By: Mohammed K A Kaabar
Nowadays, everyone is suffering from the negative impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide. The teaching in all educational institutions has been shifted to distance learning through online platforms. Meetings, seminars, and conferences have been rescheduled to be held online through video conferencing software programs such as Zoom. While many people are considering the implementation of new technology to education as an innovative step towards the development of smart online education, teaching online has some challenges for both professor and students. One of the most common challenges of distance learning is the lack of engagement between professor and student. After talking to many students from various universities about their first-time experience with online classes as a result of COVID-19, they told me about how they are not motivated to attend any lecture due to lack of engagement between their professors and them. This lack of motivation to learn online results from many factors. For students lack of engagement usually stems from: ⦁ long lectures ⦁ a plenitude of materials in one lecture ⦁ and difficulty of subjects. For professors difficulty in teaching and lack of motivation results from: ⦁ the unfamiliarity of teaching online courses ⦁ not having the required digital skills for online teaching ⦁ lack of resources in some subjects, and time management From my experience teaching as a mathematics professor, students continuously hear horror stories about the difficulty of math from their peers, friends, which adds pressure to an already difficult e-learning situation amidst Covid-19. As a professor, I have to be very patient with my students in order to build their self-confidence in learning the math subject. To get students motivated to learn any subject, some techniques are required to be implemented to transform teaching online classical courses into fully engaging and interactive online courses. My goal as a professor is to make my students feel that the subject I am teaching is learnable, enjoyable, and applicable. I would like to highlight the following innovative e-teaching techniques to professors and students alike to optimize online learning: How Smart Boards on Webinars are helping students: In online classes, it is very important to implement technology. Technology can be simple as a small smart board that can be carried anywhere. When I teach my online courses, I always use it to help me design the course structure. By using a smart board, you can create a good visualization for the topics taught in your class. For example, you can use various colors, graphs, and text types from one of the options in your smart board.
The good thing with using smart boards on webinars and online classes is the efficiency and creativity in delivering online course content. Smart boards in combination with a video editing software help teachers edit the whole lecture, and send it as documents to students via e-mail. How Teacher Blogs are the Future of E-Learning: It is very important for any teacher to create a blog in order to share his/her teaching handouts, quizzes and materials. It is always easy to start your own blog. You do not have to be a programmer to create one. There are many websites that can offer free blog templates such as WordPress and WiX. In each blog post, teachers can feature some methods and helpful tips for other fellow teachers or for their students who are interested in detailed handouts, quizzes or to learn some more.
Another advantage of teacher blogs is encouraging students through creative forums where they can read and discuss class topics with other students. Pupils can write comments and discuss with the professor any related topic in a style that resembles social media discussion - and the kids love this. I have noticed that even the world’s top universities are offering online blogs and forums to encourage students to discuss class topics with their peers and mentors. Therefore, I highly recommend each teacher to create their own blog and discuss some interesting class content in order to motivate students to learn class topics and interact with one another.
How Socializing with Students Before and After Class Helps Their Concentration: In any traditional face-to-face class, it is natural for both teachers and students to socialize with each other before and after classes. With e-learning, this important aspect of life - socialization - should and must be included in between lectures. The inclusiveness of socialization in online teaching may be able to help alleviate the lack of motivation many students experience during e-learning. Teachers can set up office hours, tutoring sessions and forums to interact with their students and help them solve their problems, answer their questions and to socialize. From my experience, teachers can overcome the lack of motivation challenge in e-learning by following my three tips:
Online Meetups: Teachers can create weekly online meetings via many online video conferencing services such as ZOOM, Google Hangouts, and Skype. In each online meeting, teachers can discuss with students their concerns, questions, and suggestions to improve the class. This is very helpful in socializing with students which can make students feel motivated to continue learning the class topics.
Online Tutoring Sessions: This is similar to the first tip, but the difference is that in those sessions, teachers can only answer students’ questions about the course assignments, projects, and exams. In addition, teachers can offer a review session the day before exams to discuss with students what they need to study and understand before going to exams. Tutoring sessions can make a great positive difference for their prep.
Virtual Office Hours & Interactive Forums: Teachers can set up office hours virtually through online forums. They can start a topic in their forums, and set up a time each week. Students can ask the teacher about assignments and projects or can simply engage and discuss fun topics together. Students may also request make-ups for missed assignments or quizzes. The professor can then give those students an opportunity for submitting late assignments and make-up quizzes. From my experience, students tend to successfully learn difficult topics in any subject if the professor can implement interactive teaching techniques in his/her teaching. A good preparation for the course from the professor’s side can contribute to the application of interactivity in any course topic so that students can be motivated to e-learn.
How Creating Real-Life Examples Facilitates Students’ Learning: What we should also ideally continue to do is find ways to connect our teaching subject with real life situations. A simple example can make a big difference in teaching the course topic. Teaching math has made me realize that real life situations are necessary and fun to engage students in learning. This is especially true for distance learning. My Teaching Experience Using These Methods: Now that I’ve highlighted the innovative teaching practices of e-learning in the Covid-19 world, I’ll conclude with how I implemented them in my personal teaching experience. In all of my online lectures, I have used a smart board that can make the teaching more interactive than using a computer mouse. With a smart board and pen I can use different colors when explaining the topic, and write easily which can save time for both teacher and students.
It is very important to provide students with handouts, study guides, assignments so I run my own blog and regularly upload handy materials. Having well-organized engaging resources will play an important role in making students get motivated to learn the materials. For example, when I was teaching Calculus II courses at Washington State University, I taught a very challenging topic for most Calculus students known as Tests of Convergence and Divergence for Series. What is challenging about this topic is that there are many formulas and information to remember along with a plenitude of tests. Most students get confused with these different tests, and as a result, they do not do very well in the whole course. As a professor who cares about his students’ learning and success, I have designed a handout that consists of tables with comments and keys about each test. Combining all tests in one well-organized handout can help students look at each test and compare it to other tests instead of going to long lectures with lots of materials covered in each lecture.
In conclusion, applying the above tips can successfully help all professors and teachers transform the online teaching into interactive teaching that can get students motivated to learn subjects through online platforms during and post the COVID-19 world.
To see more teaching resources, please see my free online library on my educational website. I wish you all the best of luck and please feel free to reach out if you have questions and follow my blog so we stay connected!
Mohammed Kaabar received all his university degrees in Mathematics from Washington State University (WSU), USA.
He is from Gaza Strip, but he was born in Fujairah, UAE. Prof. Mohammed has a global diverse experience in teaching and has worked as an adjunct math professor at Moreno Valley College, USA.
He authored two math textbooks and is an invited referee for STEM international conferences.
He served as an editor for the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Blog, and he is an editorial board member for an educational program at California State University.
Prof. M. Kaabar is serving as an associate editor for Bulletin of Electrical Engineering and Informatics and IAES International Journal of Robotics and Automation.
He is also a member of the expert editorial advisory board for the Big Data and Advanced Wireless Technologies Springer Book Series.
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