As an experienced (I’ve been doing this since grad school, and I’ve got gray hair) online teacher, here are my top ten tips for what *not* to do when getting started with online homeschool class design
- Don’t try and wing it. You’re not there to change the assignment at the last minute, answer questions if your directions are unclear, or add a tip in class. I prep and post two weeks in advance.
- Don’t depend on tech. It will break. Prior preparation prevents poor performance. Make sure that students can access information in multiple formats and times. I record all my lectures.
- Don’t assume students are going to cheat. Then it becomes an arms race. Make them your ally, not your enemy. Students are no more likely to cheat online than they are in a face to face classroom.
- Don’t assume your students have unlimited broadband access. Videochat is lovely, but a limited access resource. Test your class — can they do everything they need on a cheap smartphone? No? Fix that.
- Don’t give oodles of writing assignments. I once took an undergraduate online course that required 5,000+ words per week, more than many professional authors can write. You bet I wrote a scathing course review. Give yourself a limit. Mine ranges from 500-1,000 words for school-aged children.
- Don’t try to recreate your face to face environment. This is a fundamentally different activity, in the same way that riding a bicycle and driving a car are worlds apart. Getting everyone together for a big group video chat to replace your class is not the best use of anyone’s time.
- Don’t presume it’s less work. I spend less time in front of my students, it’s true, but I routinely spend hours every week creating course content, emailing/calling students, and answering questions.
- Don’t assume you have any privacy. Parents email with content questions, broadcast lectures on televisions, share assignments with neighbors, etc. You and your assignments are “in public” for all of it–your door is never shut.
- Don’t just give directions verbally. This helps make your course accessible, but also when was the last time you paid attention to a boring video and could repeat off-the-cuff remarks word for word? Write it down, in multiple places. Then teach students where to find it.
- Don’t bury yourself in grading. Yes, tell students to do things–but not everything needs a grade or even your eyeballs on it. Write the assessment with the assumption that they did all the things, and they’ll do it because otherwise, they won’t pass.
This is part of our series on online homeschool class design, written by an experienced online teacher and homeschool parent. Please add your own tips and questions in the comments!