How Do Teachers Support Their Online Students?
March 3, 2023
The best online middle and high schools offer the same important educational features that the best brick and mortar schools do: experienced faculty, top-notch academics, enriching class discussions, strong community connections, a robust selection of extracurriculars, student leadership opportunities, access to academic support, and college guidance beginning in high school.
Unsurprisingly, the best and most experienced online teachers have their favorite tips, tools, and strategies to maximize online learning.
Read on to discover a few tried and true practices from respected faculty at the accredited, established, and highly ranked Dwight Global Online School.
Setting goals for their own teaching and learning
Online teaching and learning requires a different set of skills, and, just like anything else, excellence comes with practice and dedication.
Veteran teachers pursue professional development on every level. They set goals for their own teaching and continually work to improve. They learn new platforms and technologies, expand existing lessons, and create new ones. They self assess on a daily basis: What is working well? What needs tweaking?
Setting clear goals and expectations for their online students
Starting from the first day of the school year, effective teachers set clear goals and expectations for their online students. Comprehensive and easily understood rubrics, class overviews, book lists, syllabi, and classroom expectations are all key to online student success.
Prioritizing human connection
The best online teachers know that prioritizing human connection is essential, both between teacher and student, and between students themselves. They focus on connecting with students. They notice how students connect with the material, too.
Checking in frequently with students during class, and outside of class in tutorials, extracurriculars, and study periods goes a long way toward deepening and increasing human connection. Expert teachers do this every day.
Adapting curriculum and assessments
The best online teachers don’t simply transfer their in-person lessons to an online format; they adapt them for maximum impact. They apply lessons to the real world and use formative assessments to inform understanding. They remain focused on learning differences within each class and within the school community.
“Knowing your students is important in an online setting, and using real world examples deepens learning and increases connections,” said Nicole Hamilton, a founding teacher at Dwight Global.
As an example, Hamilton described a mathematics colleague who angled his camera so students could see a park bench outside his window. The class used the teacher’s real life surroundings to solve a math equation and calculate angles and distance.
Hamilton herself uses the technique. “I like to sew, and I plan to make a circle skirt and share the circumference calculations and sewing progress with my students while making it,” said Hamilton. “While using good digital hygiene and still preserving privacy, online teachers can now connect with students in a way we couldn't before.”
Balancing asynchronous and synchronous content
Veteran online teachers are masters of lesson planning for online teaching.
“Teachers at Dwight Global plan extensively for live lessons and know what material to reserve for asynchronous lessons,” said Renata Nikolayev, Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Head of World Languages at Dwight Global. “A balance of asynchronous and synchronous lessons is optimal. Long days exclusively on video conferencing creates eye strain and cognitive overload. We at Dwight Global are fortunate to have worked hard to strike the right balance. Planning for both live and asynchronous work takes more time and organization, but our faculty have measured experience, professional development opportunities and school support in all areas,” Nikolayev said.
“At Dwight Global, cameras are always on, unless a student has an exceptional circumstance, so teachers can gauge learning and understanding,” Nikolayev continued. “Teachers’ deep planning leads to meaningful lessons that meet students’ needs in creative, engaging, and pedagogically impressive ways.”
Communicating and providing daily feedback
Both verbal and written communication are key to supporting online students. Students learn best when they receive immediate feedback on skill development, homework, papers, projects, and class participation. Providing daily academic feedback is a foundation of good teaching everywhere.
Verbal feedback boosts student confidence and trust. Written feedback gives the student concrete ways to improve when revising or working on a new assignment.
Supportive teachers communicate regularly with the student’s family, too, with bi-annual parent-teacher conferences, emails, notes, or through management platforms available at the school.
Consistently offering choice
Choice is critical for maximizing different student learning styles. It allows for differentiation and provides for all students’ needs. Teachers who provide a variety of assessment choices, prompts, projects, and research topics allow students to delve into areas they are most interested in, vastly increasing engagement.
Providing choice also includes technology. Online teachers are masters at learning about new technology for teaching and learning, testing it out for themselves, and incorporating it into their classes. “It can be something as minor as finding and using a free online QR code creator, and then providing the QR code so students don’t have to type in a long, time-consuming URL,” said Dwight Global’s Nikolayev.
Promoting self care
Veteran teachers encourage students to take care of themselves, and they model good self care, too. They support online students in getting enough exercise, taking breaks between studying sessions, journaling, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and getting enough sleep are all integral aspects of self care.
Dwight Global offers blended classes for students grades 6 to 12. Dwight Global combines real-time online video conferencing seminars, Oxford-style tutorials, and a college-style schedule to provide students with the intimacy of an independent school coupled with the freedom to pursue their passions.