Ready for summer: Tips for supporting your learners online

by / Wednesday, 20 May 2020 / Published in Instruction, Learning Technology Tools

Well done to you and your students surviving the transition to teaching and learning online. We’ve been hearing a lot of success stories! With summer semester starting soon, you are probably already preparing for online delivery.

To help you plan support for your students, consider these tips:

1 Plan more time for socialisation

This past semester you and your students already knew each other before you went online. This summer, you and your students may be meeting for the first time, while also working out how you will communicate with each other. A classic socialisation activity is to ask students to post a brief introduction of themselves as they to learn how to use a discussion board, or interactive tools such as Nearpod, Padlet or Flipgrid, combining technology training with an icebreaker.

Alternatively, you could create a poll, enabling students to compare their answers and get to know themselves as a class. Your poll could include learning preferences and self-evaluation, e.g.

I prefer writing/speaking/collaborating in groups

I am uncertain/comfortable/confident using breakout rooms/Nearpod/Padlet

For socialisation, you could include more social questions, e.g.

iPhone or Android—which is better?

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

These answers tend to stimulate discussion, helping students become more comfortable communicating online in preparation for more relevant discussions and activities.

2 Agree on class rules

Just like the classroom, the online learning environment has rules of behaviour that should be agreed on by everyone. You might not have time to create a whole set of rules with your class, but you could provide them with an editable Word document or poster they can amend during class or outside to give them some input. New rules to establish could include how to handle disruptions from family, pets, deliveries and phone calls, and you can probably think of other incidents from your classes.

A more interactive approach is to set scenarios in Nearpod or a breakout room and ask students to suggest remedies, e.g.

During a breakout room discussion, some of the students are discussing ideas unrelated to the topic. What should you do?’

While some students are confident moderating group activities, some students might feel uncomfortable directing their peers—particularly the confident ones! Offering scenarios that require students to act can give them ‘agency’—a sense of control and the ‘permission’ to act in a learning situation. This is a critical step toward students owning their own learning process, getting the most out of a learning opportunity, and becoming more independent.

3 Turn policies into interactive quizzes

Want students to understand and remember your attendance or submission policies? Try delivering them as a Kahoot or other interactive quiz. One quiz can generally be used for all your classes. You might include here your availability outside of class time to answer questions, so your students don’t expect you to be available to them 24/7.

4 Set up weekly announcements in Blackboard.

These can be preset to release with reminders, deadlines, and other relevant information. You can probably recycle and adapt your announcements and emails from the previous semester to save time and help you remember key information to share.

5 Set up a Yammer group for each class

Yammer is a private ‘social media’ space for HCT. You can create a private Yammer group for each class where you and your students can post reminders, questions, information, and resources informally using your HCT login. You can even create new Word documents or spreadsheets from within the Yammer group, enabling collaborative activities anytime. You can access your Yammer group using a phone app, email, or a link from your Blackboard course, making it a very handy way to stay in touch with your students.

6 Collaborate with your colleagues

While you are on Yammer, consider setting up a Yammer group for your course team as well to enable sharing ideas and resources. Or you may already have a collaborative space on Teams, SharePoint or Blackboard—whatever works for your team. Create and share socialisation activities, polls and quizzes that you and your colleagues can use or adapt. You could even develop and share standard announcements in text files on Blackboard, Teams or Yammer instead of each teacher writing them from scratch.

7 Keep engaging in PD

The EdTech team offers practical training on Blackboard and a range of learning technologies—Collaborating in Office 365, Nearpod, Kahoot, Padlet and Flipgrid to name a few—to enable you to support your students effectively online. Now is a great time to continue or complete courses in Essentials of Blackboard (EBC), Essentials of Instruction (EIC), and Essentials of Teaching with Technology (ETWTC), as well as sessions on Teaching Strategies for Online Synchronous Classes, Effective Online Moderation, Designing Collaborative Learning Activities, and many more. Not only can these courses provide ideas for your practice, participating can help provide you with a learner’s perspective. How does it feel to be in a breakout room? What support do you prefer? What happens if you miss a session?

We hope you find these tips useful, but please share your own tips with your colleagues on Yammer in Community of Practice for Online Teaching or other relevant groups.