During the past two years, most professors have had to participate in at least some online teaching, as classes became remote. Instructors have had to grapple with two major challenges in their teaching journeys. Professors needed to find ways to continuously engage and motivate students, and they needed to reimagine courses in a rush to digital. But now that professors and students have returned to the classroom, instructors can use the lessons learned to optimize both online and classroom courses.
Dr. Elaine Tan, senior learning designer at Pearson, who also currently teaches online psychology courses, outlined eight strategies for effective teaching learned over the past two years. Tan addressed a virtual session as part of the recent REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit hosted by Arizona State University. Explore this and other sessions on-demand here.
Tan’s strategies center around relying on tools and technology, refining your process, facilitating active learning and using insights to optimizes courses.
Leverage available tools and technologies. While we’ve all used an array of tools and technologies over the past semester, some features may work particularly well for you, Tan pointed out. “General online platforms offer advantages for a synchronous class format,” Tan said. “It not only helps to cater to students on schedule, but also provides opportunities for thoughtful exchanges with students and allows them to come back at a later time after they have had a chance to review a bit more.” In addition, she advised incorporating intentional pauses, prompting students to generate questions and sharing after. We can use these tools once we get back to the classroom, she added.
Prepare for the unexpected and be flexible. Technology glitches are bound to happen, Tan explained, so it can be helpful to streamline your troubleshooting process. Tips include compiling a list of Frequently Asked Questions for students.
Set clear expectations and boundaries. Students need to know what’s expected of them in a course so they can effectively plan and prioritize their study sessions, Tan explained. She checks in with students often and typically includes a list of all student responsibilities by deadlines in the syllabus so they know how they need to plan for a week, month or semester. In addition, Tan lets students know she may not respond immediately to emails but will get back to them within 48 hours.
Create and main strong presence. Tan advises professors to engage with students whenever possible and switch up the interactions so you can be in touch with students in a wide variety of ways. She recommends identifying critical check-in points with students – such as when student interactions suddenly drop off, perhaps around the holiday season. Offer individualized feedback whenever you can and develop a strategy for tracking the frequency of interactions so you can reach all students.
Develop a community for learners. Create more opportunities for students to take turns contributing during class. Some strategies include trying different question prompts and group students to encourage confidence in sharing their perspective and learnings. This strategy is potentially difficult to do effectively especially in a synchronous setting, Tan said, advising professors to use an online discussion board to let students share their own perspective before they see their classmates’ responses.
Promote self-reflection throughout. “We all know self-reflection is part of good self-management skills, and students need this skill to be effective learners, so encourage these moments throughout your course,” Tan advised. “Because when students are reflecting on connections of new knowledge, it will stimulate their interest and motivation often follows.”
Constantly seek feedback from students. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to get feedback from students. “When we collect feedback from students at various points throughout the semester, like a check-in at two weeks past add/drop period when everyone has settled into a stead routine, check in about student expectations and performance and use the feedback as a way to gain trust with students,” Tan said.
Collect and use meaningful student data. Use data as a way to assess your teaching techniques and measure the effect of any course adjustments you may have made during the semester against your own course outcomes and success metrics. Use the data to monitor the success of teaching goals.
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