Creative and Effective Online Teaching Strategies

The online meeting and teaching experiences have taught three important lessons that are crucial for designing, integrating, and delivering online learning. Firstly, collaboration. While teachers can design courses independently, involving colleagues, students and learners in this process can greatly enhance the quality of online learning. For example, the needs assessment project in the Summer PSE (Pre-sessional English) involves collecting survey data from students and lecturers, as well as conducting interviews with module leaders and programme directors, so that the curriculum can be refined. This collaborative effort has reduced teaching weeks from eight to seven, and ensured consistency by having the same instructor for each class.


The second key message is engaging everyone. The process of engagement starts from the very beginning of the course, which involves acknowledging people, allowing them to engage with technology, fostering an effective learning community, and ensuring everyone can interact comfortably. Take the 7-week PSE training as an example, a flipped classroom approach is adopted by utilizing BBB (Big Blue Button) to facilitate synchronous sessions, coupled with asynchronous quizzes, lecture videos, and other online activities to enhance student engagement beyond the class. These asynchronous materials are available on the Learning Mall (LM), which students are required to complete before attending the synchronous sessions. Students are motivated to engage with these materials because they are aware that completing the asynchronous tasks can better prepare them for the online sessions.


The third key message is reflection and learning. Our module places great importance on and requires students to engage in reflective exercises after each lesson. For teachers, engaging in dialogue and discussions centred around reflection has proven to be an invaluable method for enhancing their teaching practices. A prime example of this is the establishment of the divisional Community of Practice (CoP) in various EAP (English for Academic Purposes) modules, which serves to encourage reflection and idea sharing.


Overstressing learning and cultivating a productive learning environment are two of the largest obstacles to online learning. Here are some observations after doing a thorough, if not exhaustive, investigation into instructors’ experiences with online teaching. Teachers could certainly add more to this.


Here are some suggestions: first, link back to the key point that is brought up at the beginning, namely the notion of collaboration. Working with other people can assist you in designing, planning, preparing, and facilitating your sessions. Consider the peer observation approach, where teachers can play a variety of roles in class and offer feedback at the end from different perspectives of how the experience went. One thing I learned while watching another colleague’s class is that she modified a role-play exercise by bringing up cultural references specific to Chinese contexts, and the online students found it more natural and comfortable to engage in the discussion. 


The second suggestion again is to collaborate with your learners. Working with learners is a great approach to reduce any stress you might be experiencing as a facilitator. Students tend to have a wealth of specialized knowledge, particularly in the area of technology. When designing the sessions, some excellent suggestions from their own learning experiences can be quite beneficial.


The third point is to build community. Encourage students to get to know one another, including teachers, and to find different ways to contribute themselves. If students start to believe they can support each other, they will not be too dependent on you. You will find people bringing up and resolving problems in the LM (Learning Mall) forum; all you need to do is to encourage them. It is critical to recognize the contribution that learners made.


Giving learners responsibility is one of the important things teachers can do. Over-monitoring can occasionally be detrimental. As soon as you enter one of the breakout rooms, the learners’ conversation may stop since they might feel like they need to listen to the teacher’s ideas right now. Sometimes, giving learners some responsibility and letting them handle it themselves can be more helpful than close supervision. When their job has been successfully completed, monitoring can come to the stage. This calls for some reflective conversations with students.


Additionally, when working in this environment, reflection is tremendously useful.  Reflection, whether done alone or as a team, is a truly beneficial method. Watching the recording of our own sessions is incredibly helpful. Although it can be excruciating, it does give you the chance to reflect on what you were doing and whether you completed the tasks as intended. When you are talking on the virtual learning platform, people are in a variety of stages of engagement with what you are saying. The only way to ensure their involvement is to have them design something for themselves, which is why I try to design activities rather than merely talking. 

School of Languages

25 July 2023

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