Education Technology

Top 5 Tips for Transitioning to Virtual Teaching

Posted 03/20/2020 by Erica Schiller

As we enter into this new frontier of virtual teaching and learning, I had the opportunity to connect with Richard Snow, an expert in distance learning and a T³™ National Instructor, for some guidance. Snow was the first educator to use TI graphing calculator emulator software while teaching students in an online environment 15 years ago. And, he’s got some helpful tips for classroom teachers now tasked with figuring out how to teach online.

Richard Snow
Richard Snow has been teaching with TI technology for more than 20 years and is a T³™ National Instructor. For the past 15 years, he has been teaching remotely and is sharing his top tips for successful online instruction.

1. Patience is a virtue

Snow’s number one tip for teachers transitioning from in-person instruction to virtual learning environments is to have patience. You’re going to find that some things don’t translate well into the new online setting. Teaching in a virtual environment requires a different skill set, and students will react differently. His advice: “Try not to be so hard on yourself, and show yourself some grace. It will take time to get adjusted, and you have to accept the fact that it’s not going to happen on the first day.”

2. Build the relationships and the learning will come

One advantage teachers have in transitioning from the classroom to an online environment is that relationships have already been formed. You have been with these students for a better part of the school year. And, don’t just talk at the kids. Create a conversation like you’re used to doing in class. Keep it interactive and fun.

3. Structure creates connection

In an online environment, students are learning in isolation, yet they have a need and desire for social interaction. To build that socialization virtually, you need to create an environment for mutual conversation. It’s important to have a structure in place to respond to student questions to help them feel connected.

“Regardless of the communication tool — email, a discussion forum, an app or virtual office hours — setting an expectation of when you will return communications and sticking to this timeline is key. By providing consistency to students, you will help them feel less anxious and more connected,” Snow explains.

In the discussion forum, instead of giving the answer right away, respond by asking more questions; probe the rest of the class. Use questioning techniques, and solicit feedback from students to increase engagement.

4. Let ’em hear you laugh!

Snow got schooled in communication skills when he went to visit a community of his distance learning students in person. His students were truly remote — only accessible by plane. Once he flew in, he enjoyed doughnuts and conversation with them. One student’s comment struck a chord: “You don’t seem nearly as mean in person as you do online.”

Snow realized that by just focusing on teaching the curriculum, without paying attention to his tone, he was not coming across in an approachable manner. Since then, he has made an effort to infuse humor into his virtual communication with students. “Use your sense of good, fun humor to connect with students online. Acknowledge them when they log in, greet them, and try and make a joke. The reception for learning is much greater,” he explains.

“But not sarcasm,” he clarified. “If you are teaching teenagers, their brains are still developing, and while they may laugh, they don’t understand or appreciate the nuances of sarcasm the way that adults do.”

5: Embrace new opportunities

This is an opportunity for you to learn how to use new tools that can complement face-to-face instruction in the future. Who knows? It might even make you a better teacher and open your eyes to new opportunities to improve how you teach. Even classroom instruction can benefit from appropriate use of technology.

Want to learn more? Join our webinars on distance learning

Next week, Snow will be presenting two webinars to provide tips and suggestions for transitioning students and teachers to virtual learning. The session on Tuesday, March 24, will focus on TI-Nspire™ software, and the session on Wednesday, March 25, will focus on TI-84 Plus CE software. These webinars will highlight effective practices for teaching in a virtual environment, both in real-time and for on-demand learning, using TI technology and will cover:

  • Building and enhancing student/teacher relationships
  • Ensuring optimal use of tools such as application sharing with TI technology
  • Effective use of screen captures for formative assessments
  • Class and software recordings
  • And more

Sign up for the webinars

About the author: Erica Schiller is a Marketing Programs Manager at Texas Instruments Education Technology. In this role, she promotes professional development opportunities using TI technology to educators to support student success. Schiller has over 25 years of experience in marketing, public relations and event planning in technology and education markets.