Five key competencies for successful digital teaching
From energising your class to encouraging collaboration, these tips from Carolina Lara Robles and Cynthia Enciso Centeno will help make your online classes a success
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Technology can be hugely helpful for educators, but it must always come alongside learning and development – and for beginners especially, this can be a tricky path to navigate. However, many simple digital competencies are available to tutors that can help achieve this end via means such as making classes more dynamic, providing effective monitoring and learning how to integrate innovative digital content.
Here, we list five key competencies that will help you (and your students) thrive in digital scenarios.
1. Energise and activate your class
When you clearly encourage participation and enable active learning experiences in your classes, students are far more likely to achieve meaningful and self-managed learning. To energise your class, you can try the following key actions:
- Establish the journey from the start by telling students “what we will see today”, so they know what to expect and how to prepare. You might want to design a presentation with brief explanations supported by tools such as Nearpod, Genially or Visme.
- Create learning experiences that are close to real and professional life. These might include case methods, collaborative learning and project-oriented learning.
- Set simple, enjoyable challenges that enable active work and participation, such as plenary discussions, debates and knowledge testing through quizzes.
- Constantly ask questions in class to help maintain interest and participation among students; avoid passivity as much as possible.
- Monitor the clock to carry out concise sessions and ensure you are using time efficiently.
2. Manage your group and time effectively from a distance
Managing groups through media such as Zoom, Webex, Teams, Google Meet, Classroom can be a challenge when facing the fatigue and routine that their constant use can engender.
Therefore, regardless of which video-conferencing tool you use, implement strategies to optimise its use, such as:
- Cut expository time to 20 minutes. The rest of the time can be used for individual or collaborative practical experiences, solving problems and cases, questions and putting knowledge into practice.
- Integrate tools to activate participation and collaboration through a virtual whiteboard such as Padlet or Miro, which allow for teamwork and simultaneous sharing of projects.
- Explore different types of participation. Due to the difficulty that group participation can sometimes represent, consider other types of intervention, such as the chat function, using an avatar to speak without turning on the camera or posting FAQs in Google Drive.
3. Encourage communication and collaboration
When you need to implement collaborative learning as the key axis of an online course or class, follow these recommendations to ensure an effective combination of communication and collaboration:
- Encourage teamwork. You can promote activities among peers or teams that develop joint learning through breakout rooms.
- Give voice to all members. Choose didactic techniques that allow the participation of all members. For example, role-playing assigns a different role to each student as they work towards the same objective.
- Establish weekly methods to measure the progress achieved by students. This avoids frustration and overload, in addition to promoting action plans in case of delays.
4. Create your digital content
Integrate both created and curated content into classroom sessions. If you have never curated content, follow these three simple steps to do it successfully:
- Search for relevant, up-to-date, reliable content – physical or digital – according to the subject matter that will be addressed in class, using open educational resource search engines.
- Analyse the content available and select only the highest quality.
- Share the selected content and resources.
If, on the other hand, you are looking to create digital content, these tips will help you:
- Plan the subject matter and the objective you want to achieve.
- Choose the format based on the type of content you will create – for example, text, video, infographics or presentation.
- Develop the content as necessary to add value to what has been designed.
- Maintain a structure throughout your resource or content: beginning, development, closing.
- Remember to use simple language. Be brief and concise, and be impeccable with spelling, grammar and writing.
5. Provide effective feedback
Providing timely, flexible and frequent feedback is necessary for continuous improvement. The frequency of this feedback should be scheduled according to the needs of the students, maintaining constant vigilance to prevent it from being given only at the end of the learning process.
Feedback can be focused on processes, products and attitudes and should be given in oral and written form. Use a guided format or structure that allows focus on areas of opportunity that can be corrected. Remember to highlight successes and guide the student to fulfilling their objectives.
The key challenge when working digitally is to continue transforming ourselves. The inclusion of technology can be critical to the success of your teaching work. Therefore, we suggest you develop the competencies above, and others, to benefit students, who are redefining their academic needs according to educational contexts.
Carolina Lara Robles and Cynthia Enciso Centeno are both specialists in pedagogical accompaniment and instructional design, educational innovation and digital learning at Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico.
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