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Best Practices for Teaching Remotely

With the barrage of information regarding remote instruction comes information overload! Express English 412 made a quick, comprehensive guide for instructors adjusting and/or adapting to teaching remotely. This guide was created by an educator who has taught in-person and online language courses and sees the benefit (and drawbacks) of both.

A list of links to the sources consulted is at the bottom of this post.

General guidelines for adapting your class for remote instruction

Compared with face-to-face lessons, online instruction provides opportunities for different modes of instruction. However, having more options does not always make things easier. You will need to revisit your learning objectives and determine what sort of access to technology your students have before deciding the mode of instruction and what technologies to use for your lessons.

Synchronous instruction is interactive, happens at a scheduled time, and is best implemented with audio or video conferencing and other web-based technologies like VoiceThread or chats. This mode of instruction is better for smaller, discussion-based contexts. Synchronous lessons help to create a Community of Inquiry; however, with students in different time zones, juggling working from home and/or caregiving responsibilities, it might prove difficult to find a good time for all of your class to meet. Furthermore, another consideration for synchronous instruction are bandwidth issues, which is necessary to think about before requiring students to share video on online video platforms like Zoom.

Asynchronous content, on the other hand, provides opportunities for more independent work and is suited for larger, lecture-based classes. Discussion boards and video lectures or voiced-over PowerPoint presentations can all be utilized for asynchronous content. Asynchronous instruction, if organized effectively, can provide a great opportunity for group collaboration on a large project.

Online instruction does not have to be an either/or—instructors should be encouraged to select elements from each that help meet their course’s learning objectives.

Adapting assignments & assessments for online

Keep it simple. Provide clear instructions for assignments and exams and limit them to a few tasks or question types.

Create longer, student-driven projects. Long-term tasks that give students autonomy, checkpoints and established deadlines allows for simple instruction and student ownership for their work. Students will be more engaged in material that they have more control over. What’s more, this type of assignment provides opportunities for student interaction as they can update their classmates on the progress they have made or the hurdles they have encountered when working on their projects.

Recognize learning objectives can be demonstrated in various ways. Reevaluate your learning objectives and determine what sort of learning or skill they are asking of students. Ask yourself which tasks or activities would allow students the chance to demonstrate acquisition of those objectives. Then, figure out what of those tasks or activities could be performed virtually.

If you are worried about academic integrity, you can make the exams available for a limited amount of time. Also, you can choose to make your assessments open book and include question types like: short answer questions with required citations, reflection responses, or real-world case studies or applications.

Ways to promote inclusion

To create an inclusive atmosphere over online platforms like Zoom, you must be intentional. Adding some structural elements to your synchronous remote lessons can help you make the unexpected switch to online learning smoother for both you and your students and ensure that no one gets left out.

Some suggestions for making your Zoom lessons more inclusive include:

  • Have everyone display their preferred name and, possibly, pronouns in their video display. This is especially helpful for instructors with large classes. As always, if you want students to do this, you need to set the example by showing them how their names should be displayed and how to they go about changing it in Zoom. You can change your display name by going to your account settings and selected the profile menu.

  • Set rules and communicate why you have decided on them. Sometimes things that seem obvious to you are not clear to your students. Transparency is important for creating an inclusive class culture and students need to know what is expected of them (eg, how they go about asking questions, how they should proceed if they are have to leave class early). If time allows, you can also have students work together to create class etiquette rules.

  • Alternative opportunities for students to “speak up.” The more opportunities to engage students, the better. It’s important to remember students do not always have to say something to participate in class. For instance, you could have everyone give a thumbs up reply to a quick procedural question, use the chat feature to submit questions, or take a poll to get student input.

  • Plan how to start and end your lessons. As the normal signaling that class is beginning or it is time to wrap things up is missing in remote instruction, instructors need to be more intentional about how to begin and end their lessons. Otherwise, students might feel awkward and hesitant to participate. Asking question can bring students together; and, if they provide their answers to your questions in the chat feature in Zoom, they can read through everyone’s answers while waiting for class to start. The chat feature can also be used for students to provide some feedback at the end of the lesson that can be applied to your next lesson.

  • Use breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are great for small group work. However, instructors cannot be in every room at once so be sure to set guidelines for what should be discussed along with a time limit and expectations on how the group will debrief their discussion to you or the rest of the class. For instance, a group member can give a brief summary or groups can write a discussion board post of what was discussed.

  • Make asynchronous learning options. In order to be as accommodating as possible, provide opportunities for students to participate in the course that are not dependent on scheduled class time. As their name suggests, discussion board prompts with clear instructions and deadlines can facilitate class discussion outside of meeting times. Synchronous lessons can also be recorded and posted for later review for students who are unable to attend live class sessions. (Remember that students must be informed before and at the start of every lesson that is recorded and posted on learning management systems!)

For language instructors

Online language lessons allow for more flexibility than face-to-face lessons as there is a whole world wide web with authentic materials just a click away. Using authentic materials can be challenging if the tasks of the assignment are too far about the student’s comprehension level. You can still have students watch, for instance, a new video, but have lower-level students talk about the main idea and major details, but give advanced students more nuanced questions.

Patience is essential when teaching a language online. Students need time to process the foreign language before they can begin to understand the content of a message. Likewise, give students a chance to craft their response or some clues if they are really struggling. Language instructors need to be even more encouraging online than they are in in-person lessons so that students remain active and willing class participants. A thumbs up or a “good job!” goes a long way!

#remotelearning #inclusiveteaching #adulteducation #foreignlanuageeducation #onlineinstruction

by Kimberly Rehak for Express English 412


8 Ways to be More Inclusive in your Zoom Teaching by Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy:

4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online by Kareem Farah:

Synchronous Online Video Classes Best Practices by Jason Johnston:

How to Give Effective Online Language Lessons by Charline Mae Bolito:

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