How to Prepare for an Online Class

student preparing for an online class

Online class is not what it’s cracked up to be.

With the new normal becoming the catchphrase everywhere due to the pandemic, new ways of doing things emerge. Virtual learning has now taken center stage. Education bodies are pushing for this more than ever, as transformation in learning environment gains traction with a new sense of urgency.

Your school/college may request you to teach online to ensure continuous learning process. At least, until the situation is deemed safe for students to return to respective institutions.

You may run a learning center, or you may be a tutor with the noble intention to provide supplementary learning experience for students during this quarantine time.

Either scenario, you would have been pumped to start the virtual classroom experience right away.

Online Class: Expectation vs. Reality

You thought you have it all figured out. BUT…..

Come the day itself, everything simply goes sideways. Bad Internet connections. Students can’t hear you. Your laptop speaker won’t cooperate. Students complain “This is too basic for me! I’m leaving this class”. You complain “Why is everyone so quiet? Am I just talking to myself?” The nightmare goes on!

If you thought the same preparation should be done like you would a traditional classroom setting, then you are wrong.

Problems like not able to login to the conferencing app, poor audio/video quality, and unable to grab students’ attention are common in online classes.

Worse, it could leave a bad impression on your students, making them lose interest in online learning. You could also be affected in that you lose confidence in organizing and teaching in this virtual setting.

The Online Class Preparation Checklist

To avoid these problems, here is a checklist that you can refer to when planning for your online class:

1) Technology platform

This is the web conferencing platform to host the learning session. As you would be using this medium to teach, you need to familiarize yourself first with the tools available. I mean, would you simply operate a forklift without reading the manual first?

It’s such a turn-off when you’re online in front of your class but you’re still fumbling around, figuring things out as you go along. So, it’s better that you prepare ahead of time by learning the features of the web conferencing app.

Most popular web conferencing apps such as Zoom and Google Meet have features that can help with the learning process such as screen-sharing, white-boarding, and chatting. For noise control, you can mute or unmute selected or all students too. One of Google Meet’s latest features can filter out disruptive noise.

It’s also prudent to allocate some time at the start of the class to introduce the functionalities to your students as this may be their first time using the app.

2) Size of the class

This determines the most effective type of interaction with your students.

If you have 10 or less, it can be more interactive. You can have more direct engagement with your students and allocate more time for them to pose questions.

If it’s more than 10, it could be more towards 1-way interaction. Students can make use of the chat functionality, and you need to diligently go through the conversation in the chat window to ensure all questions are covered.

Of course, if you have 100 participants, you can use the approach of choosing certain types of questions only.

3) Duration

This is closely linked to the number of students joining the class. For example, a normal 1.5-hour class should be extended to 2 hours if you have 20–30 participants joining to allow for more interaction.

By the same token, you can just allocate 1 hour for participants numbering 10 or less as you should be able to interact with all of them within a shorter time.

4) Topics to be covered

It’s a good practice to come up with the topics and subtopics, and share them in advance with your students. These can include materials such as notes, exercise questions, or slide deck so they can prepare and know what to expect.

This gives an avenue to students to voice out if there are other elements that need to be covered within the topics so that you prepare accordingly.

A tutor I know even stated the flow of her session — where the first 30 minutes is on theory explanation, next 15 minutes on test-taking techniques, and the last 15 minutes for fielding questions from students.

5) Teaching method

It is more challenging to keep your students interested in your lesson when you are not physically present in front of them. However, you can adopt the same tactics as you would for a physical class to pique their interest.

The teaching method that makes use of the 4 sensory receivers, VARK (Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic) can be applied here. You can vary your teaching methods throughout the session to grab the attention of all these 4 learners.

For example, use Charts and Pictures for the Visual learners.

Encourage note-taking to gain the interest of those who learn via Read/Write.

Facilitate discussions so you can grab the attention of the Auditory learners.

Also, incorporate hands-on learning to accommodate those who are Kinesthetic learners by getting them to demonstrate the theory you have taught using the screen sharing facility.

And don’t forget the element of surprise. Call out your students randomly to ask them questions. That should keep them on their toes!

6) 15–30 mins before class

To avoid unforeseen connection issues, it’s best that you login to the app 15–30 mins before class.

Use this time to do proper sound and visual checks. Have your physical materials ready and within your sight so you don’t blunder when class is in session.

You should also encourage your students to login earlier too to check connections at their end. If there’s a problem, you would have known right away and can start initiating a back-up plan. (which brings us to the final point!)

7) Always, always have a back-up plan

Any back-up plan is acceptable, so long you plan and prepare for its eventuality.

One that is the most sensible and least disruptive is to switch to another conferencing app (which you have tried and tested). Prior research can help in deciding the most suitable one. Ideally, it should not require upfront software installation by your students so you don't waste any more time.

If all else fails, there is also a choice to reschedule the session but of course, this is the least desirable.

All Systems Go!

Once you have checked all the components above, you can start teaching in your online classroom smoothly and with the confidence that your students will benefit from it.

Are you excited to join the online class bandwagon? Make sure you go through the checklist above and, you’re good to go!

Originally published at on May 2, 2020.

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