Online vs Physical Class – What Changes and Why

Most teachers would approach the online medium very functionally i.e. a way to transfer ways of physical teaching, online. In this mode, we would be interested in how the medium can allow us to do things we normally do in the classroom. Tasks include:

  1. How can I take attendance?
  2. How can I write or present on a “board”?
  3. How will students see and hear me?
  4. How will students interact with me?
  5. How do I share materials with my class?
  6. How can I give homework and receive submissions?
  7. How can I administer objective tests?
  8. How can I grade written submissions?
  9. How do I keep track of class progress?
  10. How do I receive and answer student doubts? What about class discussions?
  11. How do I keep students engaged and happy?

Some new affordances of the online medium that we would learn in due course:

  1. Recording the class so that students who missed it can view it later
  2. Conducting polls and quizzes in class periodically and tracking interest and progress
  3. Creating/sourcing new content and uploading to the class
  4. (maybe) Splitting the class into groups using breakout rooms
  5. Controlling who can participate (audio/video controls, chat controls, moderating forums etc.)
  6. Using external apps (e.g. like Kahoot) to spice up the classroom engagement

Some of the things we would struggle with:

  1. The online distance with students (can’t see them, their visible emotions easily or at all)
  2. The learning curve for using new tools
  3. Availability of good content
  4. Bandwidth and reliability of the experience (lags, disconnects, power failures etc.)

Depending upon the tools and platforms we are using, and on our methods of teaching-learning, we would adapt our teaching style to the online medium and learn the ropes within a few classes. After that, practice would make us perfect.

There. We did that. We transferred our practices online and learnt a few tools and best practices of the online medium on the way. We innovated and practiced, till we settled down. Not a very different process from the time we started teaching with chalk and duster – getting to understand the tools available, the formats and methods of teaching, the content, instruments to track progress and techniques to keep students engaged – but placed online.

And all of these are really important. But is this all there is to online teaching? Not really. It is actually a very small piece of what you could do online. When you actually transition to real online teaching and learning, you will see how limited these methods are in the online context.

More in the next post. Keep reading!

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