Online Learning: Short Guide for Professors

Knowledge is potentially infinite, yet here we are required to impart it without the familiar context of seminar rooms and lecture halls. Previous distance-learning failures, endless technological options, expectations to use every available online tool and administrative pressure influence the culture of online learning. Online classes have proved difficult for students and professors, alike and as the first generation of digital professors we have to consider a confluence of factors.

Innovate, Renew, Transform

Knowledge is a distributed and collective phenomenon that emerges at the juncture amongst people. Knowledge stems from cooperation and is imparted through the psychological contract between the student and the professor. The professor who has gathered knowledge within years is morally obliged to impart it to the following generations.

However, the present-day professor also has to transfer the knowledge into the online sphere. This process is not facile. As our students’ brains have been rewired through increased digitalization and social media and their neurotransmitters react differently than those of the past generations, we must adapt our instruction system.

The professor must summarize, rewrite and ensure that the content applies to the next generation. Whilst buzzwords such as gamification has taken over the online learning world, professors should remember to always prioritize substance over style, passion over apathy and hope over fear.

Introduce Online Learning

Remember that your world changed and so did the world of your students. Explain how online learning works, the parameters of the activities, teaching and assessment methods. Redefine your role as an instructor and their role as students. Make sense of the transition chaos through increased transparency and clarity. Whilst you are teaching students to take charge of their studies, you are equally supporting them in taking charge of their lives.

Macromanage and Engage Students

Make students responsible for their learning process. It is an opportune time for students to be proactive rather than reactive. Students can have the life-changing realization that they created something competent even in tumultuous circumstances. Therefore, you need to know when to recede into the background and allow students to do their job, namely to learn.

Exceptional teachers can deliver the best educational experience for their students while receiving the best from their students in return. As an adept online instructor, you have to learn when to observe quietly and allow students to think through and apply the tools you provided them to succeed. Students can learn how to set and track learning objectives, monitor their progress, self-evaluate and evaluate their peers’ engagement.

Implement a Learning Management System

Learning management systemsonline learning platforms and course platforms will become integrated into our routine in the post-pandemic world. An online course platform is a learning management system that online instructors can use to create, host, deliver and sell online courses. Alternatively, course platforms are cloud-hosted software that allow instructors to create online classes or individual lessons uploading education material that they have created using various media types. When choosing a learning management system, consider budget, the number of users, integration, license type, responsive learning and mobile variations and customization options.

Avoid Zoom Fatigue

Zoom fatigue is a prevalent umbrella term that encompasses the tiredness or burnout associated with overusing virtual communication platforms, especially videoconferencing. The factors contributing to Zoom fatigue are complicated and multidimensional.  For instance, millisecond delays in virtual verbal responses affect interpersonal perception, which are further impacted by technical issues. Also, an increased tendency to virtual multitask threatens everyone’s attentional capacity. To counteract fatigue for yourself and for your students implement a hybrid method of knowledge-sharing that combines video, audio, e-mail and written material.

Step into the Future

Great teaching is about connection and passion for the subject. In this context, simplicity always wins and your main focus is to be understood through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Several discussion strategies transition well from the classroom to video chats whilst digital tools enhance others.  Whatever tools you chose, remember that they exist to support your teaching and not the other way around.

As professors, we always teach about the great innovators that made their mark of the domain of interest. At this time, we are the innovators responsible for renewing, remodeling and sharing value for the generations to come who will be learning in the digital environment.