as well the students' interaction with each other? Then there are more specific questions relating to assessment, quality control, and collaboration. Successful eLearning is based on good design and there are already many resources available to help you develop your eLearning strategy.

Effective eLearning begins with a very clear idea of its purpose – without having a clear idea of what you want to achieve it is very difficult to come up with a good design and plan. You also need to take into account what it means to adopt eLearning into your course offer and the impact this will have in many practical ways. How will you adapt your course content? What about interaction between you and your students and amongst students themselves? There are also questions to be answered in terms of assessment, quality control, collaboration, etc. Getting it right starts with good design and a sound overall approach: eLearning has come a long way in recent years, there are a lot of resources available to help you design your eLearning strategy.

While all of the sound pedagogical strategies that you have utilised in your face-to-face teaching still apply when moving online, eLearning brings its own considerations that you will need to take into account. First of all ‘There are many ways to get it right online. ‘Best Practice’ neglects context.‘ Indeed, while there are several common considerations when designing your own eLearning intervention, ‘no one size fits all’. Just because a design or approach works for one set of learning activities, there is no guarantee it will work in another context, it is always best to start anew when designing eLearning. Secondly, ‘text has been troubled; many modes matter in representing academic knowledge‘. Take a long hard look at the resources you want to adapt for online teaching to help you share the underlying knowledge that is at the heart of your course and consider how it can be represented in modes other than text. And finally, ‘Aesthetics matter; interface design shapes learning‘. Don’t underestimate the look, feel and functionality of every online artefact, tool, resource or service – it can make the difference to the overall success of your work.

How to begin when re-designing a course into an Online Intervention:

Define the purpose, scope, and goals of your eLearning intervention

  • What do you want to achieve with this eLearning intervention, including the relevant learning goals broken down into manageable elements?
  • What are your measurable objectives linked to these goals?

Understand your students and their readiness to take part in your eLearning intervention

  • Who are your students and what is their experience with eLearning?
  • What are they expecting from this module?
  • What technical resources do they have available?
  • What technical support is available to your students?

Review and adapt the content of your course

  • What are the building blocks of the course in terms of materials, resources and activities?
  • How can these building blocks be adapted for online delivery?
  • Who will be responsible for this adaptation? Do you have the resources to implement it?
  • Who else will be involved in this process?
  • How will you facilitate teacher/student and student/student interaction?

Plan access and assessment

  • How will students access the course building blocks?
  • Are you planning to track student activities online and if yes, then how?
  • How will you facilitate assessment of this module?
REFERENCE + LICENSE: The text “Design your own eLearning Intervention” by EduHack Consortium, Knowledge Innovation Centre, via https://eduhack.eu/course/area-2/activity-1/, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, edited and shortened by SEA-EU.

In the following video, Michael Wesch shares his 10 tips for designing good online teaching.

License: not freely licensed

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Topic: Prepare an online lecture    Time: 10 min

Toolkit for Teaching Online

There are various forms of online lectures and teaching. For example, it can be synchronous or asynchronous, and preparation should vary accordingly. This tool can help you organise your online teaching, be it for live delivery in an online classroom or a file uploaded to a forum or virtual learning platform.

License: The work "Developing your teaching voice online. Communication at a distance" by School of Languages and Applied Linguistics, The Open University, via https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/pluginfile.php/525025/mod_resource/content/1/HelpSheet3_TeachingVoice.pdf is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

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Topic: Prepare an online lecture    Time: 10 min

E-Moderation – Overview

Effective moderation of an online lecture is crucial to its success. Click on the link for an introduction to e-moderating.

https://www.gillysalmon.com/e-moderating.html

License: not freely licensed

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Topic: Locating useful information for continuing professional development: e.g. how to create an online course    Time: 10 min

Redesign a Lecture

Do you want to rethink your methodological approach and redesign your teaching? Click on the link for a resource that will help you to think in a structured way about new possibilities and forms of teaching. You can print the ReDesign canvas and use it as a template by filling in the spaces.

License: The canvas „ReDesign your LECTURE" by Educational Technology - TU Graz, via https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345145480_ReDesign_your_lecture, is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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2

Various Methods


Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 5 min

Prepare a Video Conference

Careful preparation is key to actively engaging learners in a synchronous course delivered via videoconference. Structuring the course and its contents will also help it run smoothly. This video introduces the first steps from preparing yourself and your students to organising the content and getting to know the technology.

License: The video "01 Videokonferenz - erste Schritte" by contactnorth, translated and distributed by LLZ (Zentrum für multimediales Lehren und Lernen), Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDzwu96R_g is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 5 min

Set Framework Conditions of a Video Conference

It is important to set the basic guidelines for the videoconference in advance to ensure a positive and productive atmosphere. This includes preparing students and guiding them through the process. The following video gives advice on how to facilitate cooperation for example by them getting to know each other and the platform, or setting the rules.

License: The video "02 Videokonferenz - Studierende vorbereiten" by contactnorth, translated and distributed by LLZ (Zentrum für multimediales Lehren und Lernen), Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl99vIaHqtE is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 15 min

How to Teach in a Video Conference

Synchronous teaching can engage learners and foster a sense of community in your online courses. In a synchronous course, you use a videoconferencing system (for example Zoom) and invite learners to log in at a scheduled time.

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Topic: Giving a (online) presentation    Time: 15 min

How to Present in a Video Conference

A well-made online presentation should be easy to follow and engaging for those watching. Although online presentations are broadly similar to offline, maintaining the viewer's attention can be more challenging in the online setting. In fact, the way the content is presented is as important as the content itself. Click the link to visit a blog with a wealth of advice on: preparation, presentation basics, technical issues, language to use, and how to respond to unexpected questions.

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Topic: Giving a (online) presentation    Time: 15 min

How to Make an Educational Video

Videos can make learning material really accessible to students. The key to creating an entertaining and informative educational video is preparation and planning. Technical standards and certain rules must also be considered. Click on the link to read Columbia University's tips on developing educational videos, generating ideas, and advice on how to make your videos clear and memorable.

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Topic: Using podcasts in higher education    Time: 20 min

The Beginner’s Guide to Educational Podcasting

Podcasts are a fantastic way of presenting factual content in an entertaining and informative way. As they can be accessed anytime and anywhere, they're a great alternative to synchronous classes for students. The link below takes you to a starter guide for podcasters, giving you specific and practical advice on how to develop your own.

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3

Motivation and Self-Directed Learning


Topic: Maintaining the motivation of students    Time: 10 min

Motivating Students Online

Motivation is the key to sustained learning and effective internalisation. The teacher's ability to motivate students plays in a key role in all forms of teaching and learning. When you teach face-to-face, your contact with the students is direct and immediate, whereas in online teaching, direct interaction with students is not possible, making it harder for you to keep them motivated. You must therefore carefully maintain their motivation. Click on the link for a starter guide to motivational strategies and explanation of why they are necessary. Here, you'll also find recommendations for practical strategies to motivate online learners.

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Topic: Maintaining the motivation of students    Time: 10 min

Maintaining Motivation

It can be hard for students to maintain their motivation in any kind of learning environment, and there are particular challenges in online learning. For example, a lack of personal contact with teachers and peers, the absence of visual cues, and technical and internet access problems. This section explores self-assessment, language practice, and how you can help students strengthen their motivation.

License: The text "Maintaining Motivation. Keeping your Students engaged" by The Open University, via https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/pluginfile.php/525028/mod_resource/content/1/HelpSheet6_MaintainingMotivation.pdf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Learn how to support self-directed learning    Time: 15 min

4 Steps to Self-Directed Learning

Online learning requires students to have more advanced self-management skills than in face-to-face instruction. Learning independently can be challenging, even for the brightest and most motivated students. As the student is often learning asynchronously and without the support of a peer group, it is important for you as a teacher to encourage and support them in self-directed learning (SDL). To do this, you need to be well organised yourself. Discover four main ways in which self-directed learning can be sustained and strengthened. These are: being ready to learn, setting learning goals, engaging in the learning process, and evaluating learning.

Step 1: Assess readiness to learn

Students need various skills and attitudes towards learning for successful independent study. This step involves students conducting a self-evaluation of their current situation, study habits, family situation, and support network both at school and at home and also involves evaluating past experiences with independent learning. Signs of readiness for self-directed learning include being autonomous, organised, self-disciplined, able to communicate effectively, and able to accept constructive feedback and engage in self-evaluation and self­-reflection.

Step 2: Set learning goals

Communication of learning goals between a student and the advising instructor is critical. Also critical in developing a clear understanding of learning goals between students and instructors are learning contracts. Learning contracts generally include: 

  • Goals for the unit of study
  • Structure and sequence of activities
  • Timeline for completion of activities
  • Details about resource materials for each goal
  • Details about grading procedures
  • Feedback and evaluation as each goal is completed
  • Meeting plan with the advising instructor
  • Agreement of unit policies, such as a policy on late assignments

Once created, contracts should be assessed by the advising faculty member and questions about feasibility should be raised (e.g., What could go wrong? Is there too much or too little work? Is the timeline and evaluation reasonable?).

Step 3: Engage in the learning process

Students need to understand themselves as learners in order to understand their needs as self-directed learning students. Students should also consider answering the following questions:

  • What are my needs re: instructional methods?
  • Who was my favourite teacher? Why?
  • What did they do that was different from other teachers? Students should reflect on these questions throughout their program and substitute “teacher” with “advising instructor”

Students also need to understand their approach to studying:

  • A deep approach to studying involves transformation and is ideal for self-directed learning. This approach is about understanding ideas for yourself, applying knowledge to new situations and using novel examples to explain a concept, and learning more than is required for unit completion.
  • A surface approach involves reproduction: coping with unit requirements, learning only what is required to complete a unit in good standing, and tending to regurgitate examples and explanations used in readings.
  • A strategic approach involves organization: achieving the highest possible grades, learning what is required to pass exams, memorizing facts, and spending time practicing from past exams.

Earlier academic work may have encouraged a surface or strategic approach to studying. These approaches will not be sufficient (or even appropriate) for successful independent study. Independent study requires a deep approach to studying, in which students must understand ideas and be able to apply knowledge to new situations. Students need to generate their own connections and be their own motivators.

Step 4: Evaluate learning

For students to be successful in self-directed learning, they must be able to engage in self-reflection and self-evaluation of their learning goals and progress in a unit of study. To support this self-evaluation process, they should:

  • regularly consult with the advising instructor,
  • seek feedback, and
  • engage in reflection of their achievements, which involves asking:
    • How do I know I’ve learned?
    • Am I flexible in adapting and applying knowledge?
    • Do I have confidence in explaining material?
    • When do I know I’ve learned enough?
    • When is it time for self-reflection and when is it time for consultation with the advising faculty member?

Responsibilities in the four-step process

Successful independent study requires certain responsibilities or roles of both students and advising faculty members. The following is a brief list of the more important roles. It is useful for both students and advising faculty members to periodically review this list and communicate as to whether each feels the other is fulfilling their share of the responsibility.

Students’ roles

  • Self-assess your readiness to learn
  • Define your learning goals and develop a learning contract
  • Monitor your learning process
  • Take initiative for all stages of the learning process — be self-motivated 
  • Re-evaluate and alter goals as required during your unit of study
  • Consult with your advising instructor as required

Advising instructors’ roles

  • Build a co-operative learning environment
  • Help to motivate and direct the students’ learning experience
  • Facilitate students’ initiatives for learning
  • Be available for consultations as appropriate during the learning process
  • Serve as an advisor rather than a formal instructor
REFERENCES + LICENSE: The text “Self-Directed Learning: A Four-Step Process” by Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, via https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/tips-students/self-directed-learning/self-directed-learning-four-step-process, is licensed under CC-BY-NC 4.0, shortened and edited by SEA-EU.

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4

Communicate with Students


Topic: Stay connected with students    Time: 10 min

Virtual Office Hours – Overview

Office hours and consultations are vital in digital teaching and learning as they show students you are interested in them and their learning and that you are available to respond to their questions. The following link takes you to guidance from Columbia University on how best to hold online office hours and consultations.

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Topic: Stay connected with students    Time: 15 min

Holding Virtual Office Hours

Just like in-person office hours, virtual office hours support student learning through one-on-one interactions between students and teachers or teaching assistants (TAs). They are a way of addressing student questions on course material and assignments both online and in real time.

Using Bongo and WebEx

Similar to in-person office hours, virtual office hours support student learning through one-on-one interactions between students and instructors or TAs. They are an online means of addressing – in real time – student questions about course material and assignments. Research on student learning suggests that “Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement” (Chickering & Gamson, 1986, p. 3).  

What tools can I use for my virtual office hours? 

Virtual office hours can be facilitated through three centrally-supported video conferencing platforms and another non-video conferencing platform: WebEx Meetings, MS Teams and Piazza. These three platforms support communication by audio, video, and text, as well as a white board for drawing diagrams or mathematical symbols. To help you select a platform for online office hours, we’ve outlined the following options.

Office Hours using Microsoft Teams 

Microsoft Teams is helpful for both visual meetings and chat-based meetings. It allows you to record your meetings and write down meeting notes, which may improve the quality of your meetings.

Resource: Microsoft Teams Instruction

  • Option 1: Drop-in office hours 
    Set up an office hour which the whole class can attend. You can invite all of the students to the Microsoft Teams meeting by your outlook email (which you can book an appointment and invite all students by adding events on your schedule). Thus, students can log in to MS Teams and join in the team meeting at any time during the office hour. The meeting group will appear in MS Teams’ chat after if you chat with your students during the meeting, so that you can always come back and check your record video and meeting notes, or even start a new meeting with this group again.
  • Option 2: “By appointment” office hours 
    Set up several available time for students to choose, then book an appointment and invite the student who books the time only to the MS Teams meeting. This will allow only you and the student into the meeting room.

Office Hours using Virtual Classroom (Bongo) 

Virtual Classroom (VC) is a good option for virtual office hours if Bongo is already used elsewhere in your course, such as for Video Assignments. VC allows you to choose the format for your virtual office hours: drop-ins or scheduled appointments. 

Resource: Virtual Classroom instructions 

  • Option 1: Drop-in office hours
    Set up virtual office hours as a recurring meeting that the whole class can attend. There is no “waiting room,” which means any student can just “drop in.” If another student is already in your virtual office, discussing something private, you can ask the new student to come back at a specific time and then remove them. However, if they disregard the time you’ve suggested, they will be able to keep popping back in. 
  • Option 2: “By appointment” office hours 
    Set up virtual office hours and then ask students to choose one of the meeting slots that you’ve made available. This is the most equitable option especially if your students are in different time zones. Typically, office hours are scheduled in 20-minute increments. If multiple students have the same concern, seek their permission to host them together.  

Office Hours using WebEx Meetings

Resources: WebEx Meetings interface explained

  • Options 1 and 2 would be the same as for Virtual Classroom, above. 
  • Option 3: Drop-in option with waiting room 

This option uses the Lock Meeting and Lobby features of WebEx. A student logs into WebEx and starts off in a “lobby” (a virtual waiting room). You then admit the student to the WebEx meeting. When other students enter the “lobby”, you will receive a notification for each one. To lock the meeting at the start of the office hours, to prevent students from dropping in without permission, go to Meeting > Lock Meeting: 

Screenshot: Office Hours using WebEx Meetings, lock meeting
Virtual office hours using WebEx Meetings: lock meeting

When students are placed in the “lobby,” they will receive a “welcome message.” You can customize this message for students, for example, letting them know you are currently with a student, and that you will let them into the meeting in a few minutes. To create a “welcome message,” go to Meeting > Welcome Message:  

Screenshot: Office Hours using WebEx Meetings, welcome message
Virtual office hours using WebEx Meetings: welcome message

When you are ready for your next drop-in, click “Waiting to Join” to see the names of students waiting in the “lobby” and then click “Let in” beside the name of the student you’ll next meet with. 

Office Hours using Piazza 

Piazza is quite different than Virtual Classroom (Bongo), WebEx Meetings and MS Teams, since it is designed to be a question-and-answer based platform. Although it cannot offer a face-to-face meeting, it can still help with office hours.Resource: Piazza instruction

How will my students find information about my virtual office hours?  

When using Virtual Classroom (Bongo) for office hours, students go to Connect > Virtual Classroom to see your available office hours. If you have set up private office hours with a student, then only that student will see those office hours.  

When using WebEx, you’ll need to copy and paste the meeting information to a content page or homepage widget. To copy the meeting information, click the “copy” icon when looking at your meeting information (the yellow highlight in the following image): 

screenshot: virtual office hours
Virtual office hours using WebEx

How do I prepare for my virtual office hours?  

Communication

  • Set up specific times for your virtual office hours (e.g., Wednesdays 3-4pm); for weekly office hours, aim for different dates/times of the day 
  • Post a welcoming message in your course announcements to let students know about your virtual office hours (“Welcome to My Virtual Office”) 
  • Tell students what they need to do (e.g., instructions on when and how to log in) 
  • Give students a lot of encouragement to take advantage of virtual office hours and remind them that you are available to provide help
  • Send them another reminder before “high traffic” weeks, such as before exams or assignment deadlines 

Technology 

  • Spend at least an hour getting to know the tool that you’ll be using for your office hours, its key features and how they are used 
  • Have one “trial run” office hour session with a fellow TA or a student volunteer 
  • Make sure you know how to:  
    • (un)mute your microphone
    • switch on/off your webcam
    • share/hide your desktop if you plan to display or review content with your students
    • use a whiteboard tool to draw symbols and equations during numerical or formula-driven sessions

What else should I consider when holding virtual office hours? 

Privacy 

  • Both Bongo (Virtual Classroom) and WebEx allow for recording of the session. Due to privacy considerations, ensure that recording is turned off during virtual office hours.

Bandwidth 

  • Bandwidth refers to the rate of data transfer. Tools that require low bandwidth are text-based such as email, chat and discussion groups. Tools requiring medium bandwidth are audio-based like podcasts and mini-lectures or discussions that make use of audio but not video. Tools that require the highest bandwidth are ones that employ video. If an online meeting with a student doesn’t require video, use just audio. 

Time zones 

  • When setting your virtual office hours, try to give some options to students as some of them might be in different time zones.  

Browser 

  • Always make sure that you’re using the most up-to-date version of your internet browser.  
REFERENCES + LICENSE:
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), pp. 3-7. 
The text “Holding Virtual Office Hours Using Bongo and WebEx” by the Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, via https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/virtual-meetings, is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, rephrased and shortened by SEA-EU.

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