Best practices: Seven steps for transitioning to online teaching

For many teachers teaching in the online environment is not what they expected. They dreamed of spending days in brick and mortar classrooms full of learners their eyes bright and their minds focused on each and every word we said. Times have changed learners have changed and so – we teachers must change too. Just because there is a change in the location of the learning environment and the delivery of content it doesn’t mean we should remove ourselves from the sound pedagogical methodologies we all know and use. In today’s blog I’ve outlined seven steps to ease the transition to teaching in the online environment.

Step 1: Prepare the learning environment

Just as you would prepare the walls and setup of your face-to-face classroom you must prepare your online “walls” too. Moodle™ and Joule offer multiple course formats to meet the needs of all teachers and learners. You can add blocks to the course for providing navigational assistance instructional content and organization. Be careful not to clutter your online course with too many peripheral items. The goal is to strike a good balance between content area and helpful but not overwhelming tools. For more ideas on preparing the learning environment enroll in our Course Building Fundamentals online course.

Step 2: Welcome open communication and establish relationships

As an early childhood educator I stood at the door of my classroom every morning and greeted each and every learner with a smile as they entered our “world.” Learners should feel supported and encouraged in the online environment and the starting point is with open communication. This isn’t meant to be communication between teacher and learner only but between learners as well. Peer communication and learning are two of the Social Constructivist pedagogies that Moodle™ is based upon. If learners in the course (no matter what their role) have built strong relationships with one another communication comes more freely. Using Moodle™ and Joule modules like Chat Forum and Moodle™’s Messaging system is a great way to encourage two-way communication about any conceivable topic. Joule offers a tool called Synchronous that can be used to create real-time meetings including screen audio and video sharing for a more personal meeting space. To learn how to use Joule Synchronous enroll in our Joule Synchronous webinar.

Step 3: Encourage engagement and collaboration

As teachers we do our best to create engaging and collaborative environments for our learners. In the traditional classroom this might be accomplished by grouping desks together or having group circle time. Even with these techniques you need to encourage most learners to fully engage with the content and collaborate with their peers. As I mentioned above using forums is a great way to facilitate communication – but don’t just leave it to your learners. Join in the forums with them prompt them with questions and praise them for posts that promote more discussion. For more tips on improving in-class discussion read the blog entry Improving In-Class Discussion with Moodle™ Tools. Moodle™ has several tools which promote collaboration – the two most popular probably being Groups and the Workshop module. Groups allow you to organize learners for working together in the course. They can be configured to see other groups or work in an isolated environment (on a module by module basis). The Workshop module is highly interactive and collaborative providing for self- peer- and teacher-assessment. To learn best practices for implementing the Workshop module enroll in our Advanced Course Building online course.

Step 4: Facilitate genuine interaction

Most learners would agree that their “favorite” class times are when they step away from their seats and get their hands dirty. Science experiments mathematical manipulatives and other tactile interactions with learning concepts is a necessary part of any learning experience. Online teachers are responsible for providing learners with meaningful interactions especially for those who learn by “doing.” Moodle™ gives you the ability to create interactions and simulations in the content creation program of your choice (like Captivate and Articulate) and import the learning module as a SCORM activity. Interactions and simulations give learners genuine real life opportunities to apply the knowledge gained through course content. To learn more about using SCORM in your course read the blog entry Best Practices: 10 Tips and Tricks for Adding SCORM into Moodle™ and Joule.

Step 5: Create consistency

As educators one of the things we all know is that “Consistency is the key!” To create consistency in your online course provide learners with a predictable pattern of learning. Provide a consistent topical or weekly structure (each topic has an overview and goals resource a lesson conveying content a forum for discussion an interactive/hands-on experience and an assessment) so that learners can get into a “groove.” Think of it like your “daily” classroom schedule where you do the same types of activities at the same or near the same times each day. In Moodle™ you can use Labels to create further consistency in the look and feel of each course area provide direction and chunk content into logical pieces. For more on creating consistency in the learning environment enroll in our online course Best Practices in E-Learning.

Step 6: Produce information with clarity

In the face-to-face classroom teachers are not typically responsible for developing large amounts of content. Textbooks workbooks and other written resources are often provided and it is up to the teacher to use the content which is relevant to the learners and relates to the objectives of the course. Creating content with clarity is of the utmost importance when the job of content creation falls on the teachers’ shoulders. Moodle™ and Joule allow you to create modules which provide learners with more than just static information. The Book module allows teachers to chunk large amounts of content so that learners are not lost in scrolling pages of content. The Page module allows you to present small amounts of content on one screen. Both of these modules allow for more than just text though. You can use Moodle™’s HTML editor to embed multimedia like graphics images and video. Remember that sometimes a video or image may present a concept with more clarity than text so use them to your (and the learners) advantage. To learn more about creating pages books and using the HTML editor take our Course Building Fundamentals online course.

Step 7: Align assessments to objectives

When creating course content defining goals and objectives should be your starting point. As teachers in any environment we must first ask ourselves “What should my learner be able to do?” at the conclusion or completion of the course content. Create resources that tell learners what they will be learning and what they will be able to do in order to provide them with insight into why they are learning certain concepts. Of course Moodle™ and Joule come with Quiz and Assignment modules which can be used to assess learners’ learning. But on top of that Moodle™ provides the Outcomes tool to align course goals and objectives to both individual resources and activities and the course overall. Making connections between learning modules and course outcomes makes learning more meaningful to learners. To learn more about using outcomes in Moodle™ check out our gradebook webinar Six Steps to Success with the Moodle™ Gradebook. Not all of the modules and tools noted here will be ones that you will want to begin creating right away (if you are completely new to instructional design online learning or Moodle™ and Joule in general I encourage you to take it one step at a time). However the eventual incorporation of these steps and tools into your learning environment will ease the transition from a traditional face-to-face classroom to the online classroom. For a comprehensive list of all Open LMS Learning Solutions training offerings visit our Open LMS Training website!

~Laura Lea

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Open LMS provides world-class LMS solutions that empower organizations to meet education and workplace learning needs .