The roles of teachers and students in distance learning
Teaching in many countries around the world is still very teacher-oriented. Teachers have the knowledge and skills, and their role is to provide the most favorable conditions for learning so that the students can make the most of the subjects. Digitalization has changed teaching from face-to-face teaching to distance learning, which demands new skills. For teachers, this means for instance that the emphasis is shifting from teacher-oriented learning to student-engaging learning, in which students take more responsibility for their own learning demanding more support from teachers than before. How to gain new skills for teachers?
Digitalization does not refer only to the external conditions that support distance learning. The teachers have to be able to create at the same time a holistic experience in which every learner can feel important, included, and individually appreciated. To be able to respond to these new challenges, teachers need to acquire new skills and update the existing knowledge.
How to compensate the lack of physical distance?
In the past, the focus of the teaching was delivering the content. But teaching is more than presentations and the materials of the course. In distance learning, you are not able to use nonverbal methods of communication in the same way you are used to doing in the classroom, so you have to establish connections with students in a different way. You as a teacher have to be able to strengthen the liaison between you and your students by using different kinds of communications tools with which you can activate interaction within the group. Humanizing the relationship with distant learners is of utmost importance.
It is also important to define a common code of conduct for the teachers and participants so that everybody knows how to act in the learning environment. This also includes the time delay, within which you are entitled to receive a reply from the teacher. If you have to wait for a long time before receiving the reply, it may prolong the advancement of your learning as well as give you a feeling that you as a learner are not supported.
Distance learning and technical requirements
Distance learning requires new skills from the teachers and self-discipline from the students, but it requires also technical solutions that support both the roles of teachers as well as the roles of students as the users of the same environment. First, the learning environment should support the learning process and not make it more complicated. A good learning environment is easy to use, clear to understand and does not require users to have a special talent for using it. In practice, this means, that there should be solid introductions on how to use it at the beginning of each course. The structure should be clear, making it easy to find, where the materials are, where the videos can be found and where is the forum for communications between the students and teachers as a group and where is the forum, where an individual student can communicate with the teacher in private.
The importance of reciprocal feedback in developing distance learning courses
Despite all the efforts you do as a teacher to create interesting content, learn to use fluently different tools, and create trustworthy communication between students, it is crucial to remember that participants and groups are different and therefore there is always room for improvement and personalization. Please remember to emphasize to your students, that though your role is to help them to learn, and though you are doing your utmost, there are always possibilities to improve the learning experience. Ask them to give you constructive feedback as you are also giving them feedback as well during the courses. The role of the students is to help you to develop your work and improve yourself as a teacher- it is a two-way path to achieve continuous learning.
P.s. Are you in for some professional development? In this video Professor Kirsti Lonka from Finland is welcoming you to this learning journey!
Get to know self-study online courses How to Promote Interest and Motivate Your Students or The Role of Emotions and Flow in the Learning.