How to Get Organised for Online Teaching

Audrey Cheynut 

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In this article, we give you a few tips for a constructive cooperative online discussion with your colleagues as well as an overview of a few online tools that you may find useful in adjusting your teaching to the current situation.

I teach French literature in a high school in Monaco. The processes I describe here have been followed in my school since its closure was announced. I here share an overview of the synthesis we have come up with so far, hoping that it would be of some help for our readers.

The closing of schools and universities due to the Covid-19 epidemic requires teachers to get organised quickly to ensure that the students will be provided with continuous pedagogical support. The online tools appear as a response to the current situation, but switching from a face-to-face class to online teaching in such a short period of time might be puzzling and stressful. In this article, we would like to share with you a few tips and possible solutions.

We all have ideas: let’s share them!

When looking for a solution at a time of crisis, there is at first no good or bad idea. Our initial advice is therefore to dare exchange your ideas with your colleagues by asking them to answer the following questions:

What online tools are you familiar with? What are your online teaching experiences? Would you agree to help other colleagues learn to use a specific online tool?

To answer those questions, you can easily organise an online brainstorming session with your colleagues.

  1. Choose the easiest means of communication that most of your colleagues are already using. You can use the school’s online tool if it enables you to open a discussion thread or create a social media group like What’s App, Facebook Messenger, to name a few examples.
  2. Invite your colleagues to share what they know about an online tool they have already been using. Ask them to explain in what context it has been used, and how they envisage using it for pedagogical support.
  3. Eventually, if it is possible to get connected for a video conference, ask if ever some colleagues would feel comfortable with a 30-minute online training session of a small group of colleagues in order to show them how to use the online tool they know and recommend . You can help organise those training sessions by sharing a grid such as this one:
Name of Trainer Tool/Website Brief Description Date/Time/Device Participants/Emails

Tips

  • When opening such a discussion thread, especially in such a context, it is important that the discussion should be moderated in order to summarize the diverse proposals and to ensure that the group members stick to the topic. Be aware that many teachers might feel very stressed out and overwhelmed by the amount of work to accomplish to be operational in a totally new and unknown context. Be ready to be understanding, thoughtful and encouraging, remembering that the goal is not to impose the use of a tool, but to give as many ideas as possible so that everyone can find the tool that suits them best. A good way of doing this would be to provide a synthesis of the proposals after a while (see below).
  • The training sessions should remain simple and casual. Devices like Skype, Zoom or Discord enable the trainers to share their screens with the other participants. In that way, it becomes very easy to give an overview of the advantages and drawbacks of any online tool to the participants.
  • Be also aware that gathering for a brief training session as well as exchanging ideas through a discussion thread in a kind and safe atmosphere are processes likely to develop the solidarity that will be highly needed in the next weeks to keep up cooperation and fight isolation.

Anticipated Issues

Online teaching seems the most obvious response to the closure of schools. However, many students may not have all the required devices and Internet access at their disposal to be able to follow what is going on. This is a real issue that will most certainly come up. Be ready to encourage dialogue about it.

Another challenge will be the quality of the teachers’ and students’ Internet connection when a whole city, region and country are massively using online work at any given moment. There might be and will be difficulties when trying to connect, or when uploading and downloading the documents, and this situation will be stressful for teachers. An understanding and comforting dialogue will be very helpful: we are working under emergency circumstances and trying one’s best will already be a big step!

A quick overview of free tools to get started

Website Aim Advantages Disadvantages
Skype Video Conference Widely spread. Many users already. Chat function and file share. Heavy tool. Cannot gather a wide number of participants.
Zoom Video Conference Light tool that works in areas with low quality internet connection.  Chat function and file sharing.  Many options for group work, co-annotation on shared screen, whiteboard, screen share, cloud recording, etc. 40-minute limit on group meetings.
Discord Video Conference Gamers’ tool that is developing educational options. Might be already used by students. There might be different  levels of expertise among students.
Google Drive Online space for sharing files Enables online cooperative work and collaborative writing. Writing and drawing.
WeTransfer Sending large files Enables to send heavy files such as videos & audio files, etc.  
Mural Online bulletin board Writing and moving sticky notes on a wall – organising ideas collaboratively. Free versions are limited to simple functions or limited to 30 days.
Padlet Online bulletin boarde Writing and moving sticky notes on a wall – organising ideas collaboratively. Free versions are limited to simple functions or limited to 30 days.
Moodle Online Course or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Learning platform to support  effective online teaching and learning experiences in a collaborative, private environment (with built-in forum discussions, wikis, assessment and other tools). Less handy for communicating social presence.

Stay safe!

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