Digital Engagement – Online Classroom Management
- August 31, 2018
- Posted by: tgpanthadmin
- Category: Resources
Online classrooms (sometimes called “virtual classrooms”) are an increasingly popular tool for educators and administrators. They create a degree of flexibility which is harder to achieve in person, allowing instructors to work in multiple locations and allowing schools and community based organizations to source instructors from all over the country. While the technology has existed for years, it has not been rapidly adopted. Managing an online classroom presents new challenges for instructors, and educators across the country are still inventing strategies and innovating to make this new format work for their students.
The online classroom differs from the traditional classroom in a few key ways.
- Size – Traditional classrooms house between 15 and 30 students. Because the cost is less restrictive, digital classrooms often facilitate smaller groups for instruction ranging from one-on-one tutoring to groups of 4-6 students.
- Engagement – Traditional classrooms most commonly require verbal engagement from students. Students benefit from learning to speak up for themselves, however this tends to privilege a certain personality type. Digital classrooms allow students to type messages to their teacher or entire class, and to participate in activities on an interactive whiteboard.
- Materials – Physical classrooms are often very paper-centric, while a teacher in a digital classroom is more likely to email files to their students, or display materials on an interactive white board where the student and teacher can annotate a document or sold problems together.
One of the biggest challenges of online classroom management is expressing firm expectations about engagement. Many instructors are accustomed to the disciplinary measures common to the traditional classroom, adapting to the online classroom can be a challenge. In the digital classroom private messaging can often supplement other disciplinary measures and preclude problems before they grow to be unmanageable. If your student appears to be drifting, or you see their face glowing from the light of their phone, send them a personal message. “Is everything okay today? Do you need a quick break and then we’ll get back to focusing?” This kind of private attention can be really helpful, and avoids the pitfall of appearing to shame the student in front of their peers.
One of the biggest surprises of working in an online classroom is discovering that many students express a preference for digital learning. It’s hard to say why this is, some speculate that younger digital natives simply feel more comfortable in an online setting. Another possibility is that smaller group sizes and a focus on the teacher’s video feed alleviate some of the social anxiety associated with traditional classrooms. As an instructor you must leverage that comfort and enjoyment to ensure that your students stay engaged and voice their questions and concerns throughout each lesson.
Online classrooms can be a great supplement for students with specific learning needs that are difficult to address in a mainstream classroom. A school can greatly improve its graduation rate by allocating these resources to small targeted groups of students who are behind grade level and need Regents to graduate. A school can also greatly expand their non-requirement fulfilling options for students who are excelling by bringing in instructors to teach niche topics that may be difficult to staff on site, such as foreign languages that aren’t currently offered or unique STEM offerings. Educators and administrators alike should be conscious of the value that they can bring to their students in an online classroom.