Things I wish I’d known before learning and teaching online

Created on: 06 Aug 2020 | Last modified: 20 Jul 2022

Early in 2020, teachers across Scotland overnight turned their classrooms into virtual classrooms, learning digital skills as they went.  In response, EIS Learning Reps participated in a digital skills course, aimed at equipping participants with theory and practical knowledge to move learning online. This course was funded by Scottish Union Learning, and delivered by the WEA.

Here, we collectively address: ‘Things I wish I’d known before learning and teaching online’.

It takes time, and patience

Time and space in the virtual classroom are different to the classrooms we are used to, and so are the ways we develop online learning.  We might have two or three warm up exercises in our back pockets that never fail in the classroom, but in a virtual classroom, the format needs to be changed for these to work. Practising what can work takes time, and is worth the investment to have activities you feel comfortable with to support your delivery.

Kahoot! offers learning mixed with elements of play for all ages.

As well as learning itself, there are the social aspects of learning to consider. How do we share ideas? How do we share a safe space? Consider time and facility to set up breakout rooms for participants to chat. It is worth becoming acquainted with General Data Protection Regulation GDPR as well as Copyright to ensure everyone’s details are kept safe, and ideas are properly acknowledged.

There’s theory to ground and guide your practice

Salmon’s 5 Step Model of Online Learning helps structure meaningful, supported learning, as does discussion around ‘e-tivities’.

It’s just a tool

We have all worked quickly to develop a presence online, and that’s in the classroom, in meetings, and our personal lives, and probably have become very familiar with one or two platforms, like Zoom and Teams.  The more we use them, the more we learn the useful features until they’ve become as familiar as a pen and paper.  And that’s exactly what they are, tools to get our messages across. Just because learning is online doesn’t mean the course content is about online learning.

There’s an online equivalent of the glitter pen…

It’s worth playing with and exploring new and different platforms and tools, and to try out using them together.  Here are some free sites we like:

  • Padlet is the online equivalent of the flip chart, and allows lots of people to contribute at once with pictures, text and video.

  • Menti facilitates quizzes, surveys, and word clouds, and is a useful way to get feedback.

  • ai creates eye catching presentations with animations, as does Prezi.

  • Jamboard from Google is a shared notice board to draw on, stick notes, post videos, pictures and documents.

  • Open Learn Create is a platform for people to publish and share their own learning courses.