Online teaching will only work if we change the perspective
.More and more colleges and universities are already announcing the cancellation of classroom teaching for the remainder of the course and its continuation through online education. The circumstance would not have, in the current technology landscape, to be especially problematic, if it were not that, in practice, it is, and implies that, in many cases, we almost give up the 2020 academic year as lost.
It really shouldn’t be that way. Learning in an online class is impossible, but it is complicated if we do not propose a series of fundamental changes in perspective. Why is it a problem to suggest that teaching continues through the network? The reasons are multiple, and it is not easy to propose immediate solutions – which does not mean that it is not very important to try to do so. The fundamental reasons are the following:
- Digital Literacy for Teachers: As much as technology has greatly lowered barriers to entry to technology, the great truth is that using an application to teach an online class does not require simply knowing how to use it, but having a fairly comprehensive command of it. Unfortunately, many teachers are, in this sense, authentic antediluvian fossils. But even if they are willing to learn, any problem that, under normal circumstances, we would solve after a few minutes of detailed attention or consultation, becomes, in the middle of a class with twenty or thirty students on the other side, an insoluble problem. , and that can cause the failure of the entire session. Is it possible to train your teachers? The good news is that it can be done relatively quickly, and also that it can be done on the same tool that you intend to use with your students.
- Teachers’ commitment: it is not only a matter of knowledge but also of dedication. online class needs much more work, more attention, and more dedication than an in-class one. If you include highly recommended tools like asynchronous forums or instant messaging groups, it takes considerably more time, both preparation and delivery. Either you have obtained a good level of commitment from your teachers, and you pay them appropriately, or the transition will be complicated: not everything can be based on goodwill.
- Digital literacy of students: digital natives? No, digital natives do not exist. Those same students who fully master Instagram and TikTok are often unable to carry out tasks as easy attach the file to an email, locating an option on a virtual campus, or saving a file with another name.
- The digital divide: as much as we think that today everyone has a computer and a smartphone, depending on what levels and where we speak, we must not forget that there are homes where there is no computer, where the computer is antediluvian, in which there is not a paltry ADSL, and it works with mobile connectivity, or where data plans run out on the tenth of every month. Maintaining sensitivity to this issue is essential if we do not want to generate exclusions.
- Software tools: for an online class ideally, you should have access to tools that allow you to not only share your screen, you should also see your students’ faces. They should be able to virtually ‘raise their hands’ to participate. They can also share their screen or even, for some subjects, temporarily give you control of their computer. Besides,. Students can enter to comment on them, discuss them, or provide complementary information. Depending on your subject, you have to start wondering what would be the ideal methodology to teach it online, and then look for tools that allow you to get as close as possible. Never consider online education as a simple substitute for face-to-face in times of crisis, but as something that can even improve experience and learning.
- Hardware: A teacher teaching online should ideally have a good computer with a powerful graphics card that allows it to display multiple simultaneous video windows and a good bandwidth connection and an external monitor (or television) to place certain windows of the class you are teaching. If you try to place a presentation on a single screen, along with the slides that come later, with your students’ windows, with a chat or forum window, and with a text script to organize you, you will understand what I mean. A large additional monitor is essential.
- Teaching methodology: this part is significant. On many occasions, a face-to-face class is still a teacher who comes to a classroom and drops a scroll for his students to take notes. If the methodology is that – which it should not be – it is essential that you do not try to replicate it online, because not only will it not work, but it will clearly show how absurd it was. Online classes cannot consist of a person dropping a scroll because they will disconnect in a few minutes. If you are going to do that, pass them the document, read it first, and dedicate the class time to solving the doubts that have arisen, to deepen from what the text told or present what they have learned. Even though your methodology in face-to-face classes is not interactive, consider that online, if you want your students to learn, you should strive because it is more, not less.
- Student experience: in the times we live in, students should take advantage of these types of situations to develop their skills not only in the topics you teach but also in managing online interaction (in the same way that a face-to-face class should help them develop other skills, such as presentation skills, interaction skills, etc.) you don’t have to be more expert in tools than your students. Still, you do have to be able to provide them with consistent user experience and, above all, everything, according to your hope. That dont mean you can’t seek their collaboration or do experiments – but not everything can be a constant experiment. In a new environment, students need clear references.
- Assessment: if your main assessment criterion was an exam, the question will become, at least, complex, and will require specialized tools that allow you to control what the student does or does not do during the exam. I write about it a few days ago, and the Washington Post does today. If you can – depending on which levels, it is not easy – you should consider other different or additional evaluation methodologies: individual, group work, peer evaluation, assess participation, presentations, etc.
Online teaching is here to stay: even if the containment measures end soon, we will see how, for a long season, any student with a simple cold or flu is forced to stay home, because, after a pandemic, no one will be found—comfortable sitting next to someone who runs a nose, coughs, or sneezes.
If someone believes that teaching online is merely putting the camera and telling the same thing you used to know in class, or directly uploading a presentation and document and then “putting homework” on the students, you have a problem. But above all, the problem will be the students, because that is not the way to learn, and the fact that we are in a situation of confinement should not justify the fact that the quality of education fell to that point. 2020 should not become “the year we missed a course,” but “the year we learned (by force) to teach online.