Last year, remote teaching suddenly got pushed into the limelight as the contingency plan for educational institutions but also for many independent educators who were forced to move their activities online. Needless to say, it wasn’t a smooth transition. But necessity is the mother of invention, and we came a long way, both in terms of technology and best practices. Time to compile a complete guide to remote teaching.
- What is remote teaching?
- Remote teaching best practices
- How to teach remotely in 7 steps
- 7 best free tools for remote teaching
- Remote Teaching with Kaltura Virtual Classroom
- The future of remote teaching
What Is Remote Teaching
Remote teaching (remote instruction, online teaching, …) is a form of instruction that occurs outside the physical classroom, in an online environment. The teacher and student(s) are separated in space and often also time (live vs. on-demand courses).
The remote teaching industry is well over 20 years old but developed drastically with the 2020 pandemic. Today, online instruction is no longer limited to academia but has pervaded in many industries as the training method of choice. In fact, 90% of corporations have shifted to this mode of learning. In 1995, that percentage was only 4%.
The benefits of remote teaching reach well beyond being merely a temporary solution to secure education and training in times of social distancing. Let’s review a few of the biggest advantages remote instruction and virtual classrooms hold for both students and instructors:
- Remote teaching is convenient and flexible: Since remote teaching is time and location independent, you can organize your classes when it best suits you and your students, from wherever you want.
- Remote teaching is affordable: Virtual classrooms are more cost-efficient than renting a brick-and-mortar location. You and your students also save on the commute and classroom materials like multimedia, paper, projectors, …. This can potentially also enable you to keep the price of your courses lower for the students.
- Remote teaching is accessible: Remote teaching is more accessible in many ways. Foremost, because it is location independent, students aren’t limited by distance and will have an easier time fitting the course into their busy schedules. But remote teaching is also more inclusive of the differently-abled (font size and volume can be increased, captions can be activated, …).
- Remote teaching is personalized and self-paced: Remote teaching caters to different learning styles. The learning is mostly self-paced, which makes the experience more efficient and pleasant for the student.
- Remote teaching saves time: Remote teaching and learning saves time, and not only on the commute. According to research, e-learning takes 40% to 60% less time to complete.
- Remote teaching creates community: Remote teaching allows for easier communication and better connections with students, thanks to the characteristics and possibilities of digital. The better virtual classroom software provides communication and moderation tools that foster healthy and structured discussion, be it one-on-one or in-group. With smart usage of chats, message boards, and social media groups, you can create a community that stays active beyond class time.
We can list more benefits and the internet holds a library of articles and research on that topic. But remote teaching also comes with a set of challenges. Understanding these challenges will help you develop solutions and workarounds.
- Keeping students motivated: 42% of students found it challenging to stay motivated while remote learning during the pandemic. Taking courses from a screen can cause disconnection and loneliness. It can put the student in a more passive role. This could cause the student to lose motivation. It is therefore important to help the student play an active role in class. Diversifying your course content, activities, and methods can also help keep your students alert and motivated. Step away from the 1-hour talking head and use multimedia to enrich your class. Encourage collaboration through digital whiteboards, quizzing, polling, presentations, group discussions, breakout groups, etc.
- Evaluating student work and engagement: Physical distance makes it hard to assess whether a student has properly assimilated the new knowledge. Your best bet is to look at participation, projects, open-book exams, and quizzing to test your students’ comprehension. In today’s “search culture”, the accent shouldn’t be as much on memorizing knowledge, but rather on the application of that knowledge.
- Instructor training: Successfully delivering online courses starts with teaching the teacher. A well-designed online teaching platform is easy and intuitive to use. The use of your teaching tools should become second nature before you start your first online class. You don’t want to fiddle with the software and search for features while your students are waiting. Don’t let the technology interrupt the flow of the lesson. Remote teaching is also different in many ways from traditional teaching methods. Make sure you design your course and set your goals in a way that fits the online environment. The present article will help. You can also check out these 9 rules for being a good online teacher.
- Making sure no student is left out because of technology issues: Connection issues or access to technology are problems that you don’t have in your hand as a teacher. It is nevertheless important to understand that these can form showstopping obstacles for some students. Be available to help your (less tech-savvy) students overcome tech and connection issues and think of a plan B.
- Dependency on technology: A big challenge of remote teaching lies in the very engine that drives this teaching method: technology. Many things can go wrong with it. A student might not be able to join, your virtual classroom platform might miss essential features to support the course you designed or might be downright unreliable, you don’t know how to make the most of the tools at hand, or, simply enough, your internet connection is down. This dependency on technology means you’ll have to think of contingency plans and go through a learning process that will enable you to troubleshoot issues quickly and minimize the risk of showstoppers.
But more on that in the next section.
Remote Teaching Best Practices
Best practices for remote teaching will mainly focus on eliminating or at least reducing its challenges while helping you embrace all its benefits. With that in mind, here is a list of 7 best practices to help you build an online course that will benefit both your students and yourself.
- Invest in a reliable and feature-rich online teaching platform.
For a split second, I hesitated whether to leave this point last for dramatic effect or to put it first because your online course can stand or fall with it. I decided to put it first. It is just too important. A reliable and feature-rich online teaching platform is the foundation on which you will build your course. Don’t be limited by the tools you use. Make sure you put in the time to properly research what you need, and which platform will help you grow your remote teaching business, rather than impede it. Verify that the platform of your choice is reliable, user-friendly, and, most of all, purpose-built for teaching online. Check out our section below, “Remote Teaching with Kaltura Virtual Classroom” to find out how Kaltura’s online teaching platform can help.
Set up a well-organized virtual classroom
Setting up a well-organized virtual classroom means two things. First, learning materials, objectives, and agendas are neatly planned and prepared ahead of the class session. Second, all materials, practical information, and links are accessible to students in their appropriate and known locations. Remember that student engagement can be a harder nut to crack in an online environment than in in-person classes. Preparation and organization are key in keeping the session flowing and interesting.
Diversify your learning experiences
Keep your students engaged and address all possible types of learners with diversified learning experiences. Provide your learners with a blend of contrasting methods: group work vs individual mentoring, synchronous vs asynchronous learning, lecturing vs. discussion, talking head vs. gamification and use of media, et cetera.
Apply visible thinking
When Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church wrote their book The Power of Making Thinking Visible they wanted “not only to get our students to think but also to understand that thinking process as it is unfolding so that we can support it, prompt it, and grow it.” Visible thinking is a powerful concept in remote teaching. It helps you assess what students know and how they think through specific activities, called ‘visible thinking routines.’ There are many such routines available on the internet. A simple Google search will help you find thinking routines that you can integrate into your course.
Building community with students, among students, and with families is an essential part of a successful online course. It will help you build personal relationships with your students. These personal relationships will help you deepen your understanding of your learners’ learning processes. But it will also help your students forward through peer support and collaboration outside of the classroom.
Building community can create a better learning environment at the students’ homes, by including their families. You’ll need two things to build community. First, you will need communication and collaboration technology (online learning platform, video conferencing software, email, social channels). Then you will have to jump-start the whole thing with community-building activities such as teamwork outside of the classroom time, virtual happy hours, etc.
Hold regular virtual office hours.
One of the main causes for student churn in remote teaching is the feeling that no one’s really there on the other side of the screen. This perceived inaccessibility can quickly lead to students feeling detached and isolated.
But this can work in the opposite direction, too. The lack of visual cues or interaction outside the classroom session paints a very incomplete picture of your student’s performance and needs.
Holding regular virtual office hours will open a crucial feedback channel between your students and you that will benefit both while humanizing an otherwise digital relationship.
Set clear virtual classroom rules for your students
If you host larger groups of students, it will be helpful to set up a few rules and expectations that will contribute to the class culture you are hoping to create. Even if you teach adults, a few ground rules about in-class communication and clear expectations will make your classes more productive.
How to Teach Remotely in 7 Steps
Organization and structure are key to successfully teach online. So, let’s explore a few key steps that will help you create a great experience for your students and yourself. We won’t cover the topics of how to find students and promote your course, because that very much depends on your case. The first four steps cover an initial setup, while the latter three are repeated for each session.
Set up a course plan
Let’s lay the foundation for your course. What are your objectives for yourself and your students? How will you realize those objectives in a remote setting? What are the time frames within which you plan to complete the course with your students? What is your budget for materials and software? How and when will you hold office hours? These are some of the most important questions you’ll need to answer in your course plan.
Build your course
As an expert in your field, you know best how to build a course that will educate your audience on your subject. But let’s see how you can effectively translate your course to a virtual learning environment. Keep the following points in mind:
- Create the right blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Theory and lectures can be delivered asynchronously so the students can learn at a time that suits them best and playback parts when needed. Discussions, group work, demonstrations, and Q&As will require synchronous delivery.
- Collect and curate high-quality multimedia course material: online videos, presentations, sound files, images, etc.
- Think digital when you plan in-session activities. Leverage technology by planning your activities around breakout rooms, digital whiteboards, live quizzes and polls, and visible thinking routines.
Set up your virtual classroom and other platforms
Now that you’ve finished your course plan and design, you should have a clear idea of what you’ll need in terms of digital infrastructure. Make sure you take your time to research the most reliable and flexible virtual classroom software for your budget. Also, verify that it can support all the activities and technical requirements you detailed in your course and plan.
Of course, we highly recommend you look into Kaltura Virtual Classroom, the most complete, flexible, and robust virtual classroom on the market! No matter which platform you use, make sure to get thoroughly acquainted with its features to minimize fiddling with tech during your online class session.
Set up your peripheral platforms too: social accounts, productivity apps, games, etc.
Organize your “studio”
Remote teaching technically means you should be able to teach from your kitchen table or even a park bench. We advise against it, for the sake of your image and the quality of your sessions. Choose a quiet location in your house with a professional and non-distracting background. Make sure everyone in your house knows you are not to be disturbed during session hours, including your pooch.
A few quick wins to improve your audio and video stream:
- Close your window and turn off the AC to avoid background noise
- Use an external microphone like the Blue Yeti, a Shure SM58, or pretty much anything by Rode.
- Make sure you are not backlit (no window or strong light behind you)
- Add a pleasing front or sidelight (check out the LED lights in your local photography store)
- Distance between you and your background tends to create a more pleasing image so don’t sit right in front of a wall.
- Don’t stare at your own thumbnail during the session. Make sure to regularly look straight into your camera.
Prepare your session
This is stating the obvious to teachers. But on top of the usual prep, remote teaching requires a few extra steps. Not in the least a thorough tech check. Is your connection working? Is all your studio gear ready to go live?
Do you have your playlists ready? Will you be creating breakout rooms for this session? Are there any open questions that students asked you via email or social that you should address about the previous session before starting the next one? Do you need to remind your students about the upcoming session or about the prep work they need to do prior to the session?
Understand the differences between in-person and remote teaching and adapt your teaching style accordingly. Think of ways to humanize the connection and stimulate active participation to counter the challenges of online teaching.
Run quick polls during the lesson to gauge students’ opinions and stimulate discussion. Enrich your lessons with relevant multimedia material. Keep the students leaning forward by having them collaborate over a digital whiteboard and do small group work in breakout rooms. Use the chat or the hand-raise function for student questions. Let students take the stage when relevant.
Remote teaching is all about embracing technology, applying the right blend of learning methods, and engaging students. Set up activities that foster thinking and help them apply new knowledge.
Assessment is key to growth, both for you and your students. You should continuously evaluate your student’s progress and the effectiveness of the service you offer.
Evaluating students online
Assessing student progress online is a bit trickier than in person. Luckily, you can use digital tools and adapted methods. A fun and dynamic way to test knowledge gain is through online quizzes and polls. But you can also run more elaborate assessments such as dialogue simulations, online interviews, essay questions, peer evaluation, and games.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your course
The best way to evaluate your online course is to measure your students’ actual progress against the objectives you set in your course plan. But you can also directly ask for feedback from students through a form or a 1-on-1 conversation during office hours. Generally, keep your eyes and ears open for ad hoc feedback from students about technology, the course material, and your pedagogical approach. Have a dedicated file where you can save these comments.
Assessment and your online classroom platform
The better online classroom platforms (like Kaltura Virtual Classroom) will help you assess course effectiveness and student engagement through advanced learning metrics such as attention indicators and engagement analytics.
5 Best Free Tools for Remote Teaching
The internet bursts with apps, websites, and platforms that you could use to enrich your online course, many of them free of charge. The following 5 tools are worth looking into:
When you think of free videos to use in your online course, your first impulse will take you to YouTube. Have you met TED? TED offers a huge library of interesting and inspiring talks about the most diverse topics by experts in the field. TED also has an education-focused library called TED-Ed with hundreds of animated lessons and ideas from teachers and students around the world. A perfect conversation starter!
Google Docs is an excellent and versatile platform to use. It provides a word processor, spreadsheet, and slide presentation software, that rival the Microsoft Suite. What’s great is that it is centralized and accessible with permission management. You can use it to store course material, have the students collaborate on shared documents, and save their own docs as well.
An original approach to student projects, recording sound or podcasts. You can do so with Spotify’s Soundtrap. This online recording platform offers a free plan that is more than enough for simple sound recording. Soundtrap also comes with a mobile app, which makes it easy to send students out in the field to record. They can then edit and collaborate on their recording before sharing.
Book Creator can also be a fun idea for student projects. This easy-to-use platform is built for real-time collaboration. It offers a library of templates and a host of fun features to create and publish books, newspapers, and magazines online.
Evernote is a free notetaking and note-organizing app. Both you and your students can use it to collect notes, images, links, video files, etc. Evernote keeps all your files neatly organized, centralized, and accessible within the app. You could use Evernote as a platform for collaborative activities. For instance, you could set up a scavenger hunt where students collect sources and media from the internet into Evernote notebooks that can then be evaluated and discussed in class.
Remote Teaching with Kaltura Virtual Classroom
As we wrote earlier, your virtual classroom solution is the infrastructure that will support your online course. Make it the most robust, flexible, and reliable solution that you can find for your budget.
Kaltura Virtual Classroom is a leading remote teaching solution, purpose-built for education. It is used by some of the most renowned academic institutions in the world to reach millions of students every day. Kaltura Virtual Classroom works as a standalone product, perfect for individual educators, or integrated with the Learning Management System (LMS) of your institution.
Let’s review the features that make Kaltura such an obvious choice for so many educators, institutions, and organizations.
Reliable and flexible
Engaging millions of students daily, Kaltura is a highly robust platform built for scale and reliability. Its open-source philosophy and many customization options mean you can fully adapt the platform to your needs.
Built for teaching and learning
Kaltura enjoys longstanding expertise in the field of education. We continuously research and develop solutions to counter the challenges of online teaching and learning. Kaltura Virtual Classroom’s rich suite of features is built to boost and improve student engagement, efficient learning, and digital collaboration and communication.
No one wants to plow through manuals and training. Kaltura Virtual Classroom’s intuitive user interface lets you set up your session in no time. In-session features are activated in a click for minimal interruption or distraction.
All the features you need for A-Z remote teaching
Your online teaching platform should fully support your educational methods and ideas. Kaltura provides all the features you need to achieve course success your way:
- persistent and branded classrooms
- collaborative whiteboards
- quizzes and polls
- chat and moderation tools
- breakout rooms
- cloud recording
- video editing tools
- advanced analytics
- screen sharing
- interactive video paths
These are just some of the features that will help you create the best online course possible.
Kaltura fully protects your content and your privacy with the latest in internet security: data encryption, HTTPS streaming, session control, and tokenized URLs, DRM support (Digital Rights Management), forensic watermarking, etc.
As the administrator of the virtual classroom, you also have full control over who accesses your content and stream, with full user permission and roles management, SSO compliance, and even a virtual door lock feature.
One of the big advantages of online teaching is the availability of data. Kaltura Virtual Classroom harnesses data through advanced and granular metrics about engagement, session, attendance, and attention to help you assess student progress as well as the performance of your session.
38% of online students use their mobile devices to complete course-related tasks. That’s why Kaltura Virtual Classroom is optimized for seamless performance on any device. But accessibility also means the inclusion of any learner. Kaltura complies with 508, CVAA, and WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards through features such as translation, captioning, audio descriptions, etc.
The Future of Remote Teaching
Remote teaching has been around for a few decades, but the 2020 pandemic truly accelerated its development and worldwide adoption. Many people were convinced that virtual classrooms were no more than a makeshift solution until social distancing restrictions would be lifted.
However, the advantages of online learning, as opposed to traditional in-person education, simply could not be ignored. Online learning when done well is more inclusive, flexible, accommodating, effective, time-saving, and affordable than its physical counterpart. It can be more engaging and more personal as well if you use the right tools and methods.
For all these reasons and more, online learning and remote teaching are here to stay. The industry and market show all the right signs. Even as we approach the end of the pandemic, academic institutions are increasing their online learning efforts. In a recent survey commissioned by Kaltura, 68% of education professionals around the world were in favor of blending face-to-face education with virtual innovations, once life gets back to normal.
But also in the private sector, many companies will continue to operate a remote workforce and implement hybrid workplaces. Corporate training will therefore continue to be delivered online. In fact, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies rely on e-learning for their employee training programs.
From a learner’s perspective, people quickly got used to searching for and taking courses online. In our busy schedules, online learning and mobile learning (or M learning) make much more sense. Consequentially, learning platforms and virtual classes are booming.
Whether you are a remote teacher linked to an academic institution, a corporate trainer, or a freelance private teacher, these are golden times for you. And with the right attitude, tools, and methods, you can seize this opportunity to build a great career for yourself!
Ready to launch your online course? Try Kaltura Virtual Classroom for free!