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Being An Effective Online Teacher

Being An Effective Online Teacher

One of the advantages of teaching one-on-one and/or in person is lost in most online teaching environments. That advantage is… direct eye contact. Direct eye contact is valuable because the teachgaugen guage the degree to which the student is (1) paying attention, and (2) 'getting it'.

The answer to that problem lays in two principles. One of those principles is well-known to military instructors. The other principle is well-known to salespeople. And of course, military veterans who get involved in sales….they know both, right?

Here's what the first principle (I don't have a fancy name for it):

At the start of most military instructional classes, the instructor says something like, "OK Gentlemen, in this class you will learn _________, ________, and ________!"

To put it another way, the instructor clearly states the learning objectives of the class. Over the process of the entire class, the instructor tells the students what they're going to learn, he/she teaches it, then he tells them what they learned (preferably followed immediately or soon thereafter by some sort of test).

It amazes me that so many online instructors never do that although some initially don't but later do. 

The other thing, or perhaps I should call it an annoying habit, that many online instructors have is that they assume the student is seeing the same they are seeing on the screen.

But what if the student isn´t?

It could easily happen. For example, what if the student doesn't have the same screen resolution as the instructor. In such a case, the student has to scroll around trying to see what the teacher is doing.

What if the student's internet connection is slow and there's a delay of a second (or more) between the instructor's voice and the movement of the instructor's cursor?

Or, worse yet, what if the instructor is so familiar with the material being covered that he/she just hurriedly runs through the material being covered… mistaking his/her familiarity with it for how well the student knows it?

More specifically, what about situations where the teacher moves his cursor around the screen so rapidly that the student doesn't have time to catch where he's going and/or what he's doing? This is a problem which, when added onto the previously described problems, really makes for a confused student.

 Teachers, in my opinion, should verbally describe what they're doing as well as actually do it. 

For example: "Next…see this button here in the upper right-hand corner of this page? This is what you click….like this."

Next… the teacher describes what happened and what the student should have seen. For example: "See that?" And then the teacher should ask some sort of question (in sales….known as a 'trial close', to determine for sure that the students saw what they were supposed to see and learned the right point from it. 

In the vernacular that's called, 'being on the same page'.

It's always been my opinion that teaching occurs in layers…. like painting a car. If the painter doesn't put a good 'base coat' or primer coat on the item being painted, even the most expensive and carefully applied finishing coats are not going to stick. But if the teacher lets each successive coat of paint cure properly, and tests it in some way, then the next coat will be to good purpose.

From your perspective as a teacher (if you are one) illustrating how well YOU know something is not the same thing as teaching it. You, the teacher, need to put yourself in the student´s shoes and realize that they don't know what they don't know. If fact, they might not even know enough to realize what they don't know. Furthermore, for various reasons, they might be reluctant to ask questions.

In these examples, the advantage of the leverage afforded by the internet occurs at the expensive of the advantage of traditional teaching. But it doesn't have to be that way if you, the teacher, are aware of the potential liabilities.

A question for you: are you an online student? If so, what characteristics do you find most conducive and/or detrimental to your online learning experience?