So, despite your opinions of online schooling, Covid-19 had other plans for you. You’re finding yourself teaching (& learning) online for the foreseeable future. Or maybe you actually wanted to teach online, in which case, great. Two universal components of online teaching are double e’s: engagement and enthusiasm. Regardless of what subject or language you’re teaching, if you’re online then you can be sure to need to focus on these areas. Engagement refers to both your, and your students’, active involvement in-class materials. When learners are reading a text to themselves, being lectured to, or watching a video, they are passively engaged in the content. When learners are actively engaged, they are partaking in varying exercises and forms of communication, allowing them to form a more holistic understanding of the work, by integrating it with prior knowledge. For example, when learners are interactively engaged, they receive new information, use prior knowledge, and integrate the two to draw conclusions by having a mutual dialogue with others. Interactive engagement is thought to be associated with the most successful learning results. The second “e” is enthusiasm, which basically refers to your energy levels and excitement to learn (and therefore, teach). Humans mimic, it’s a natural instinctual thing to do. So, if you have low energy and show an uncaring attitude, your students WILL pick up on this. They’ll mirror your lackadaisical attitude, and you won’t get anywhere.

The first and most materialistic aspect of the two e’s involves yet another ‘e’: environment. Make sure that your classroom environment is still as engaging as possible despite the obvious separation between you and your students. You can hold their attention in literal ways: such as using props and visual aids and using classroom tools to keep them visually engaged. The use of tools within your learning platform maintains a classroom environment and guides the students’ eyes around the coursework. Whether pointers, arrows or timers: general interaction on screen is always helpful! A more abstract aspect of the classroom environment that promotes engagement and enthusiasm is through varying games and activities in learning! The use of varying activities keeps students’ attention levels high while games promote excitement and make learning fun and memorable!

What I’ve noticed, is that both e’s of online teaching: (a) are often are intertwined, and (b) heavily rely on your focus being on the students. That is, you cannot isolate them most of them in your real-life lessons. The students must remain central to your goal. At the end of the day, you have to strive to help each individual grow in their knowledge of the area they’re pursuing. The first aspect of this is personalising their experience: ask about them! The same way you would learn about their family and likes and dislikes within an in-person classroom dynamic, you should ask them these things while online. You can do it within the scope of the lesson plan, and/or ask lesson unrelated questions to those who arrive in the few minutes before class. Another aspect you can personalise is their level of learning: mixed levels of abilities need to be catered to so students don’t lose focus of the lesson or aren’t paying attention. Those with higher knowledge levels feel constructively challenged when given questions that allow them to think creatively and expand on their abilities. In the same light, those with lower knowledge levels need to feel catered to and cared for by given time to approach questions and learn at their own pace. By adapting to fit the student’s needs, they remain engaged because they are granted the autonomy to be as creative in class as they want and they are adequately tested to grow within the class.

Engagement and enthusiasm, as stated previously, must be modelled so that it can be mimicked (even if on a subconscious level). Enthusiasm and focus on the students allow them to get excited and match your level too! You can maintain positive energy and experience while simultaneously encouraging participation and growth in the class. You must show the excitement you want them to experience from learning, so they can see you genuinely care about what everyone is learning about. It makes the experience a lot more enjoyable to be actively enthusiastic and involved in the class as the teacher, especially as 9/10 times this is reflected in the students as they respond to you. I find that even when some students are only beginning to warm to you if you don’t take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to be a bit silly in order to be enthusiastic, they come around and join in on the integrated involvement. This leads to newly acquired vocabulary and knowledge is a lot more memorable! It also creates a more equal dynamic in the teacher-student relationship: if you’re on their level then they’re going to become a lot more comfortable with asking questions and engaging in the classroom dialogue with you!

Make sure that your enthusiasm is what shines through. High levels of engagement and enthusiasm bring you to an equal level with the students: learning with them rather than talking at them. When students can relate to you on a more equal level, they become more engaged with the lesson’s material. Instead of viewing yourself as the master, and them as the learner, maybe try to see yourself as a facilitator of learning: allowing the students’ abilities to shine through your activities and lessons and keeping the focus on them.

Article Written by Rosie Pires @ The Overseas Teacher