How to Transition Your Traditional Classroom to the Web
Online learning is making headway—not just in traditional colleges, but in high schools as well. If you’ve been asked to transition your traditional classes to an online format, you may be unsure of where to start. Online learning is vastly different from the traditional classroom in a lot of ways. But there are also ways in which it’s unexpectedly similar. Here are a few tips for taking your classroom online.
Explore the technology
There are lots of online tools that can transition well to an online classroom. Many schools with an online component will implement a system such as Blackboard school-wide, and all teachers can use it. These are basically course and content management systems that allow you to share documents and other content, host online discussions, provide grades and assignments, and more. There are also free online tools out there that will let your students engage online—such as connecting on Facebook, creating a blog or a class website, and hosting online videos.
Books and reading materials
One of the big differences between online and traditional learning is that you can’t give your lectures in person. But there are many ways you can still give lecture presentations. Videotape yourself giving a lecture in class, and post it on YouTube, on your class blog or in your content management system—you may want to edit the video for length. Upload PowerPoint presentations and slideshows, or post transcripts and lecture notes for students to download.
Be sure to break up information into easily digestible segments, however. Five or ten minutes of audio or video is optimal for students watching online video, and it’s important to organize your notes instead of posting long documents online. This way, students can find specific information more easily.
The biggest complaint most people have about online classrooms is that you don’t get the same level of interaction you’d get with a traditional class. But you can integrate interactive elements in many ways in the online classroom.
Facilitate class discussions online over message board or chat room. This can be a great way for more introverted students to get involved—because writing on a message board or screen can be less intimidating than speaking up in class. Many online teachers make discussion participation a graded requirement, and evaluate students based on the quality and frequency of their contributions.
Group projects are another way to foster cooperation and interaction in the classroom. Make them online-friendly by creating projects that culminate in an online presentation or website of some sort.
You can easily adapt tests to the online format, although it is more difficult to discourage cheating on the web. One solution is to have each student take the test in a proctored area, even if it’s not in your classroom. Some online educators suggest keeping tests shorter to discourage web browsing during the test-taking process.
Exercises and activities such as flash cards, worksheets, matching games, and others can be easily adapted to the web. There are many websites that already offer interactive educational games in math, reading, science, and many other subjects—and will let you make your own as well. Check out Kubbu.com, Apples4TheTeacher.com, or ReadWriteThink.org.
Teaching online is just as demanding as teaching in a traditional classroom—although the challenges can be quite different. In both types of classroom, you must work to build a community, encourage discussion and participation, teach to many different learning styles, and test fairly. Despite the differences between the two mediums, it’s not difficult—and won’t require major content changes—to transition your traditional classroom materials to the web. Once you’ve made the transition from traditional to online, you’ll have a wealth of online tools at your fingertips to help students learn, build their skills, and earn their degrees.
Campus2007 Technology: The Transition From Face-to-Face to Online Teaching
OEB News Portal: Textbooks Terminated: Schools Go Online
Pete Hylton and Wendy Otoulpal: Multiple Experiences in Moving from a Traditional Classroom Setting to an On-Line Teaching Environment
Journal of Interactive Online Learning: Transitioning to Online Course Offerings: Tactical and Strategic Considerations
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