Teaching online as if you are in the room

Updated: March 16th, 2022

The most important thing to do when running a live class session online is not to forget what you already know about good teaching and learning. If you don’t just stand at the front of the class and talk in your face to face classroom (which we hope you don’t) why would you run an online class like a webinar and just present? 

Running a live class online using tools like Zoom or Google Meet is obviously not the same as being in the same physical room as your students, and can’t be run in exactly the same way, but there are lots of ways to make it just as effective.

Here are some simple ideas that can improve the online learning experience for everyone. All of these relate to getting started, building or reaffirming relationships and ensuring a psychologically safe, comfortable and productive online learning session.

1. Don’t forget the whakawhanaungatanga

Building and sustaining relationships with your students online is as important as it is in the classroom. Open the call early so that you are ready to greet everyone with your video and microphone on. Make sure you are the first online and the last to leave. Spend time at the beginning of a session developing relationships. Building psychological safety in a virtual environment needs some work.

Make sure everyone can be both seen and heard, so encourage everyone to have their videos on from the start – this is very important to create a sense of a shared virtual space. Make sure that everyone can make themselves heard if they want to – check they can turn on their microphones. Get them all to shout out something at once (like which room they are in at the moment) so they have all had a voice. Have a general conversation before starting any taught content.

2. Give time for the necessary Mohiotanga

Students need to feel comfortable in the virtual environment, and having the necessary skills with the digital tools is part of that. Spend some time making sure everyone knows how to work within the tool that you are using. This might cover skills such as: Can everyone type into the chat? Can everyone change their screen layout? Can everyone turn on their video cameras and microphones (and mute them when necessary)?

Depending on the tool being used there might be several other skills that participants would need to develop to feel comfortable online. Give them time to explore these features and feel in control of them.

3. Support Maramatanga

Online learning can be a challenge for students. At the beginning of online learning sessions make sure everyone understands the intent of the session. Low expectations lead to low engagement so raise expectations/anticipation. Explain up front if there will be breaks, if the call is or is not being recorded and tell students not to expect to multitask during the session. Suggest they take handwritten notes to avoid distractions by editing on the same device.

4. Encourage Kotahitanga

Include activities that encourage a sense of unity. If your online tool supports breakout rooms, ensure that you use them so that students can communicate directly with one another. Play simple games, such as “hot potato”, where students “throw” a hot potato between each other while they say something brief (and non-threatening such as their favourite kai) – they “hold” the hot potato by miming throwing it from hand to hand while they talk, then say who they are throwing it to and act out the throw.

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