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Teaching online from home has multiple advantages. Emissions-producing commute? You can green your footprint. Plus — glory, hallelujah — you can wave goodbye to the days of bringing home every single bug from the ceaseless classroom sniffles.
However, you need a strategy to make the most of this arrangement, manage your time productively and keep your students engaged. Here are the top eight tips for teaching online from home to start your journey.
1. Get Organized
How many times have you told your students to use their planners? You might even devote a full class period to teaching them how, but do you heed your advice? Staying organized is a must, especially if you adjunct for several different schools with varying exam and final due dates.
Choose your preferred style. Print planners offer the advantage of the nearly unlimited room for writing notes, but electronic gadgets keep your to-do list at your fingertips.
Then, sit down at the start of each semester and chart vital upcoming dates. Repeat a similar process each Sunday evening when you plot your week, giving time estimates for each task — like grading term papers.
2. Get Cozy and Ergonomic
Teaching online from home can be a sedentary profession, but it doesn’t have to be. Embrace today’s world of ergonomic furniture. One option is a standing desk that lets you transition from seated periodically throughout your day, increasing calorie burn and potentially easing back pain.
A comfy chair is also a must. Consider options like an inflatable exercise ball if you want to work your core while grading papers. If you opt for a standard model, ensure your feet rest comfortably on the ground when you bend your knees at 90 degrees. Look for models with ample lumbar support and consider adding a pillow for extra comfort.
3. Master Your Technology
Few things disengage your students faster than waiting for several minutes while you figure out the Zoom classroom. Ensure you master your technology before the first day of class.
Enlist a friend for help if you struggle with new apps and programs. Your school should offer a tech support hotline where you can call for assistance with what you don’t understand. Test your equipment, ensuring that your headset and microphone let you communicate clearly.
4. Amass Resources
Engaging students when teaching online from home takes creativity. However, much like a painter with the right palette and oils, you’ll do far better with an arsenal of virtual learning tools instead of a mere set of dollar-store watercolors.
Spend an afternoon or two amassing online learning resources to share with your students. Collaborate with colleagues, too — especially those who have been teaching online for a while. If your team doesn’t already have a Slack channel for sharing these tools, why not see if you can create one?
5. Set Clear Expectations
If you’re new to teaching online from home, you might feel a bit nervous before your first day. Guess what? Your students experience the same anxiety, and it’s your job as their teacher to set the climate of your classroom and establish clear expectations for learning outcomes.
Get creative! Spend some time recording videos of yourself modeling appropriate online classroom behavior, such as turning on your webcam, paying attention and raising your “hand” to ask questions. Establish your class schedule from your first class, maintain the typical class flow from the first day and provide students with weekly expectations for their learning outcomes.
6. Establish Communication Lines
In a traditional classroom, parents know how to reach you. However, teaching online from home means creating firm boundaries about how you want to be contacted and when. You don’t need to end each semester with a flurry of 11 p.m. texts begging for extensions — you’ll reach burnout quickly.
Fortunately, you have free tools at your disposal to make this process easier. For example, establishing a free phone number via Google Voice allows you to keep your personal cellphone number private. You can use this app via computer only or download the app to your phone, enforcing limits by using your do-not-disturb function.
Parents often prefer to communicate via email for non-urgent matters. Outline in your syllabus your return policy. Most teachers return emails within 24 hours, excluding weekends.
7. Think Creatively
You can sometimes engage students more effectively in the virtual classroom than in person when you get creative. Shy and introverted pupils often blossom when they aren’t worried about their classmates snickering at their outfits or mannerisms.
Base your lessons around real-world skills your students will need as many embark on virtual careers. Use online software tools to encourage collaborative learning. Give students ownership of their work. For example, you might help them create an online portfolio of their best projects that they can use to wow recruiters when starting their job search.
8. Remember the Human Element
Before you can inspire your students, you need to make them feel like you care. This rule applies to pupils of all ages, not only the youngest learners.
You might not ever meet your students in real life when you teach online from home, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care. Demonstrate your commitment to their growth by taking time to do one-on-one check-ins, even with those learners who aren’t struggling. Write personalized comments on assignments, offering meaningful feedback for improvement and genuine praise for what they did well.
Tips for Teaching Online From Home
Teaching online from home has multiple benefits. You save a small fortune on gas, don’t pollute during your commute and avoid bringing home every germ your students catch.
However, you need a strategy to succeed with this modality. Follow the eight tips for teaching online from home above to have a stellar semester.