Person working in a city office
Learning is designed,  Uncategorised

Tips for teaching online

While we’re lucky enough to be moving out of lockdown, online teaching will always be an essential part of the Deakin experience. Many in the Learning Innovations team teach. We thought that sharing our tips for online teaching might make your experience a little bit better.

Other resources and tips are also available in my last article.

Making students more comfortable with online learning

First, think about how you can make students more comfortable with learning online. How might you set expectations and support your students to get the most out of their classes and seminars?

  • Your students may not have access to a stable internet connection (e.g. during lockdowns, others may be learning/working in the same household). Sometimes they cannot turn on their video.
    • Depending on the activities you have planned, they may be able to use their phone’s data.
    • Think about how you can design activities with low-quality connection in mind
  • Students’ learning environment may be sub-optimal. Show them how to use virtual backgrounds; this may help them feel more comfortable turning on their video.
  • If students are consistently silent, they may be experiencing technical difficulties, or the technology is challenging them. See if you can help resolve this for them. That may help improve engagement.
  • Try to keep your video on. This helps students feel connected.
    • But if you are experiencing connection issues, turning off your video for a while can help (but explain why you’re turning off your video)
  • Here is a basic how-to for students that you can upload to your unit site

Technology tips

Some quick ideas to help you navigate the logistics of a Zoom session a little easier:

  • The person leading each class/seminar should create their own Zoom session.
  • With all sessions, give ‘alternate host’ access to the unit chair, any campus coordinators, and bl-learninginnovations@deakin.edu.au (so we can help if there are any technical difficulties)
  • If possible, connect to the internet via an ethernet cable.
    • If not (e.g. teaching from home), ask others to minimise high bandwidth activities, such as online gaming and streaming.
  • If using wireless headphones, have a backup.

Teaching online may feel different, and it may take time to adjust

  • Log in early to a session to setup (~15 minutes)
  • Check-in regularly with your students, asking them to respond via
    • A quick poll or question (and ask them to respond in chat)
    • The react feature
  • Modify learning activities for the medium; what worked face-to-face may need to be adjusted
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment
  • Trust your students; they’ve logged on because they want to learn!

When sharing your screen

  • Before the session
    • Close any personal apps/browsers (you don’t want to share personal banking details!)
    • Open up the apps/sites that you want to share.
  • It is better to share specific apps rather than sharing your whole screen (Zoom allows you to share multiple apps at once)
  • Ask ‘can you see my screen/[specific app]’, to make sure everything has gone as planned
  • Zoom offers the option to share videos live. But if you’re experiencing connection issues that session, consider sending students the URL instead and giving students time to watch it themselves.

If something goes wrong – don’t panic. Apologise, and

  • Blame the NBN (we’re ranked 54th for speed, after all)
  • Explain this is the reality of online meetings students will eventually have to face in their professional careers.
  • It may be your internet connection – turn off your video, check you’re not downloading anything, turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi connection (and any other devices you have)

Troubleshooting

Looking ahead to some of the issues or questions you may have, here are some solutions and tips.

My audio/video is not broadcasting

  • Toggle the mute/video buttons on the taskbar
  • If this remains an issue: Settlings/Preferences à Audio/Video à Make sure everything is in order.
  • Before your first teaching session, do a test run (i.e., with your equipment, in the room you will be teaching in)

Why can’t I share my file?

  • Ensure you have given the correct permissions
  • Macs make this hard if you’ve inadvertently denied this before. Apple button –> System preferences –> Security & privacy –> Scroll through the options making Zoom is ticked in all required options (e.g., screen recording)
  • You will then need to restart Zoom, so do this before your first teaching session.

How do I record my session?

  • The record button is at the bottom (you need host/co-host permissions)
  • Zoom recordings can be stored:
    • Locally on your computer. You can set where in Zoom’s preferences/settings
    • On the Cloud. Access recordings via Zoom.us (make sure you log on using the SSO option)

There is too much background noise from participants

  • Request all participants mute their microphones unless speaking
  • Hosts and co-hosts have access to a ‘mute all’ in the participants panel.
  • When creating the meeting, you can select the ‘Mute participants upon entry’ option, which will minimise interruptions as students enter the session.

How do I communicate with my participants while they’re in breakout rooms

  • Before sending them off, give a time limit.
  • You can set a timer and send messages to all groups.
  • When you close the breakout room, participants will have 60 seconds to wrap up.
  • Consider giving students something to take with them into the breakout rooms. Consider sharing an activity on Google Docs (explored more in our Teaching Online 201 workshop) or a student version of your teaching slides, already uploaded to your unit site.

Where can I get further help and support?

As a final reminder, for many online teaching may be a new experience. But also, many factors are beyond your control; the quality of the internet connection, applications with new features, and just the occasional ‘computer says no’ moment. Don’t expect perfection from yourself; just try to do a little bit better each time.