Detailed Guidelines for a Blended Approach to Online Learning

Asynchronous platform:

  • Set up folders for each week with all of the work for that week contained in the folder.
  • Include a preview of the reading for context, a short summary of what they will read, along with key points and questions for them to be thinking about as they read.
  • Consider having older students submit their notes before class so you can see that they did the reading and took notes. They can include questions, so you can be better prepared for lecture. They are expected to complete their reading and one weekly assignment before they come to the live class.

Synchronous platform:

  • In the live class, many lecture using PowerPoint, visuals being important, and ask questions as they go.
  • Always use live video, because human faces are more interesting than PowerPoints.  
  • Allow students to use the chat box while lecturing (within reason), so they can chime in with comments as you are talking.
  • If they have a more substantial question or comment to make, they raise their hand and wait to be called on, just like in a normal classroom.
  • Try to find ways to get the students on camera for specific exercises: i.e. debates.
  • Students should know if they should come to class ready to be on camera. Just like you wouldn’t want to suddenly have to jump up on camera in front of your colleagues at a meeting without being prepared for it, same goes for students.
  • Be respectful and tell them ahead of time if you want them to come to class prepared to get on camera. This helps prevent monkeying around.
  • At the end of class, review and give them their homework for the next week, which they will also see pop up in the next folder online.

How do you hold students accountable during class? How do you know they are not watching T.V.?

  • Assign a participation grade for every class.
  • Every student must get on their mic and speak at least once, offering an intelligentcomment, question, or observation to get participation for that day. Ellen Finnegan, an online instructor in our English department, makes a distinction between showing “signs of life” in class (commenting, cracking jokes, etc.) and showing “signs of intelligent life”.
  • Some teachers also require students to answer a few questions to get their “exit ticket” — proving that they were listening during class.
  • Other teachers hide something in the PowerPoint or discussion and make students pay attention to find it, or make students turn in their notes from class afterwards, to assure they were paying attention.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to “cold call” on students. If it’s “crickets” when you call on them (Bueller? Bueller?), then you know they weren’t paying attention and they automatically lose their participation points for that day.

What is the best use of live class time?

  • Discussion keeps students engaged, as does seeing other students on camera.
  • It is also possible to set up a series of assignments that they walk through during class at their own pace, and you can grade them as they go.
  • They can be set up ahead of time in the folder and the students can work individually on the “steps” in the online folder, while everyone is logged into class. This allows everyone to be working on the same thing at the same time, but to go at their own pace, and to have access to the teacher if there are questions or if special help is needed.) These can be assignments that are more like discussion boards, where you can comment and give feedback on their work in real time.
  • They have to do the assignment, for example, “write a thesis,” to your satisfaction before they can move on to the next step, like “write an outline for your paper.” Some students will need more help on the thesis, some not the outline. The public feedback forum also allows students to learn from other students’ mistakes or attempts. The students also like to try to see who can move through all of the steps first! You can tell them: If you get through it during class, you’ll have less homework; if you don’t get through, you’ll have to do it on your own time after class. But each step is graded.

How do you hold students accountable during exams?

  • Our school requires exams to be parent-proctored, so the parents are required to provide some supervision during exams. We also have an academic honesty policy statement that all students have to sign. The key is to make your test questions focused on what was discussed in class, rather than on basic questions that are “Google-able.”
  • We also include a time limit on exams (they are online), so the exams automatically time out. There should be enough questions that fill up the time. This added pressure also helps to remove the temptation to do “research” during the exam, because research is time-consuming.

Classroom management

  • One of the benefits of online teaching is that classroom management doesn’t have to be quite so challenging. While the students might be distracted by their siblings, the internet, or what is happening outside their window, they are a lot less capable of distracting each other.
  • You, as the teacher, have more control over who gets on camera or on mic, and for what reason. If students are wasting time or having “side conversations,” you can easily cut off their mic or their camera or remove the tools (such as chat boxes) that allow for interaction.
  • Interaction with their peers is what makes classes fun! So use that as a motivator, setting up clear expectations for behavior, dress, language, and efficiency.
  • And if the students don’t respect the rules and stay on topic, then they will have to sit through a lecture with very little chance to speak or interact. You will probably notice that they will clean up their act and start obeying the rules a lot more!

Blog Post written by:

Ellen Finnegan & Nicole O'Connor

Ellen Finnegan & Nicole O'Connor