May 16, 2020
Episode 92 of The Teaching Space Podcast is about my approach to running an online class.
I am recording this episode in April 2020 while Guernsey is locked down in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Because I bulk record my episodes, you will be listening to this in the future. I hope that life has got back to some semblance of normal now, but I suspect things won't ever be the same again. This episode, and the next few that follow, are inspired by my personal experience of teaching classes remotely from my office at home.
It's essential I am clear on my context, because with it, comes some privilege - particularly concerning the resources I can access.
What I don't want to happen is for you to listen to this and think "this is how I need to work now" because it might not be right for you. Anything I share on the podcast must be considered in your context (students, workload, subject, resources etc) before you decided to try things out. One of the main points of this show is to help you achieve work/life balance, so, for example, if I explain my approach and it is too labour intensive for your context or plain wrong - that is ok. I share ideas in the spirit that it "might help or inspire someone".
My context in a nutshell:
What follows is based on the first online session I delivered from home during the crisis - subsequent sessions followed a similar format.
I was keen to limit teaching (as in, delivering content) live online because I find it utterly exhausting and I was not sure it was right for my students. Also, as adults, I can assume a degree of independence in their approach to studying; also, they all pay to come on my courses, so their motivation is usually high.
I opted for a flipped approach.
My in-person sessions are usually three hours long, so I asked students to keep the time slot free and check-in before the scheduled start time to pick up instructions via Google Classroom.
I shared an instructions post on the stream and copied those instructions to the classwork area too, where the session's resources are shared.
Below is a screenshot of the Classwork area of my Google Classroom showing the first session I delivered in this format. You will see there are video and text chat documents in there too - these are from our Google Meet session and were added afterwards. I will explain this shortly.
This session is usually 18.00 - 21.00, so this is what I planned:
Let’s break this down.
I had a presentation and session plan already prepared for this session. I pared it down and stripped out the activities to the bare minimum of input, knowing that a fair bit could be covered in a discussion afterwards. I then screen recorded my presentation delivery (not my face, just my screen). I use a tool called Screenflow for Mac as it is a tool I already own and I like the editing interface. There is no need to spend too much time on the recording aspect. I did edit but only because I could. However, you could do just as good a job using a free tool such as Loom, and there is no need to edit anything.
I posted the video to my YouTube channel as unlisted, meaning that only people with the link can view the video. With Loom, there is no need for this step as a link to your video is generated automatically.
Videos ended up being around 30 minutes long, leave the students a further 30 minutes to make notes and revisit sections as needed.
This was the live element of the session. My students joined a Google Meet (I did a practice run beforehand to establish protocols for this new set up - I will tell you about that in next week's episode when we will focus on video conferencing). I had one absence for this first session (again, adults).
I'd written a list of questions and discussion topics based on the criteria for the session. I steered the group through those questions.
The session and chat were recorded and shared in the Google Classroom afterwards. Google has extended its Meet services to include recording and other advanced features to support teachers during the COVID-19 crisis. I'll expand on this in the next episode.
I set a Quizizz for homework that students could do straight after the session if they wanted, directly tied to the criteria of the session, as a formative assessment.
That first one went well, and subsequent sessions have been similar. My initial teacher trainees have found the experience useful as they have been able to reflect on the differences between teaching and learning online compared to in-person.
I enjoyed the challenge, but it is not something I would want to do every week. The preparation is incredibly time-consuming, and I missed the activities we do in sessions. You cannot replicate them online. Furthermore, when you teach teaching, there's a lot of modelling practice that happens, and you cannot replicate that online either.
The experience has been fascinating. I have always thought that online or flipped learning has a place, but for me and my subject area, it would only be a percentage of the curriculum.
And that’s it. I’d really love to hear about your experience of teaching online. Please drop into The Teaching Space Community to chat: community.theteachingspace.com.
The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.
If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider supporting the show by making a small donation towards the running costs on my Ko-fi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace. Alternatively, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or whether you listen to the show. Thank you.
Thanks for listening and I hope you'll join me for the next episode.