Online education is nothing new, but until recently, it was primarily considered a fringe or one-off situation. Lockdown changed all that. Education rapidly moved to cyberspace, where everyone could safely learn from the comfort of home.
Even with the worst of the pandemic behind us, many educators are choosing to keep a presence online. Electronic learning — or “e-learning” — has proven to be successful and just as valid as learning in a classroom. With the freedom and benefits of online education, learning from home won’t be going anywhere anytime soon — it’s here to stay.
If you teach English online, or any other subject, or perform online tutoring, here’s some handy information to help you get the most out of your workspace and optimize your performance.
Let’s talk about setting up your workspace
It’s vital to set aside your own workspace when you’re teaching online, away from the common areas of your home, to reduce distractions and settle into a productive working mindset. Above all, it helps maintain a work-life balance.
You want the space you teach from to be comfortable and work-friendly. Here are some ways to make sure your workspace is just that.
Watch your desk height
Set your desk at a height that keeps your arms parallel to the ground when working at your computer. The industry standard for desk height is 29 inches, but that doesn’t consider shorter or taller people. An adjustable desk allows you to move the height and even enables you to stand up while you work — perfect for giving lectures.
Pay attention to your seating
Improper seating quickly becomes uncomfortable and can cause injury over time. Use a chair that adjusts to keep your posture straight and your body comfortable. A typical office chair’s design does just that. Go to a furniture or office supply store and test out seating. Find the chair that best fits your posture and provides you with the most comfort.
Use proper illumination
Lighting is very important to a healthy work environment. Insufficient light can cause eye strain and headaches. The best lighting should not glare in your eyes or reflect off your computer screen. Overhead lights or strategically placed lamps work well to illuminate your space adequately. You know you have the proper lighting when you can read a paper document without additional light. You might need the help of a handyman to help you set up the proper lighting in your workspace.
Adjust monitor position and settings to suit you
When purchasing monitors, 25″ to 27″ screens are ideal for a home-office environment. Many computers tend to slightly blur images on screens larger than that because of their onboard graphics limitations. Set the monitor’s height so that you’re facing straight ahead when looking at the center of the screen. Any higher or any lower, you will end up with a sore neck.
Get input devices that work best for you
Spending a couple of extra dollars on your keyboard and mouse will make for more comfortable work in the long run. Ergonomic keyboards, mice, and/or trackpads reduce the risk of repetitive-motion injuries and make it easier to remain engaged in your work. If you can, test out keyboards and mice at an electronics store to get a feel for what works best for you.
Consider an all-in-one printer
Though paper is gradually becoming a necessity of the past, you’ll still likely find times in an online teaching situation that require printing, scanning, or copying. Numerous printers on the market perform all three functions in a wide range of price points. Most models also provide fax support — though you’ll need a landline to use any faxing capabilities.
Find reliable internet
Given the amount of work you’ll be doing online, you want to have fast, reliable service that also provides good cyber security. The faster the internet speed, the more you can get done without experiencing lag or disruptions. High-speed cable or fiber internet offers the quickest and most reliable service. For working from home, 50 Mbps is about the lowest speed you’ll want for your purposes. If you live in a city or the suburbs, you’ll probably have one or more high-speed internet options available.
If you need help finding a service provider, look at our handy search tool to assist you with finding the internet you need.
A lesson in teaching online
If you have your home workspace set up, getting underway with your online teaching curriculum is the next step. If you’ve never taught online before, here are some things you need to know.
Prepare lesson plans
Planning your lessons and teaching strategies are vital to running a successful online class. Get your slides ready, and practice your lectures ahead of time. Also, write down notes on questions you expect students to ask. You may get help from some online course authoring tools to help you plan and organize your content seamlessly.
Keep your students engaged
Making students feel involved in class is challenging under normal circumstances, but there are ways to keep them engaged. Be present, letting each student feel recognized. Create interesting e-learning materials.
Employ a variety of teaching methods
Don’t box yourself into just one technique for teaching online. Mix it up, and alternate between lectures, reading time, and group activities. If there’s a video that fits in with your lesson topic, present it to the class. Changing how you do things helps keep everything fresh and better engages students.
Maintain an open dialogue
Keeping a line of communication with your students fosters a sense of community within the class and builds trust in their instructor. Promote collaborative learning by giving them group projects. Encourage feedback from your students — they’ll feel heard. Students will be more likely to engage when they know you’re listening.
Utilize helpful online teaching tools and resources
The internet is packed with resources to help you with teaching online. There are many subscription services to choose from — but you can also find plenty of free, downloadable, stand-alone tools and online course platforms to help prepare and equip you for successful instruction.
Online teaching tools and resources have become indispensable components of modern education, providing educators with diverse options to enhance the learning experience. From video conferencing platforms that facilitate real-time interactions to learning management systems that streamline content delivery, these tools have revolutionized how educators connect with students in virtual environments. Many online resources, from interactive lesson plans and educational games to assessment tools and multimedia content, empower teachers to create dynamic and engaging virtual classrooms. Additionally, collaborative platforms and discussion forums foster a sense of community among students, promoting active participation and knowledge sharing. As technology advances, the evolving landscape of online teaching tools ensures that educators have the means to adapt, innovate, and deliver high-quality education regardless of physical constraints.
An online search will give you lesson plan outlines, webinar resources, interactive schedules, free PowerPoint templates, report card templates, and other fantastic materials to assist you in your online teaching endeavors. If you are not a designer and need to modernize your presentation visuals, contract a presentation design agency to overhaul your content.
Tips for making online teaching go smoothly
The challenge of teaching online is also an opportunity to grow skills you might not have even known you’d need. There’s no harm in ensuring this new challenge goes as pleasantly as possible. Here are some helpful hints to make your online teaching experience a good one.
Keep your teaching space clean and organized
Though what’s considered messy vs. organized is a matter of personal preference, there are some objective benefits to keeping things orderly and sanitary.
People who keep their areas clear can maintain focus longer and spend far less time searching for necessary items. Create a designated storage space for supplies. Label your cubbies and bins for quick and easy access to what you need when you need it. Keep out only what’s necessary, and put things away immediately when you’re done with them.
Keyboard surfaces contain an average of 7,500 bacteria at any given time. Mice and trackpads likewise hold onto colonies of microbes. Regularly sanitize your keyboard and other devices that you frequently touch. Sanitization reduces the likelihood of spreading unwanted illness — plus, it keeps your workspace smelling fresh and clean.
Prep for video teaching
Since you’ll be doing much of your online teaching over video software, you want to make sure you’re clearly visible and that everyone sufficiently hears you.
Keep yourself well lit by placing lighting in front of you (but out of your eyes) so that your face displays clearly on the computer screen. Putting the light behind you or off to the side can produce distracting shadows and silhouettes.
Before each class, do a sound check on the microphone you’ll be using. Do the sound test at the same distance from the mic you plan to be while teaching. Any good video conferencing software has an option to test your microphone and play back your sound check.
Optimize your internet
To keep things going smoothly when teaching online, ensure your internet is up to par. You get the most reliable and fastest internet when you use a wired ethernet connection directly from the modem to your computer. A wired connection is also more secure than a wireless one, which helps with cyber security.
Optimizing your wireless connection is possible if an ethernet connection isn’t an option. Place your router and position the wireless antennas so one of them points in your computer’s direction. The closer the wireless router is to your computer, the stronger the connection will typically be.
If moving your router isn’t an option, extenders and repeaters are very helpful in boosting the signal and the range of your wireless network.
Having too many tabs and applications open simultaneously will slow down your computer. Only keep items open that you need at the time, and close what you aren’t using. Your computer will move much faster.
Secure your computer
Stop unwanted visitors from accessing your computer by following a few simple security tips.
- Keep your operating system up to date. Doing this also keeps the computer’s onboard security updated.
- Enable firewalls to keep out hackers. Macs and Windows machines have built-in firewalls you can turn on in their respective settings.
- Install an antivirus on your computer to prevent malware from harming your system.
- Encrypt your data. Encryption makes your information unreadable if someone is able to get ahold of it
- Use a VPN to make your computer nearly invisible to anyone scanning the internet for potential hacking targets.
Take care of yourself
Teaching is an important calling and a vital profession. You spend so much time taking care of the needs of others, but you have to take breaks and take care of yourself. Stretch whenever possible to keep away back and neck pain. When your day of teaching online finishes, try some yoga or take a walk to help wash away any stress and center your mind.
There’s no doubt that teaching is one of the most important professions. Being able to teach online opens up a whole world of bright possibilities. This article’s helpful tips and ideas will better equip you as you enter this exciting journey.