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New to online learning? 14 TIPS for beginners

May 20, 2020 10:40 IST

Log in at least 10 minutes before the start of the session and check for audio and video quality, suggests Manisha Sachdev.
This little trick goes a long way in making your virtual journey smooth.

Online learning

Do your homework before a session. Choose a place with bright lighting. Photograph: Courtesy Julia M Cameron/Pexels.com

It's 7.40 am.

An anxious yet excited Priya, is all set to take her first online session with a batch of 60 students.

She logged in 20 minutes early to check the video and sound, informed everyone at her house about the scheduled session, put her phone notifications on mute and has all her notes handy to answer any questions which may be shot from the students.

Ten minutes fly by and many students log in before time and exchange greetings with their faculty with a brimming smile. As soon as the clock ticks 8, Priya notices that only half the class is logged in for the session. She quickly grabs her phone, and sends a WhatsApp text to the class group to log in as soon as possible.

After waiting for 10 more minutes, Priya notices the following things:

At that moment, Priya realises that these issues aren’t just faced by her and the 60 odd people she trains but by the entire community who have adopted virtual interface as a medium of communication in the face of COVID-19.

The pandemic has resulted in schools and colleges being shut all across the world leaving over 1.2 billion students being out of the classroom.

In such a situation when the face of education has changed dramatically, it becomes imperative especially for the training community to impart online classroom etiquette to students since we still have a long way to get back to the normal that we were used to.

If you’re struggling with Zoom/Google Meet/WebEx for your online sessions, the following pointers would come handy for a seamless and smooth virtual classroom experience.

1. Acquaint yourself with the platform

Learning has accelerated to an altogether different level with the advent of YouTube.

A big thank you goes to Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim for creating the online video sharing platform since it has made the process of learning very simple and visual.

With that being said, any virtual interface platform, be it Zoom or Google Meet could be understood with the click of a button.

It is essential to do this homework since it’d make your classroom experience easy-going and comfortable.

2. Early Log-in

Log in at least 10 minutes before the start of the session and check for audio and video quality. This little trick goes a long way in making your virtual journey smooth.

3. Mute Yourself

When asking to mute, I didn’t mean to tell you to be quiet for the entire duration of the session.

The mute tab helps prevent any background noise at your end from being heard by the other participants.

Unmute yourself only when you have a point to contribute or a question to ask. This little act of gesture shows your concern and respect for the other participants.

4. Look into the camera not the screen

Many of us commit the mistake of looking into the screen while talking when in fact you should always look into the camera.

Relate this to a face-to-face meeting.

You’ll always look into the eyes of a person while communicating, the same rule applies even for a virtual set-up. 

5. Use microphones

This listening device can help two-fold to enhance your online classroom experience.

It leads to better content retention since less brain energy is used for physically hearing the information.

Besides, it enables a clear conversation flow while minimising repetition from the speaker’s end due to poor hearing from the participants’ side.

6. Lighting

Choose a place with bright lighting and always sit at the opposite angle so that people can see you clearly.

7. Inform people of your schedule

Informing people before-hand of your class schedule can help curbing in many distractions since you’ll not lose your concentration due to unnecessary calls and barge in.

8. Plain background

Pick a place with a plain background which doesn’t lead to unnecessary distraction. If you stay in a joint family, use a screen/plain cloth to demarcate your space and avoid distraction.

9. Formal attire

Even if it’s an online classroom, get up and dress up the formal way since it’ll give you the seriousness you require from within.

A few more pointers that you should take care while being part of an online session:

10. Choose a place with strong mobile network/Wi-Fi

Check your connectivity before the session begins to avoid delays. Everyone's time is valuable.

11. Have a back up plan in case of electricity/Wi-Fi failures

You should be ready to plug in to an alternate device or be ready for emergency situations.

12. Mute phone/laptop notifications

This will help you stay focussed and avoid unnecessary distractions when a session is on.

13. Keep a water bottle handy

If you are going to have long sessions, it is important to take breaks to sip water and stay hydrated.

14. Have a pen and paper handy

In case you have to take notes, it may help keeping a book and stationery handy.

Given the face of the pandemic, it's high time we start making sincere efforts on improving the online classroom experience.

Manisha Sachdev is head of learning and development at ITM Group of Institutions. She can be contacted on ga@rediff-inc.com.

Manisha Sachdev