Moving to Online Teaching? The one about the Platform & Material

So coronavirus, huh?

I hope you are all healthy and you and your families are well.

Difficult times. A lot of us are looking at ways of moving from face to face to online. Whether it’s ELT or EAP, I am here to tell you that it can be done, but it will take time, planning and effort.

I have decided to write a few blog posts about how to transition from f2f to online. Before I start, a few rambley bits.

My Background & My Context

I have been teaching Business English online for about 7 years. I taught my last BE lesson this month. I thought that would be the end of an era…… but is it? I now work at a University and my main post is that of a pre sessional coordinator. So basically, I am working on this summer’s pre sessional EAP course (pre sessional courses are courses created usually for post grad students who need to improve their academic skills before progressing to their chosen MA). Some universities are already teaching online, others are starting to look at that. So, any thoughts/questions/advice? I have a few and will be sharing them with you.

Material and Your Platform

Myth: I can use what I created for my f2f lessons for my online ones. I already have them on my usb stick. Piece of cake.

Sorry to burst the bubble but maybe not…

You cannot use all the materials you created for your face to face class, for your online ones. Why? Well, for various reasons. One simple one, your material might be on a pdf file that is not what is compatible with the platform you are using. You may have linked a video on a PPT (which works when you use it in class), but the video does not work when you use your online platform. So, my first tip…. Know your platform. What are you using? Design for that. Just because it worked in Adobe, does not mean it will work in Zoom.

Make some slides/sheets and put them on your virtual classroom and check them. How visible/accessible is the material? How small is the writing? Do you have students who have dyslexia and need different colour in the background? Do you have colour blind students who will struggle if your slides/ material have contrasting colours. How much space do you have for students to write on your onlinr material? Can you highlight on your chosen platform or do you need to highlight on your material. Do you have an answer sheet? Will you need an answer sheet that will be shared with you students?

Oh! Also, where is your learner? Are there restrictions on the internet? If your students are in China, will they be able to access what you are sharing? Not just the videos you have or the grammar links, but also the unexpected ones. For example, when a student asks you “what does XYZ mean?” and when you are in Europe, you send a link to an image or something. Can you do the same with your students in China? What can you use? My advice here would be to make a list of everything that you may want to use, check and find alternatives (Google images will probably not work in China, so what can you use?)

Devil’s advocate

I know my platform and my materials are fine… Are they? Really? Questions to ask yourself:

Is this a one to one lesson or a group lesson? My focus in today’s post is on group lessons.

What type of group activities can I use?

In an EAP context (that is what my context is) can you ask your students to hold a seminar? Can they do a reading/listening circle? You could do if your platform has breakout rooms, but in that case you will need to think about the fact that you may not be able to monitor all groups, so you need to think about how you could address that. Another thing you need to consider is if your breakout room has the same tools as your main room. If not, how will you work around it? Think about what you need your students to do in the breakout room and tailor your task based on that. Also, does your breakout room have the option of someone being a chair/ leader/presenter? Someone who will be responsible for giving permission for use of tools, who speaks when etc.

Other things to consider when designing group activities

Can your students collaborate? This depends on the functionality of the breakout room or your main room. If students were using the main room, I would maybe draw lines as to where students would write. That way you avoid students writing on each others work. You would also need to time the collaborative writing. Say for example student A needs to write five sentences which student B will correct and then student B will write five sentences which student A will correct. Again, think of ways to avoid having people write on each other.

Can they peer assess? Can they self assess? Here the answer is yes. You need to create sheets for peer and self assessments that can be used be used by you students during their group work or as part of their independent study.

Back to the Platform

How strong is the platform? What is your and your students’ broadband like? Can you have multiple cameras on at the same time? How long does it take to get back into the platform if you are chucked out? What do you do if the platform crashed? What is your plan B and C? Does your platform allow recordings? How will you share them with your students? Any GDPR concerns? Is there a delay in the audio? Will you have loads of people speaking at the same time? Probably. So what do you do? Mute students or ask them to use the ‘raise hand’ feature. What happens when a student gets cut off and exits the classroom. How do you manage your time?

More…..

Time difference between your students. How will that work and how does it affect the dynamics of your group? When everyone is in the same time zone, it’s easy….. What if they are not? Have you given your students enough time to prepare for an activity based on their timezone (sorry folks, don’t have all the answers)?

Anything else?

Uploading material

If I were you, I would have everything uploaded on my platform and ready to go. Sometimes this can take ages and you don’t want to be sat there waiting for stuff to upload.

Time management, My Platform and My Material

Now that is a tough cookie and I am getting tired…. So my next post will be about time management and online teaching. I hope I have helped you think about stuff. Probably haven’t answered lots of questions, but asking them is a good starting point.

Thanks for stopping by….

Till next time…

3 thoughts on “Moving to Online Teaching? The one about the Platform & Material

  1. Thanks for your tips Joanna. We are have been forced by these strange circumstances to start to use Zoom. If you are interested, I will let you know how we (30 EFL face to face teachers) get on. Jon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jo
    Thanks for your post! your comment about students writing over each other is so true..I noticed in blackboard collaborate that this happened to me once (unless there is a way to stop this?!) – so your idea about lines or allocated spaces for people to put their comments is good..

    Like

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