Making sure that your class material is fresh and engaging is vital to maintaining a high-quality online class. The availability of free and low-cost resources online has made it easier for educators to keep their lessons interesting and varied for different learners. If you’re just getting started or are feeling like your lessons are in need of a refresh, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you improve or enhance your online class content. By combining new materials with your unique teaching style, you can design impactful lessons that resonate with all of your learners.
Heads up: Remember that if you teach learners under the age of 13, there are specific guidelines you’ll need to follow when using third-party teaching tools in class that will send the learner away from the Outschool platform. Read more here.
Explore different learning styles and needs
Each learner will come to you with their own preferred learning style. They may be aware that they learn better by doing, watching, questioning, or listening (to name a few) – or they may not! Additionally, you may have unique learners in your classroom that require specific types of instructional aids to be successful. Approach each new group of learners with an open mind and willingness to discover what type of instruction will work best for them (pro tip: try surveying new learners before your first meeting to learn more about their skills and needs). Be ready to be flexible throughout your course, and make changes to your lesson plans as you get to know your group of learners.
Some simple learning aids you could include are your lessons are:
- Videos: Short videos can be perfect for learners when you need to kick-start their understanding of a new concept. YouTube KIDS and Vimeo are great resources for classroom-friendly content.
- Infographics: Infographics can deliver just as much information as a long-form article – except in a quick, digestible way. Free design platforms, such as Canva, can be great tools as you create an infographic or similar visual materials. Explore how you can organize information into a visual format, or how you can create an interactive activity for learners by having them fill in a table or create a graph alongside you in class.
- Music: Ever wonder why you can still remember all the lyrics to a song you learned as a kid? Playing or singing a song together can be a powerful way to cement information in memory (who knows – learners might be singing your song decades from now!).
- Whiteboard: Use the Zoom whiteboard feature to draw or write out ideas as you host a class discussion, review material, or take notes during a learner presentation. You can also use Zoom features to design other interactive learning experiences.
Prioritize interactive tools and activities
Engaging in discussion, games, and group activities with your learners can help you gauge who is grasping the material and who may need some extra help (plus add an element of fun to your lessons!).
At the basic level, you’ll want to be familiar with the Zoom platform to successfully interact with your learners. Practice sharing your screen, switching between different presenting modes, and adjusting your settings before heading into class.
If you plan on using the chat feature to interact with learners, be prepared to monitor learner conversations. If learners are given free-reign to chat whenever they like, you may put yourself at risk of losing their focus and disappointing parents who want to see their child fully engaged with the class material. For this reason, you may only want to allow use of the chat during a specific activity – like “waterfall” responses to a quiz question. This could look like an educator saying: “Let’s waterfall our favorite food to start off cooking class today. Type your answer in the chat, but don’t push send yet. Everyone ready? One, two, three… waterfall! Press send!”.
Tech tools should always enhance learning, and never detract from learners’ abilities to comprehend the content you’re teaching. Make sure any technology you incorporate into your lessons is supporting your curriculum goals, and remember that tech tools aren’t the only way to increase engagement online. Use critical thinking questions, breakout rooms, and learner-led instruction to spark passionate participation from your learners.
Utilize the Outschool classroom
Learning on Outschool can extend beyond live meetings in the Outschool classroom by encouraging learners to post answers to questions, completed projects, or other class-related material throughout the week. Some learners may benefit from having extra time to compose a response to a question or prefer to engage through writing (instead of speaking in class). A few ways you can engage through the Outschool classroom are:
- Ask for responses to a specific question or survey, or spark a discussion with an open-ended question! Use @mentions to respond to specific learners and keep the conversation going.
- Build community with activities like classroom posts that require input from each learner, or ask learners to use the classroom video feature to answer a get-to-know-you question.
- Use surveys to track learner progress, get feedback, and find out how you can improve instruction throughout your course.
By intentionally designing or choosing the right instructional aids for your classroom’s needs, you can increase your impact as an EPIC educator. If you’ve been using the same learning materials for awhile – why not try mixing it up? The most successful Outschool educators are dynamic learners themselves, ready to try new things that help them connect with every child.