Having transitioned to online learning and teaching last year, and teaching in a blended learning environment this year, I have experienced both benefits and challenges to online learning and teaching.
The time I spent rethinking instructional design and prioritizing learner outcomes was definitely time well spent. I also found myself being much more intentional in how I communicated effectively with students.
The following is what I put together to share with those new to our program this year, I call it the 4 C’s for communication.
- Be curious about your students and their situation. This will allow you to understand what you will need to provide them in order to help them be successful.
- Be clear in your directions. Break things down. Visualize what this will look like and imagine yourself as a parent or student working through it. Make sure your instructions are step by step. Predict questions and know your plan.
- Be consistent with what you ask. Less is more. You can add instructions/activities along the way but changing what you have communicated will likely result in confusion and lead to frustration.
- Be confident. These are your students. You are leading them on this academic journey. Trust in yourself and your abilities. There is no perfect program or script – the magic is in the interaction between you, your students, their families and the materials you provide. You’re also not alone… we are all here to support each other!
I think that sometimes in an outreach setting, students come in because they need somewhere to physically be. The motivation is the space and the trade-off letting us teach them! Our participation rate with our online efforts can be quite low.
Another big challenge is how to deliver programs focused on building skillsets for students experiencing mental health and behavioural challenges that will allow them to find success interacting and navigating social interactions and settings. It is much harder to practice this when we aren’t able to create that social setting.
Lastly, I love the energy that is created during face-to-face interactions. I love how by simply being physically close to a struggling student I can help them regulate themselves and find relaxation. I find that I really need to focus on the benefits and how relationships can be just as strong and we can be just as connected virtually. Otherwise, I find myself missing opportunities due to grieving the loss of our pre-COVID teaching world.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences as well!