Best practices for distance teaching/learning

I have been teaching and attending online classes since 2013 and I can definitely say that distance teaching/learning is the right format for me. Online events allow me to save time and energy and focus on the material. In my webinars I’ve have had participants not just from Italy and the Netherlands, but also from Belgium, Canada, Japan, and other faraway places. In turn, I have attended online trainings held by colleagues in the UK, in Germany, Italy and in the USA.

Considering what’s been going on in the first half of 2020 and the economic situation all over the world, the traditional full-immersion on-site workshop is no longer realistic. Why pay for travel expenses when you can use the same time for online training?

It is the right time to be creative: we should ask ourselves whether the “conventional” format of distance learning, which is simply an online replica of the frontal format, should not also be thrown away. What can we easily add? What can we do without? Not just for now, but forever.

Trying to find ways to make the whole learning experience more interactive and enriching for participants to my online workshops, I asked for suggestions to the subscribers to my newsletter.

Underneath a summary of all the interesting ideas I received. And, of course, a big THANK you to those who provided feedback.

Interesting formats

  • Flipped classroom method, i.e. the participants first study a little on their own, and then dig deeper into the topic with the teacher in a live session.
  • Asynchronous online course, followed by a live in-depth session with the trainer.
    • Asynchronous discussion groups after the course could be facilitated via WhatsApp, Slack or Mattermost.
  • The training schedule could be divided into a before, a during and an after moment. Checkups, homework, Q&A should not be considered an extra, but an integral part of the learning/teaching process.

Virtual classroom

  • The virtual classroom must change as well. It is not feasible to stay more than a few hours in front of a monitor without going crazy or distracting yourself. But beyond that, it is necessary:
    • To create 30-40-minute sprints, followed by practical work and Q&A.
    • To use discussion and virtual work environments in the classroom:
      • Google Docs
    • To rethink networking moments: An informal online meeting before the start of the course could give participants the chance to introduce themselves, explain why they are taking a specific workshop and interact with one another. Other options: create a Google form that participants can fill in.

Miscellaneous

  • Define a course netiquette, to make sure that all participants are actively involved in the class, ask questions and exchange feedback and comments.
  • Ideally, all participants should have a microphone and a webcam.
  • Set up a second screen (or use an iPad) to see participants.
  • Noise canceling headphones.
  • Allow time for tech problems (weak connection, login problems etc…)
  • Create feedback form that participants can fill in after the workshop.