With everything you have to do in a day sometimes navigating a virtual environment is not something you probably want to think about. Really, it’s not as hard as you think. As I began working in a virtual environment ten years ago I labored over just about everything, from spreadsheets and word documents to managing and creating courses in a Learning Management System (LMS). My first foray into this world was just before everyone had a smartphone and the ubiquitous use of apps and online tools were found in everyone’s hands. Now, in 2019 most of us are accustomed to working in a virtual environment, yet it can still seem like a bit of a worry. Will my network accommodate all those live sessions? Do computers have the right platform? Will the kids be safe?
Remarkably, you and your team will find your way. You can watch videos on Youtube and Vimeo, send help desk tickets to your providers, and I call on the knowledge of your colleagues and friends, who were might have different skills than you. Eventually, you will even be able to help the teachers and others to navigate their way through the virtual environment. In the long run, my stumbling to learn made me much more empathetic to the students and teachers I was working with. Think of how much this will help you in the eyes of the people you work with!
With all the snarls that come along with things that are ‘new’ we are eager to help and find ourselves reminding others that we were once new to navigating Virtual Learning Environments. I recall vividly how afraid I was, how I couldn’t find the page for turning in an assignment, or I would fumble to make a short video. I vowed as I became more confident that I would help others to avoid the frustration and stumbles I made learning how to navigate a virtual learning environment. So, with a little organization, competent instruction, and support, we can all use virtual tools for instruction.
Things to Think About
Start with understanding why you are choosing a virtual learning environment.
People come to virtual instruction for a variety of reasons. Some choose a virtual environment because they don’t have the resources in their school or community. Some find the flexibility of learning virtually more suited to their needs. Here are a few top reasons we see schools choosing a virtual environment for their learners:
1. Flexibility and Convenience – Learners’ can take their classes during a study hall, in the comfort of their home or from the sidelines of a performance or practice. Meetings with teachers can happen at regularly scheduled class times or at an impromptu meeting for support in navigating questions or the online content. Virtual courses also allow students to add credits that don’t fit into their regular school schedule.
2. The Content is Available 24/7 – No need to worry about textbooks or loose papers getting lost. The learners’ will have access to the content from anywhere they have the internet. Class assignments, class video recordings, and learning resources are easy to access and complete. Never lost in a backpack or mistakenly thrown away. Some students even find time to do assignments on their phones as they ride the bus or are waiting at an appointment.
3. Offering Not Available at Your School – Expanding opportunities through the virtual setting is a great way to add a course that is not available at small schools.There are a variety of reasons schools can offer expanded opportunities in World Language Instruction ranging from a lack of funding to lack of teachers available to teach in your area.
Who Teaches and Provides the Content in Your Virtual Course?
1. Highly Qualified Instructor or Teaching Assistant – not all virtual classes are alike. Before choosing a course or provider you want to know the credentials of your instructor. You want engaging, rigorous instruction. If you have to choose a virtual setting you do not want your learner to be left behind. Anyone can set up shop in a virtual environment. You want a certified teacher, when possible. A teacher who has experience and confidence using virtual tools and strategies is also an asset. While a virtual environment is flexible and convenient, having a teacher who is unfamiliar or not tech savvy will make taking an online course more challenging.
2. Interaction with Teacher – this may be the most important part of a virtual course! Having a teacher who sets the standard for communication right from the start is important. Knowing when your work will be graded, when assignments are due, and when you can expect answers and feedback on your work is critical.
In addition, you want to feel like your students are known and seen by the teacher. Even in a virtual experience, it is important that the instructor know your learners’ needs and interest – that they are not just a number. Good instruction, even virtually, should consider each learners experience so the course will be relevant to their needs.
3. Easy to Navigate Content – like an experienced instructor well aligned and easy to navigate content makes learning engaging. Look for challenging content that flows. Learning should begin with the learning target and offer a variety of ways to acquire the content. In addition, there should be a variety of ways that learners can demonstrate what they know; quizzes or tests, authentic application, and reflection on learning. Look for consistent course structure and design that is easy to understand and negotiate.
Instruction in a virtual environment can be a breeze if you know what you are looking for and what to expect. First, know what you want and are getting. Do you want a face-to-face experience, a certified teacher, timelines for completion, and support when you need it? Do the teachers have background checks to work with youth? Does the provider have the rigor and relevance you need? Do you know who to contact when you need help? Talk to other people who have used their services. Get a demo.
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