About six years ago, I transitioned from a traditional brick-and-mortar teacher to being a full-time online teacher. There were challenges, but the benefits far outweighed them. My greatest challenge in the traditional classroom was simply classroom management. In my online class this is a non-issue (or, at least, a completely different type of issue). Here are some of the things I recommend for teachers who are new to the online classroom:
1. Continue to use “best practices” and provide various types of activities to support different students’ abilities and learning styles. Provide ground rules for classroom etiquette, make sure equipment students need is working correctly, and respond to communication within 24 hours. Also set up ground rules for communication and strive to return student work and feedback quickly. Give clear direction for the class through a well thought out syllabus.
2. Remember that, just like in a traditional classroom, it takes time to adjust to the curriculum and setting. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly during your first semester..
3. Talk to other online teachers and ask to see their class and learn how it’s run.
4. Consider running a pilot project for one or two classes before you take on a full slate of courses. This way you can learn about the interaction and the software without going full bore.
5. Keep it simple the first time around. You can add flourishes later once you’ve mastered the platform and the content.
6. Choose a course that is pre-built, if possible. It is not a good idea to develop an entirely new course and teach it online for the first time.
7. Be familiar with the course platform, be it Blackboard or another platform.
Submitted by Matthew Sherman, Thesys Math Specialist