New to online learning? Our complete guide for educational institutions
What is online learning?
Let’s start from the very beginning; online learning is where students are educated via the internet and through teaching applications, such as Kinteract. It’s usually the term used for any kind of learning that takes place outside of a ‘traditional’ classroom, in an online forum. It allows students from all different walks of life to gain an education, whether they’re at primary level or looking to gain their Master’s degree.
Although online learning is predominantly used in the same respect as distance learning, in some circumstances, it’s not always distance that is the issue – it may be that there has been a crisis which requires students to stay at home, such as a pandemic, family issues, or illness.
Distance learning is nothing new, but online learning and teaching for many schools and educational institutions, who normally rely on traditional classroom teaching, isn’t something that comes naturally – and we can often be thrown into a situation that requires it. This is why it’s essential to have a process in place, and the right technology, to ensure that online teaching can be effective and easy to implement when this blended learning approach is needed.
What are the benefits of teaching online?
Teaching online reaps numerous benefits. Not only does learning become more accessible, but with Kinteract, you can keep a live record of achievements, observations and progress, all neatly tracked against the curriculum, so that a student’s learning journey can stay with them forever.
You’ve also got a lot more flexibility with online teaching than traditional, in-classroom teaching. There, students have set times for lessons and subjects - with online teaching, students can be given a timeframe to complete work, instead of within a set time period on one day. This gives students the ability to take ownership for their learning, reflect more on their work and make alterations and improvements, before they submit it - useful life skills to develop early on.
How to effectively teach online
- Ensure you set expectations for what you expect from your students, as well as what they can expect from you
- Be supportive and create a community that your students feel comfortable participating in. Encourage students to work in groups they may not have chosen before, opening up new discussions and thoughts
- Keep asking for feedback from your students or parents of students. This is a great way to see how effective your online teaching methods are, as well as what you can improve on and what else you can bring to the table
- Provide regular feedback to both students and parents or guardians. In traditional classroom teaching, verbal feedback is given throughout the school day, but online, this feedback can be recorded, as well as shared with parents. Students can reflect back on feedback to see where they need to improve or where they did well
- Keep things personal. It can be tempting when teaching online to give blanket feedback, but to effectively teach online, individual comments and personalised responses will provide students with the support they require. Where possible, try and utilise video chat, so conversations are more personable
- Be flexible. Students may be adjusting to learning online as much as you’re adjusting to teaching online, so keep that in mind. From issues with connectivity to stubborn learners, you need to be flexible in your teaching approach, as well as understanding of each student’s needs
- Keep sharing resources and asking questions, as it will encourage your students to do the same. It can be difficult when you don’t have a class full of students in front of you, in person, to keep the same levels of enthusiasm you might normally have – but you can maintain this enthusiasm through other means, such as emojis, quick responses to questions, starting topic discussions, and regular, positive feedback.
Features you should look out for in software
- Simple to use interface: both students, educators, and parents will need to utilise the software, so it should be easy to use, as well as recognisable – for example, it could reflect social media interfaces
- Reporting and analytics: for teachers and educators, having the ability to assess and keep that assessment in one place is critical, especially for Ofsted or other education boards
- Security: student data is stored within the software, so it needs to be secure and safe, ensuring that all data is saved elsewhere and no breaches can be made
- Class collaboration: peer interaction is so important when it comes to learning, both in a traditional classroom environment and online. Education software needs to have the ability to allow students to interact with each other and collaborate on group projects, allowing educators to moderate activity accordingly
- Ability to upload curriculum: although education software does not create your curriculum for you, the software should be able to map your curriculum out, whatever it is
- Interaction: education software should allow students, educators, and parents to interact effectively, through comments, reactions, feedback, email, video calls, pictures, and more
- Integration: does your education technology integrate with other teaching and learning apps you commonly use? If it doesn’t currently, then look for those that do - simplifying the number of different platforms you use saves both time and money, as well as giving ease of use benefits
- Multi-use: education software platforms are no longer single function only! The most forward-thinking are capable of offering a range of functionality, from parental communication to curriculum tracking to live lesson delivery, all in one place.
Using online teaching software within different educational institutions
Nurseries and EYFS
Building an online learning journal from nursery age provides students and parents with a full history of their achievements and development. It’s also essential for parental engagement and provides a safe space for teachers and parents to communicate. From sharing pictures to videos, it helps parents understand exactly what their child is achieving on a day-to-day basis, share in those special moments, as well as providing them with peace of mind.
For teachers and nursery workers, time can be better spent with the children and observations can be recorded easily through online software.
For primary school, students begin to take the initiative and learn on their own – with online teaching software, you can easily track these achievements and make observations. It also allows introverted and shy students to make comments and join in discussions – that perhaps they wouldn’t have done in a traditional classroom setting.
Parents can also engage more with their children’s work and achievements, taking note of teacher observations and suggestions for improvement. At primary age, teachers will spend a lot of time with students, picking up on their nuances and learning what pushes them and what makes them hesitate. Online teaching software can be used to record these achievements and obstacles, helping students and parents reflect.
Flexibility in learning becomes more important as students get older. With more distractions, as a teacher, you might notice concentration levels slide when students reach secondary or high school level. Technology can aid engagement, as well as knowledge retention. If students are able to track their achievements and areas for improvement through online software, this will encourage independent learning, as well as develop different styles of learning too.
Group work becomes ever more essential as students progress through their school career – technology, such as online teaching software, can aid collaboration and group projects, helping students communicate effectively, as well as allowing teachers to comment and advise where they see fit. It’s not just feedback from teachers that students will benefit from either; technology allows students to engage in peer interaction and discuss outcomes and results with each other, seeing where they could improve next time. This is great for developing essential life skills for the future.
For international schools and institutions, online learning software is essential. It allows students from all over the world to continue to study effectively, without missing out. It also means communication with parents is easier than ever before, especially if the software you’re using has translation capabilities. This gives parents the opportunity to communicate in their own language, without fear of misinterpreting or misunderstanding observations from teachers and educators.
Flexible learning is essential for many students who choose to go on to further education. Whether a student becomes ill, has childcare commitments, or simply isn’t able to attend a class, having a robust online software implementation allows those students to continue their studies, without fear of missing out – on either their education or peer interaction.
For students with a long-term illness, disability, or mental health problems, having the flexibility and opportunity to communicate effectively, with educators and peers, means they can continue to collaborate and learn.
Universities have been utilising online learning software for years, but many institutions don’t have the best technology in place, leaving many students without the means to complete lectures and seminars in situations when they cannot physically attend.
Feedback from lecturers and professors can be challenging to track as well, especially if still handwritten. It also welcomes more conversation between student and educator, ensuring that all feedback is understood, helping the student improve further for the next assignment.