Guides For Educators During Distance Education

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After having graduated from the ELT department of a top-ranked university in Turkey, Bogazici University, I started working in a private school in Istanbul. I worked as an English teacher at the kindergarten. My students were 5-year-old kids who were newly discovering the world around them. One day, one of my students asked if I had a YouTube channel or not. I got shocked because I had my first PC at the age of nineteen as a reward for getting good results in the university entrance exams.

Then, I questioned the gap between my generation and this generation. Teaching and being a parent seemed that they were going to be more challenging than ever as the gap expanded. That student also knew how to record YouTube videos and wanted me to show his channel on my phone. I watched some of his videos explaining how to make a castle with playdough and noticed that as a teacher I had to keep myself up-to-date if I didn’t want to belong to a museum.

A Guide For Those Who Are New To Online Teaching

There, I decided to do my master’s in the educational technologies field. During my first year, I learned new terms like “instructional design,” “multimedia design,” “ADDIE model,” “maker movement,” “Internet of Things,” etc. These terms were quite new to me as I used MS Office programs at a novice level and never mastered them before. The more I got engaged, the more I desired to dive into the field. I searched on the internet, tried Web 2.0 tools, criticized and evaluated some of them, designed an online course and a research project with my classmates who were teachers. After spending a year and a half in the field, I improved my knowledge on different branches of the field like “flipped learning,” “blended learning,” “game-based learning,” “content-integrated language learning,” “computer-assisted language learning,” “mobile-assisted language learning,” “AI in education,” “synchronous and asynchronous lessons,” etc.

As an English teacher, I decided to master mobile-assisted language learning since I believe that education is becoming more and more ubiquitous. Also, studies have shown that the young generation uses their smartphones more than desktops or laptops. Also, teenagers easily get bored and distracted. According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average attention span of a human has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2012. The average attention span of goldfish is 9 seconds. Hence, I began to research a mobile app that also has gamification features. I’ve talked to my advisor at university and we’ve come up with an idea that first I had better analyze the previous evaluations and criticism on mobile language learning apps. While I was working on my research, we were told to work from home. Most of my colleagues panicked as they had never taught online nor they had been aware of online teaching tools and pedagogy. Thus, I decided to write this post as a guide to those who are new to online teaching and educational technology.

Let’s start with the definition of online teaching. Although there is no exact definition, it is what people say it is, Tony Bates defines online teaching in his blog as follows: “Online learning is any form of learning conducted partly or wholly over the internet.” This is a simple but sufficient definition.

Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and significant use of online teaching especially outside the classroom. Blended learning can take 2 forms:

  1. Flipped learning: It is where students do preparation online before a face-to-face lesson (e.g., watching a video or doing the warm-up questions).
  2. Hybrid learning: It is where the whole classroom experience has been re-designed to focus on what an instructor thinks is best to be done online and what is best to be done face-to-face. In hybrid learning, students may spend up to 50% or more of their time learning online.

Is Online Teaching Worse Than Face-To-Face Traditional Teaching?

There have been a lot of studies that compare online teaching with a wide range of technological devices such as TVs, emails, radios, to face-to-face teaching. Studies find no or little significant difference in the modes of delivery, in terms of the effect on student learning or performance. For instance, Means et al. (2011), in a major meta-analysis of research on blended and online learning for the U.S. Department of Education, reported:

In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. When used by itself, online learning appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction, but not more so.

However, the most important thing influencing the effectiveness of online teaching and face-to-face teaching is how well they are done.

There are 6 different kinds of online learning such as:

  1. Online class notes
  2. Collaborative tools
  3. Recorded lectures (That’s what I do with my current institution during lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.)
  4. Webinars
  5. Instructionally designed online courses based on an LMS
  6. Designs based on open education and emerging technologies like social media, personal websites (blogs, vlogs, wikis, etc.)

How Should I Start Online Teaching?

Here are 4 steps that instructors and teachers who are new to online teaching can benefit from:

  1. Get help from professionals
    There must be a “distance education center” or an “online learning center” or an “IT department” at your institution. You should ask them for advice or they should contact you. This is because they are responsible for designing, adapting, and delivering Web 2.0 tools, platforms, LMS, and distance education.
  2. Get your department on-site
    Talk to the head of your department about what you think about “how-tos of online learning” and find out if there are colleagues in the department who are already doing online learning because collaboration makes it much easier and colleagues can encourage one another.
  3. Think about what kind of online course you are interested in
    Blended, hybrid, fully online, recorded lectures, or instructional systems design approach.
  4. Develop a work plan
    Your first online lectures will be more demanding and tiring as you are new. I strongly suggest using the ADDIE model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) while developing and implementing a course.

Here are the Web 2.0 tools by category which you can benefit from:

Blogging

A blog is an online content that is sorted by dates. It is most useful for regular columns or postings, like journals, newsletters, or records. Any online course or event should have an official blog (sometimes called a “mother blog”) for instructors’ or convenors’ announcements and comments. Blogging is also an excellent activity for course participants.

  • EduBlogs: WordPress based, free for education
  • MyClass: From EduBlogs, a tool for managing a class of student blogs
  • Blogger: Still free, still easy
  • Medium: A lot of tech blogs use this
  • Tumblr: A lot of art blogs use this
  • WordPress.com: There are also other WordPress hosting sites
  • (*) WordPress: User groups enable up to ten levels of users
  • Telegra.ph: Get content quickly and easily online (and then share via social networks)
  • Write.as: Decentralized blogging platform
  • Netlify: Create and maintain websites through GitHub, GitLab, or GitBucket (caution: not easy)

Learning Management Systems

An LMS is an application that will help you build a complete course online. It includes course content and usually educational extras like quizzes and surveys. There are some places where you can create a course for little or no cost. The main question to ask is: “Do I want to dedicate all my time and effort to a single system, or would it be better to use other services as I need them?”

Primary

  • ClassDojo: Designed for primary schools, free for teachers, even though it does not always make a note of the conference timing and who participated, including those who arrived/departed early or late
  • SeeSaw: For primary schools
  • Edmodo: Communication, collaboration, and coaching platform for K-12 schools and teachers

Higher Ed

  • Canvas: Course creation and importing, quizzing platform, grade book
  • MoodleCloud: Free hosting for Moodle
  • Lumen Learning: Announced free access to higher-ed professionals during the COVID-19 crisis

MOOC

  • Udemy: It helps you create and sell courses, though you can set them as “free.” The process steps you through course design, courses are reviewed
  • Open edX: Open-source MOOC platform used for edX and many other organizations
  • Coursera: An online MOOC platform that provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses

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