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What are some different approaches to teaching online?

19 Feb 2021

While there are easily as many ways to teach online as there are people teaching online, I’ve found that most tend to fit into one of these categories:

  1. Through a glass darkly
  2. Muddling through
  3. Resentfully online
  4. Intentionally online

While there are easily as many ways to teach online as there are people teaching online, I’ve found that most tend to fit into one of these categories:

 

  1. Through a glass darkly is when someone tries to recreate the face-to-face experience online. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but this approach almost always results in more work for everyone as it doesn’t take advantages of the strengths of online teaching and learning.
  2. Muddling through is just doing whatever it takes to get through a move to online/remote teaching. It often involves a lot of time spent fixing mistakes -- including approaches that don’t work, instructions that aren’t clear, etc. It’s almost impossible to avoid approach when thrown into online teaching without warning (for example, during a global pandemic), but it’s exhausting, stressful, and not really sustainable.
  3. Resentfully online is when someone moves their teaching online, but fights it every step of the way. While not everyone is excited about moving online, resisting to this degree usually results in more work in the end for the teacher as they’ll still have to do the work, just with less time and even less confidence in the tools and approaches they use to teach.
  4. Intentionally online is when someone takes some time to think through both the how’s and the why’s of their online teaching -- their priorities, technical skills and resources, subjects, interests, teaching style, and so forth. This approach doesn’t require technical expertise or specialised tools, but rather just the willingness to stop and make some purposeful decisions rather than constantly reacting.

 

Most online teaching I’ve been involved with has involved elements of all four of these approaches, so while I’d encourage everyone to be as intentional as possible, don’t expect that you’ll get there immediately. And, of course, if you’re happy with your online teaching and it seems to be working for both you and your students ((e.g. no one is incredibly overwhelmed, everyone knows - roughly - what needs to be done and when, etc), good work! You’ve accomplished something great, so just keep on keeping on. 

 

If, however, you’re not happy with how things are going, it’s possible that changing your approach might help. So, try to carve out some time to look at your online teaching more holistically. What’s working? What isn’t? What do you love? What do you despise? What do you find most energising and what is exhausting to even think about? Use your answers to try to rethink your approach and, I promise, future-you will be very grateful.

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