Are you using a Learning Management System (LMS) to connect with students, provide resources, foster interaction or create assignments? With the rise of online and blended learning models, there are many varieties of LMS geared toward the creation of virtual classrooms. Whether you are using a free option, like Edmodo, or your school has implemented a fee-based LMS, such as eChalk or Blackboard, here are some tips to help you create an effective virtual classroom.
1. Provide Class Notes
One of the simplest ways to use an LMS or virtual classroom is to provide students with class notes or presentations to follow up the learning. Posting notes or presentations for students will provide them with access to information if they miss class. In addition, this frees students up from taking notes and allows them to focus instead on interactions or activities during the lessons.
Tip: While you could simply provide your notes to students, helping those who were absent to catch up, you might also consider assigning a student each day to share their notes with the class. This could provide an avenue for building a collaborative community.
2. Give Students Timely Feedback
Feedback to students is very important when it comes to learning new content. One of the challenges that students might find in participating in an online class is response time from the teacher.The success of your online course or virtual classroom depends on making sure your students know that they will receive timely feedback as well as knowing that you are available for questions. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you respond to questions and provide feedback whenever students submit an assignment.
This also allows for individual communication between teacher and student. A student will then experience better success knowing they’ve gotten a unique individualized response to the work they submitted.
Tip: Make students aware of your posting schedule. If you have a specific time when you will be providing feedback to online assignments, let them know so they can check in for feedback about their work.
3. Schedule Assignments
Take advantage of the calendar associated with your LMS. By scheduling assignments and providing due dates, this will automatically become part of your students’ calendar inside of your virtual classroom. This will help students stay organized as well as allow them to know and understand what assignments, events, or tests are coming up in your class.
Tip: Make referring to the calendar a routine for your classroom and students. Point to the calendar often and make sure you keep it updated. If an assignment is due on a certain date, make sure you stick to that due date to hold students accountable.
4. Provide Clear Instructions
Students completing assignments online do not have the luxury of the teacher being right there to answer questions about the assignment. Along with being available and responding to any questions posted, make sure you provide clear instructions for anything you post to your virtual classroom. By providing example projects or rubrics, the student has access to appropriate information to complete any assignment to the best of their ability.
Tip: Continue building the collaborative community by giving students the option to crowdsource questions about the assignment to the entire class or build assignments that require a collaborative element.
5. Foster Interaction
Ultimately, we want the virtual classroom to become a place where students share information, ask questions, and comment on each other’s thoughts. While this may not happen right away, there are ways to encourage this type of discussion.
One suggestion is to use commenting as part of your homework assignment. If you post a reading or question, require your students not only to comment their original thoughts but reply to one of their peers’ original comments. This can foster interaction as a part of the natural flow of work in a virtual classroom. Students will then develop routines for visiting your virtual classroom to ask questions and respond to each other’s comments.
Tip: Always monitor student posts for proper Digital Citizenship. Make it known that you are monitoring comments in the virtual classroom to create an expectation for students to use it properly.
6. Parent Involvement
Let parents know what is available in your virtual classroom and what you are trying to accomplish. This will enable parents to get involved with what is happening in the classroom when they do not get information from the students themselves. Many of the school based virtual classrooms have a parent portal that allows them to view information related to their child, such as upcoming assignments due or class events, without being able to participate completely in the virtual classroom.
Tip: This is especially useful for parents of younger students that need or want to monitor their Internet use. Do not expect a 1st grade student to log into a virtual classroom on their own, but the resources available for the parent to access are just as useful.
What tips do you have for creating a virtual classroom?