A couple of months ago, I was having a chat with two tuition teachers about online learning. The three of us were having a friendly debate over the role of technology in education, especially in the private tutoring space. As you can imagine, I was in favour of online learning, but, my friends were against it.
Curious, I asked the teachers why they felt this way. “Yes, it’s convenient for students,” one teacher replied. “But what about teachers? Can online classrooms make you a better teacher? Teaching should be more than just dishing out course material. It’s about face-to-face interaction, it’s about understanding how students learn and adjusting your style to accommodate them, it’s about being flexible and adapting to the strengths of each student. You can’t have that in an online environment.”
In other words, the teachers were not sure if online learning was flexible enough to accommodate different teaching methods.
It was a fair question to ask, too many online learning environments focus on the study-at-your own-pace model. While the model is great, there are a few learning environments that embrace collaborative, communication-based learning. This, I suspect, is why the teachers were not uncomfortable with the idea of an online learning environment.
“Perhaps,” I pointed out, “You just need the right virtual learning environment that will help you be you a better teacher.” That’s when one of them asked the magic question. “What makes you think an online learning environment helps teachers get better?”
Complementing teaching styles with the right virtual learning environment
First of all, I want to preface this by this saying that a virtualised learning environment is no substitute for the passion, dedication and skill of a private tutor. However, the right online learning environment can help you implement your unique teaching style in a virtual space.
Using data to guide teaching
As teachers, it is a daunting task to adjust our teaching styles to the strengths and weaknesses of each student. However, a virtualised learning environment helps you do that. The ideal learning environment comes with several assessment tools to help you understand how each student is faring.
Whether it is an entire classroom or a student in a one-on-one session, a virtual learning environment will help you understand how they are responding to the material in ways that go beyond the grading system. This is possible because virtual environments come with several analytics systems that help you assess the progress of all your students.
Face-to-face discussion over long distances
If you prefer interacting with students, a virtual learning environment can help you have face-to-face discussions even if you and your students are not in the same room.
Some of the best learning environments come with online video capabilities. For example, Reelae integrates with Zoom, allowing teachers to conduct face-to-face discussions with their students. Video capability helps you conduct lessons with a student or several students, even if you are miles from each other.
It should be noted that online learning environments with video conferencing have been a huge boon for private tutors during this lockdown period.
Use different assessment methods
The best virtual learning environment doesn’t hinder teachers but empowers them. The perfect online education platform comes with several tools to create different assessment tests that go beyond an exam paper. While papers are important, there are several ways to test how well a student has understood the material.
An online learning environment helps you explore different assessment options that suit the strengths of each student.
The option to spend more time with students
I have met some people who believe that online learning will reduce the usefulness of teachers. However, I believe that a virtual learning environment will highlight just how important tutors are to learning. So many learning platforms give tutors the means to spend more time with students.
Most learning platforms come with systems to assist with tasks, like correcting papers, checking attendance and monitoring progress. In other words, tutors spend less time compiling data, giving them more time to spend with students. More time with students means more time to address doubts, clarify misunderstandings and help students along the path of learning.
This extra free time, combined with the insight from data, can help tutors get better at their craft.
Online learning will be more important in the future
Given how the lockdown has hampered private tutors, I believe that online education will play a much bigger role in private teaching. Not just because the pandemic has forced people to keep their physical distance from others, but because the right virtual learning environment can help teachers by complementing their preferred teaching styles, track student performance and give them the freedom to spend more time with their students.