1. Set the tone

Be your authentic self. Address the student as ‘you’ and use friendly, informal language. Use warmth and humour to create a safe, supportive environment for learning. Set the scene early by having an introduction forum and post your own introduction and share something of yourself. Model the task and set expectations.

2. Help the group bond

Build in opportunities for students to interact with their peers and you. Set up a weekly zoom Q & A. Use comment boxes or Padlets for students to share ideas and resources in a low stakes way. Set up group tasks and ask groups to share the results of their work. Use breakout rooms in zoom sessions. Facilitate the creation of study groups.

3. Communicate regularly but don’t spam

Set up a weekly communication schedule so students know when they can expect to hear from you. Send an announcement every Monday. Post a video every Friday summarising the week. Or create a weekly brief/roadmap page where you run through expectations and activities for the week.

4. Use different modes of communication

Try recording a weekly video or audio message. Record an audio/podcast lecture. Make short concept videos that students can revisit.

5. Set regular discussion tasks

Once a discussion task has finished come in and summarise the posts name-checking good responses and explaining what was good about them. Clarify any unresolved or incorrect threads. Give your take on the question. Do this on a set day each week so students know when to expect it.

6. Facilitate discourse with all students

Set clear prompts and guidelines. Draw out the less confident students by acknowledging, validating and further questioning their ideas. Ask students to elaborate on their idea or challenge them (gently) to think about it in another way. Encourage them to respond to others.

7. Divide your subject into modules

Use a module system rather than arbitrary weeks so that students can see how different areas hang together or lead to assessment. Clearly articulate what each module covers, what students will be able to do and what activities and assessments are involved on a module overview page or similar.

8. Make sure ‘teacher talk’ runs through your online site

Turn your course site from a content repository into a learning journey with a narrative thread running through the entire subject. Introduce and situate all content, resources and activities. Let students know why they are reading this reading or doing this activity and how it links to the rest of their learning and assessment.

9. Provide plenty of feedback

Timely, constructive and meaningful feedback is one of the most important elements of teacher presence and drives student learning and engagement. There are many ways to give feedback: build in automated feedback in quizzes so students don’t have to wait for you to be there to hear it. Guide students to the right answer in the feedback, don’t just say correct or incorrect. Maintain your friendly tone here too. Use video to talk through feedback for group work. Give video or audio feedback for assessment tasks. Have a  weekly/module question forums and get students to upvote their favourite questions, then answer them in a zoom session, announcement or video.

10. Remember you don’t have to be perfect!

Students are looking for authenticity and connection, not perfection. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for everyone and sometimes things will go wrong. Be kind to yourself and honest about the issues. Own your mistakes but don’t get too bothered by them. Laugh together at them. Get student input on to solve problems that arise or come up with workarounds.

Try and have fun!

This page has been adapted from the Postgraduate.futures Moving to Online Teaching course. 

Feature image by Hannah Wei.

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