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Getting online teaching and learning right - Good practices for conducting successful classes

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2021 | 12:12 AMVenesse Morrison-Leon - Contributor

The field of virtual teaching and learning is growing exponentially, hence the need for high-quality online programmes. With the challenges of COVID-19, schools are grappling with approaches that can catapult successful online teaching and learning, and billions have been spent locally and internationally to assist schools. The following are some guiding principles that instructional leaders and online teachers can use to ensure that online schooling meets national and international standards and benchmarks.

Principle 1: Ensure that the instructional design embraces fundamental pedagogical tenets.

The design of online classes must be grounded in sound educational and philosophical tenets. Richard Clark (1983) posits that technology-enhanced tools are vehicles that deliver instruction, but it is not the basis for direct learning. Media are essential in any learning context, but these alone cannot improve learning. It is, therefore, fundamental to review the kind of instructional strategies that will be used to engage the online community of learners. Educators are encouraged to employ a variety of instructional strategies to include learning by doing, learning based on experiences to determine the level concreteness or the degree of abstraction, and learning that creates real-world problems for learners to solve. The Cone of Experience (Edgar Dale) exemplifies learning outcomes based on pragmatic approaches. Learners’ retention in online programmes is based on the process of engagement and the online teaching competencies of the facilitators must be considered.

Principle 2: Cultivate meaningful interaction between teachers and learners.

In promoting a healthy online learning climate, the Community of Inquiry framework can be used to drive meaningful interaction (Garrison & Archer, 2000). Teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence are fundamental principles to be considered in creating meaningful educational experiences for learners. With this in mind, instructional leaders, coaches, and teachers must provide timely feedback as a means of promoting a culture of excellence.

Principle 3: Establish clear governance structures.

The community of learners, including teachers and students, must adhere to netiquette and copyright laws to ensure general online quality assurance. Instructional leaders must develop and use policies, protocols, handbooks, students, and teacher’s guides to ensure that online teaching and learning standards are maintained.

Principle 4: Promote online professional learning communities.

The Professional Learning Communities can develop reflective and reflexive skills that will enhance the intellectual prowess of the academic community (Duncan-Howell, 2009). This reflective practice can enhance the quality of teaching and learning. With this in mind, best practices can be shared at the local and national levels to encourage scholarship in the education sector.

Principle 5: Encourage deep learning.

Online lessons must include rich, nutritious, and intellectually stimulated deep learning experiences (Hirumi, 2009). Lessons must be designed so that learners can utilise their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Principle 6: Promote standardisation of lessons and use a specific design model.

Smaldino and others suggest that the ASSURE model helps to ensure that learning happens (Smaldino, 2015). Plan for instruction and ensure that your team is adequately prepared and ready for meaningful interaction with students. It requires teachers to Analyse learners; State objectives; Select methods, media, and materials Utilize media, methods, and materials; and Require learner participation.

Principle 7: Provide ongoing training of instructional technology and distance education (ITDE) team.

When teachers are competent in facilitating online delivery, the probability is greater that they will execute their content effectively, cultivating excellence in their learning communities (Hassel, 1999). Provide ongoing training for staff and students based on the trends in education and learning to learn in a remote environment.

Principle 8: Ensure that student support services meet world-class requirements

Students should benefit from support services that reflect world-class benchmarks, and as such, teachers must be prepared to meet student-online needs (Hirumi, 2009). Ensure that helpdesks, contact numbers, and student services personnel are readily available to respond to the needs of students.

Principle 9: Ensure that online programmes and courses are influenced by cutting-edge technological and educational research.

To remain current with trends in instructional technology and distance education, all stakeholders should be encouraged to become members of professional ITDE associations. Research in the field of online teaching and learning is readily available in journals, articles, and on credible websites.

Principle 10: Establish clear monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Monitoring and evaluation improve the quality of online classes. The levels of success achieved online will determine the return on investment (Simonson, 2007).

- Venesse Morrison-Leon is online director at The Mico University College. Send feedback to