While many professors have no doubt already included some type of virtual learning component into their curriculum, one of the many challenges that COVID-19 presents is transitioning students from in-person to exclusively online classrooms. 

This may at first seem intimidating. However, the secret behind successful online teaching doesn’t result from foundational curriculum alone; it comes from knowing how to motivate and engage your students virtually. Here are some tips on how to do just that. 

Know Your Audience

Today’s generation of students are competitive, curious, and driven by technology. Here are some characteristics you can utilize to your advantage.

Frequent feedback.
Your students want to know how they’re doing—and often. Set up a way for your students to communicate with you directly. Think of this as online office hours.

Limited attention span.
Students today digest information better in smaller amounts. With this in mind, try changing how you deliver information every 10-15 minutes during a learning session. Some examples include: 
  • Bite-sized lecture
  • YouTube video/clip
  • PowerPoint presentation 
  • Demonstration
  • Whiteboard/Chalkboard 
  • Social Media platforms
  • Real world examples 
  • Other fun/popular applications

Be Prepared

While it’s important to know your subject matter thoroughly and anticipate student questions, this also applies to the technology.

Be comfortable with the lay of the land.
Make your online classroom environment your own. If this is your first time interacting with your students virtually, practice in front of a camera first and watch yourself to see what you can improve (clearer visuals, better audio, less distracting background, etc.).

Familiarize yourself with teaching and learning software.
Make sure you know how to navigate the user experience, both on the professor dashboard and student side. This will streamline efforts and help everything run smoothly during actual “class” time. 

Create a Dynamic Learning Environment

Remember that just because you’re teaching over video doesn’t mean you have to sit in front of a camera and remain static. Effective online teaching is still constituted by effective in-person teaching techniques, such as:

  • Making eye contact directly with the camera (i.e. your students)
  • Maintaining high energy and level of excitement
  • Keep students engaged with rhetorical questions, humor, polls
  • Repeat and recap what was taught to promote student retention

Don’t let technology replace good teaching

At the end of the day, remember that your job is to help students learn and that technology is merely a tool to aid you with this. Your personality and passion for teaching are at the crux of your students’ engagement and overall successful learning.

As we all adapt to the new norm during these challenging times, we know that the virtual measures you take today will continue to expand your teaching horizons now and in the future! We appreciate all the hard work you’re putting into teaching our generation of students today and know that you’ll crush it in your virtual classroom! 
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