The online teaching world is growing quickly and changing rapidly. The goals are still the same – engage the learner and help them develop knowledge and skills – but the tools at your fingertips are increasing.
Learning which tools are available and how to use popular ones in your virtual classroom – or at least knowing what may be possible in the near future – can enhance the experience for learners and deepen their learning.
Three online teaching trends that we’re seeing grow in popularity on Outschool are games and gamification, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
Games and gamification
Many teachers have been using games and gamification in some form for a long time. If you’re wondering what exactly “gamification” means, it can be described as using game elements, such as badges, challenges to reach the next level, or points in a non-game context to promote learning. One example of this is an Outschool class where learners explore eco-regions and earn badges for each region.
Games learners love
It turns out that thousands, even tens of thousands, of classes at Outschool have the word “game” in their class title or description. This could be anything from bingo or multiple-choice quiz games on Kahoot! to gaming platforms and game creation websites like Roblox or Minecraft, where players can create and embark on adventures in a three-dimensional world. When considering using games from different online platforms, it’s important to know which ones meet Outschool’s standards to protect learner privacy and safety.
One popular game format at Outschool is escape rooms, where learners can solve puzzles, search for clues, and accomplish tasks to reach a goal. Learners on Outschool can take classes that have escape rooms with a wide range of themes and tasks. They might use their knowledge of vocabulary words to crack a code and escape or solve pictograph puzzles in a Cantonese immersion class. Educators can create digital escape rooms with simple programs like Google Forms or Slides and Microsoft Sway or PowerPoint.
Not sure where to start? Outschool offers free live classes and cohort groups for educators approved to teach on Outschool, where you can connect with other teachers and learn new skills like how to make escape rooms or use questioning strategies during games to enhance learning.
Benefits of teaching with games
In education, games are used to engage learners with any topic. Elements like racing the clock or competing against other groups can heighten learners’ focus on the activity. In addition, games can be an opportunity to build social skills as learners communicate about how to solve a challenge, take turns, and wait for their chance to play.
No matter what type of games you bring into your class, it is important that games support your learning goals. Here’s an example on Outschool of how one educator uses Minecraft to teach World War I history, allowing learners to understand why the war started and what soldiers went through on the battlefield.
It’s also important to think about your specific learners and what types of games are appropriate for their skill level and interests. One way to find out more about learners and what they like (besides observing them in class) is to send a survey to learners before the class begins.
If you choose the right games, they’ll be in your learners’ sweet spot for learning – where the activity is not too easy so that it is boring or too hard so that it is frustrating. Ideally, games should require effort but feel like play.
To make sure there aren’t too many barriers to getting started, it helps to explain clearly how to play the game and perhaps practice elements that might be challenging like entering answers in the right place.
Another popular trend in online teaching is using virtual reality, which creates an immersive experience in a virtual world. It typically requires a special headset and a virtual world to enter.
Educators on Outschool are including virtual reality experiences in their curriculum, usually in classes for learners who already enjoy playing a particular video game and want to explore with other learners in a social club. One example is a class where learners can take on challenges together while building a town or taming the wilderness in the game “A Township Tale.”
Gaming “Groups” on Outschool can offer a safe space for learners who love certain games to play with an adult guiding the Group. They also offer the opportunity to learn key skills like taking turns, relating to others, and critical thinking while socializing with peers.
Outschool learners are investigating augmented reality with their educators, where the real and online world blend. For instance, augmented reality could mean that a person is able to physically participate in an online scene by, say, moving their hand.
One well-known example of augmented reality is Pokémon Go, where you find Pokémon on a real-world map, go to that location, and use your camera to “see” and “catch” them. Another is the popular face filters feature on Instagram.
On Outschool, we’re also seeing classes where learners can create art that combines photographs and digital illustrations using augmented reality. The possibilities are endless!
What virtual teaching tools are you using?
This is the way our world is moving – into the metaverse, which some say uses virtual reality to create a digital life where you interact with others and live a second life in addition to your physical one.
How do these new virtual adventures inspire your teaching? What teaching tools are you using to enhance your lessons, and what are you using them for? Which would you like to add to your teaching repertoire?
Educators on Outschool can try out new programs or games in the Outschool demo room before introducing them to a live class. They also have access to the Outschool Educator Hub on Facebook to share ideas and learn from other online educators. What new thing will you learn today?!