Setting students up for success is a top priority at the start of a new school year. You want your students to be engaged and excited from the get-go, and to create a class they are going to talk about — for the right reasons. But that can be easier said than done. Teachers face challenges — obstacles that keep K-12 online teachers from starting their course off on the right foot.
QM’s K-12 Program Director Christine Voelker has seen these challenges firsthand and offers some insights and solutions.
What challenges do K-12 teachers face at the beginning of a new class?
There are many obstacles teachers may face at the beginning of a new class or school year. Here are just a few:
- They don’t have enough time. Often, teachers do not have enough time to get to know the course and curriculum. This is especially true if it is a teacher’s first time teaching that particular course.
- The class isn’t finished. If a teacher is building his/her online course from scratch, it may not be finished before it begins. You can’t build an airplane while it is being flown. It is the same for your online course. Make sure it is complete from start to finish.
- New students enrolling. Often times new students enroll throughout the first couple of weeks of school. This can cause a distraction or extra work for the teacher.
- Creating relationships. In an online class it can be difficult for teachers to get to know their students and make them feel welcome.
- Building a feeling of community. In addition to building individual relationships with students, teachers must also face the challenge of creating a sense of community and helping the students connect with each other.
- Helping students find their way. It can be hard to set the course up right — to make sure students know how to navigate the online course and find the resources they need.
What are some solutions for those challenges?
Thankfully, there are several things that teachers can do to overcome these challenges and help set their students up for success from the get-go. Here are some ideas they can start implementing now:
- Complete your course. In order for students to have a clear vision for the course and the expected learning outcomes, it is important that the entire course be ready to go from day one.
- Introduce yourself. Make sure that you have introduced yourself to the class so they know that you are a real person! Share some fun information about yourself. If you can, create a welcome video.
- Welcome new students. If a student joins your class after the first few days, make sure they feel welcomed by introducing them via chat. Allow them to access any of the resources your class has utilized to get to know you and their fellow classmates.
- Create a meaningful experience. Your presence in the class, combined with a rich social and cognitive experience, leads to an enriched educational experience for students. Check out the Community of Inquiry Framework for more information.
- Help students find their way. Ensure that your students know how to navigate their way around the course. You can do this by creating a video walk through of your course. In your brick and mortar classroom, you point out where the supplies are kept, and the tray in which they need to drop off their homework assignments. Make sure that your online students know where to go and where to find what they need. Where can they go if they need help? Where do they find their assignments? Where do they turn them in? What do they do first? Show them the “lay of the land” in your own voice by giving them a tour.
What advice do you have for teachers that might be facing these challenges or want to implement these solutions?
There are many ways teachers can build their skills and learn strategies for getting students started on the right foot. One way is to engage with other teachers who teach online. If you teach online, talk to your peers and find out what they are doing. You can also attend a QM conference where you will meet an entire community of individuals dedicated to improving the learning experience for students.
Another option is to engage in professional development. Many schools and districts offer opportunities for teachers to expand their skills. QM offers several options as well. Two workshops that teachers may want to consider are Orienting Your Online Learners, and Creating Presence in Your Online Course.
Finally, consider becoming a K-12 Course Reviewer. As a reviewer, you will have the opportunity to see what others are doing in their online courses and add new ideas to your toolkit.