How to make online teaching and learning interesting

Online learning and teaching are here already. It is the internet- facilitated distance education. That has opened more and more possibilities in higher education and career enhancement related education. But after the world wide lockdown and loss or reduction of academic terms online education is taking a different significance and relevance. This article discusses how online learning can be made interesting.

Why online classes are not interesting

Most students find even the college and school classes also boring many times. Then how will they enjoy online classes? But, online classes have more contributing factors to make them boring. So online classes become boring not just to students but for teachers also.

Boring for the students

Traditional Online classes are passive. Generally, they are a one-sided affair by the teacher giving lectures or showing some slides and sending various files by email, etc. Students do not have an active role in the class. In the absence of interaction, students soon feel bored. Mostly the classes are recorded and edited versions.

Hence the online classes lose spontaneity and life, unlike the frontline classrooms. Students cannot raise their doubts then and there. Even if they do not understand what is taught, they cannot tell the teacher to stop and re-explain. As students do not get to involve in the learning process, they soon get bored and get distracted. In frontline physical classes, the students even though they can get bored on certain subjects or certain teacher's classes they can refresh and be active again after short-shifting attention to the classmates or can ask the teacher to elucidate better or slow the pace, etc. They can lead the teacher to cite practical cases, application in daily life, etc by asking leading questions and clarifying doubts.

The pattern of teaching cannot be exactly like the frontline classes because of limitations to time, data, slot, etc.

For the teachers also it is boring

As mentioned earlier, teachers also find classes not interesting. They will just be emptying what they have brought in on the subject taught. In effect, they simply lecture to a dead-bored audience. Teachers do not get any response from students in real-time. So they cannot assess whether their class is effective and whether the students understand what is taught. They cannot even be sure whether the students are attentive. As they do not get simultaneous feedback or not even able to assess the body language, they cannot assess or amend their teaching as per the need of the class. Thus the teachers feel monotonous and uninvolved feelings. Moreover, online classes need more preparation unlike spontaneous teaching and explanation as gauging the ground condemns in a frontline classroom.

How the online classes can be made interesting in general

What the teachers should do

Teachers should avoid giving more monotonous lectures. They should not lecture like a statue. They should move, gesticulate, point, etc. They should use short and relevant video clips and use material from other sources to elucidate the subject and make them interesting to the students.

Teaching should be made light and full of technical jargon. Wherever jargon is used they should be explained in an easily comprehensible way. If study material files are sent, the classes should not be a replica or repetition of the notes but give better and different insights on the subject. Subjects should be taught with their real-life applications and implications. Wherever possible advance information about the next day lesson may be given and the students asked to prepare and familiarise themselves with the topic. Teachers also should update their knowledge frequently to clarify students' doubts.

Though not physically, online teachers should make themselves as 'present' and available by enabling communications by suitable methods. They may even fix scheduled timings for communication by students. Make them feel they are important.

Teachers should use all possible latest technological possibilities to enhance teaching and learning and make classes interesting and engaged. Teachers should teach in a manner that the students feel that each one is addressed face to face. For this, the teacher should be well versed with camera angles, lighting, facial expression, voice modulation, intonation, etc. Recently in Kerala,( a Southern State in India), a first standard teacher got a flood of appreciation from all over the State after her online class. She taught the lesson with a way of storytelling and acting that the children loved it and understood it well. They felt as if she was teaching them in their real classroom. Similarly, a tenth class Mathematics teacher proved that even serious maths can be made interesting by his teaching method. That was also using storytelling and using examples from real-life situations. It was also demonstrated by another class that more than one teacher can take classes making the class more interesting with proper dialogues, interventions, and anchoring. Teachers should be able to engage the students' attention making them forget that they are attending serious classes. All online teachers can follow these methods.

What should the Students do

Where there is a will, there is a way'. Students can themselves make online classes interesting and avoid boredom during classes. Students should convince themselves that they can enjoy the classes. Even at home they should maintain a studious posture and can even dress suitable for a class to get the real feel. They should ensure the quality and availability of data, power, and charge to the device, picture and voice quality, etc. They may also be ready with a jotting book and pen to note down any doubts or clarifications for later.

Wherever possible students should prepare the topic before class begins. Even a preliminary search and reading can make understand the topic when taught in the online class easily. Students can observe and relate what the learned to the real-life situations around them. If they find some unique applications, they can narrate, photograph, or video clip it and send it to the teacher for further use in teaching.

In case assignments are given complete them before the deadline and send them for evaluation and feedback. Never allow doubt to be left nucleated. Contact the teacher or refer to some suitable source and get the doubts cleared. Just as you will be punctual to your school, be punctual and ready for online classes.

Students should also learn new technologies regarding online teaching and learning and apply them wherever possible. Just as in the frontline classroom, keep your learning materials in your device well organized and easily retrievable.

New challenges and changes online classes face in the Covid lockdown scenario

Till now online classes were following mostly their traditional pattern. The online classes were not a substitute for physical frontline classrooms. Mostly they were for the elder students and adults to pursue off-campus learning to continue the discontinued studies or to learn extra for career prospects. The choice was voluntary.

However the COVID pandemic has shaped a new future for online learning. Due to prolonged lockdown and risk of vulnerability, compulsions of preventive precautions like social distancing, and other measures, schools, and colleges have started online classes to avoid losing academic terms.

The students here are young school children too and who are only familiar with the traditional frontline classrooms. So they have to be properly mentored to the new online class system. They find it a drastic change, with no classmates around, and parents or others at home also around. Having enjoyed the company and sound of classmates the suddenly feel a vacuum. Unlike the traditional online classes, the post Covid lockdown special academic term online classes have another feature. They are conducted by schools for their existing students and who live in a small area and the students know each other. So the teachers have to make them feel of a real classroom.

How these new online classes are being made interesting

The best and ideal alternative is to make them as near a feel as the frontline classrooms. So the virtual classroom is hosted using suitable meeting applications. The students of each erstwhile real class constitute the online class also. Here the students can see the teacher live, they can see their classmates live on the screen and they can interact with the teacher live also. There will be some issues, but they will e managed and solved after the initial confusion and will get stabilized gradually.

However, due to the ground realities of data, quality, lack of suitable devices and applications, etc, this may not be possible everywhere. In Kerala, a state with high literacy state has started the school academic year from the very first day by starting online classes. The Government-owned TV channel (KITE-VICTERS) is used to beam the online classes for each class at a specified time slot as per a pre-decided time table of different subjects.

As the online classes are for the entire state syllabus schools, the local schools are to take care of all other related matters of their students. The local schools have opened separate Whatsapp groups for each class and all the students of the class and the related teachers are members of that group. Before the respective online classes (TV telecast), the class students have to mark attendance via the Whatsapp group and start attending online classes. The online classes will give the assignments. The students have to complete the assignments and send them to the concerned teacher by the Whatsapp messaging and uploading. In case of doubts, the students can raise it in the WhatsApp group or take up individually with the teachers. Thus here there is a feeling of almost like the real classroom. The students and teachers can send voice messages and pictures and drawings related to the subjects. Students are also encouraged.

For the educational institutions

They should invest in the best infrastructure and use the best platforms for online classes. They should use best and suitable user-friendly applications and tools that can be handled by students and teachers easily and popularly and commonly available everywhere easily.

The institutions should ensure to make the lesson modules optimum best to make understanding easier and at the same time used data and space optimally. They should train their teachers for updating in subject knowledge and using the latest technology. They can make background classrooms look apt to te subject taught using relevant materials and decorations.

They should put in place a suitable system to address and remedy any grievance brought up by the students and teachers regarding online classes.

Glorious days ahead for online learning

Though for obvious reasons, online learning cannot be a replacement for brick and mortar frontline classrooms, online learning is going to take the major chunk of education in the days to come. The signals are seen from many universities allowing even technical educations and simultaneous double degrees via online education. Just as Work From Home is going to be a norm, learn from home is also going to be a major new normal. So it is imperative to make it interesting.

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