If you have signed up with an online teaching platform or you have decided to go it alone, one of the first jobs you will need to do is create an online classroom with the right environment. Some people might think that teaching online can be done from a hammock in the garden while dressed in a swimsuit, however, the reality is usually quite different. If you want to keep your students coming back for more and encourage new students to choose your services, then it is vital that your online classroom hits all the right notes. Luckily this is not too hard to achieve and we are here to give you a few pointers.
Choosing a teaching space
The most important factor when choosing your space for teaching is that it is quiet and free from potential interruptions. If you are working from home you can use a spare room or office, or just a corner of the living room if that is all that is available. The best set up is to have a desk or table with a wall behind to avoid distractions and to add any educational materials you might need for any particular lesson. The area needs to be well lit no matter what the time of day or night.
Having the right equipment
It might seem quite obvious, but it is vital to have the right equipment when teaching online. The biggest and most expensive piece of kit required is an up-to-date computer or laptop that is set at eye level (many teachers find a laptop stand is beneficial). The other crucial thing is a fast and reliable internet connection. If you sign up with a teaching platform they will normally test this for themselves to ensure it is up to the required standard. You should also make sure you have a comfortable chair that you will be happy to sit on for long periods of time everyday.
The importance of the back wall
As mentioned, it is best to have a wall behind you so you can control any potential distractions. When teaching young learners it is a great idea to make the wall a feature that can add something to the lesson, such as pictures of letters or numbers, the day's weather, or the date, etc. These can easily be printed out and laminated and rotated depending on the lesson of the day. Some companies even tell you what they expect on your back wall which is one less thing to think about. With older learners you might put up a world map or a whiteboard if you intend to use one during lessons.
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The importance of props
Simply sitting in front of a screen and talking for 30 minutes or an hour can become very dull for your students, which is why props are so important when teaching online. Young learners can quickly become bored in any environment, so introducing one or two puppets or other toys to use throughout the lesson can be a real help. Older students can also get bored of simply listening to a teacher talk, but clever use of pictures and other real items can usually have a good effect.
The virtual classroom
Many online teaching platforms now use their own virtual classrooms which reduces the need to worry about your own virtual space. However, including plenty of images, video clips, and memes into your lessons will make them much more interesting than using a simple white screen. Enhancing your virtual classroom is a quick and easy process thanks to the huge amount of resources that can be accessed online.
The image of the teacher
While it might be tempting to think that the teacher’s image is less important online than it is in a classroom, it is certainly not true. Your upper body will always be visible so smart but plain clothing is recommended. Other potential distractions such as elaborate or large amounts of jewelry or makeup should be avoided. Some online platforms will have their own set of rules regarding appearance that have to be followed which can remove any doubt on where you stand on this issue.
If you have followed all these tips you should now be ready to get online and start teaching!