5 Tips For Designing Your Live Home-Based Learning Lesson
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
This is the last piece written as part of an ongoing series, Supporting Educators Through COVID-19, providing a glimpse in the challenges educators faced in this trying period. Based on the experience of successfully running a 10-hour fully online Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship Workshop for an overseas client, the author shares his thought processes and tips of running a virtual design thinking workshop.
One of the key aspects of creating a good classroom experience is the physical presence of the educator. This is especially so when there is group work and a task to be completed within the class time. The opportunity to walk around and observe students at work is invaluable as it allows us to pick up on the nuances of classroom energy, manage conflict, induce state change etc. It basically gives us data on students that allows us to tweak the instruction, advice and care that we give. The question is, now that our students and teachers are confined at home, how may we still do the above?
Recently, we ran a 10-hour fully-online workshop, inclusive of synchronous facilitated group work (where groups applied their learning as a group while the class is “live”, so to speak”) from Singapore, for a client in Vietnam. We were quite pleased with the outcomes, despite this being our first attempt. What made us particularly excited was the high quality of work our students managed to produce. As a cherry on top, we also exceeded (just barely) our 85% engagement benchmark for face-to-face workshops. Based on this experience, we wanted to share our 5 tips on designing a Live HBL Lesson. This will be most relevant to those who want to run a lesson that involves group work happening synchronously e.g. 15-minute webinar followed by 30 minutes of group-of-5 discussion, then a 10-minute consolidation discussion at class-level.
1. Use chat and video conferencing tools that allow you to create discussion rooms with master control
When part of your lesson requires group level discussions, you need the ability to create discussion rooms for each group. For our workshop, we used Zoom because it allowed the creation of Breakout Rooms and gave us tight control over room management. Before the workshop, we pre-assigned students to Breakout Rooms based on their grouping. When the lesson started, after we had kicked off the lesson at the class level, all we had to do was click “Open Breakout Rooms” and our students were immediately invited to their Breakout Rooms based on their groups, and could start discussions. Our facilitators, as Co-Hosts, would then pop in and out of each of their assigned groups to provide guidance. The above features allowed us to replicate the face-to-face setting, where students have the ability to discuss at a group level and our facilitators can observe group-level interaction and respond accordingly, all without affecting others in the class. Furthermore, Zoom allowed us to also recall the students with another click of “Close Breakout Rooms” and all students returned to the main Zoom room for a class-level consolidation discussion. This circumvented the need to set a time to “return to class” and having to chase late/stray students, which would have been the case if we did not use a chat and video conferencing tools that allow you to create discussion rooms with master control.
2. Demonstrate how to use the technology to complete the tasks you require of your students
While students nowadays can pick up a new tool relatively quickly, this may not happen fast enough if you do not have the luxury of time for them to slowly familiarise themselves. What we did with our project was to demonstrate how to use the tools to complete their tasks by showing them the steps through screenshare. This proved invaluable in terms of efficiency because students are generally even more reluctant to clarify online than in a physical classroom. As a bonus and for scale, record your demonstration so that 1) Students can refer to it as a resource if they forget in the future and 2) you do not have to keep doing the demonstration for each new batch of students.
3. Teach your students how to Bookmark pages
I cannot emphasise how useful this is. Humans of all ages typically forget where important online documents and resources are stored, especially if it is their first few times accessing them. Hence, teaching them how to use Bookmarks and how to organise them on their Bookmarks bar is essential if you do not want your students to always be asking you, “Sir/Ma’am, could you send me the link again? I forgot where my lessons and homework are stored.”
4. Create a Support channel that can be used on Mobile, especially if your students are unfamiliar with your teaching tools
Communication lines must always be open. During our workshop, we received questions on content and instructions, as well as requests for technical support every ten minutes. I am not exaggerating. So we advise you to create a support channel where students can reach out to you for any type of help. It is also important to bring across that this is a support channel and not a chat channel, and no banter should be tolerated so that the channel is clean. We used Telegram to create a support channel for our workshop and got students to join via a QR code invite link. During the proramme students would request for help through Telegram and I would respond. While Telegram worked well, I would recommend Slack or Discord, because it gives you the added functionality of group-level channels to facilitate group discussions through chat.
If you have a co-educator, one of you should be dedicated to provided. Sometimes, Internet is spotty and students drop-off from Breakout rooms and need to be added back by the administrator. If you are both administrator and teacher, this student might go unseen or unheard for a long time and be left out of large chunks of the lesson.
5. The simpler the better
Trust us on this. When we were designing our learning system, we used multiple layers of technology and crafted extremely detailed instructions thinking that this would increase the depth of learning for our students. After Day 1, we realised that half of the instructions were going over our students’ heads, which in turn impeded their learning. We scrambled to simplify everything by reducing the number of steps required to get the task done and summarising content to become bite-sized and light. Day 2 was much smoother and students were able to keep up because they were not overwhelmed. Keep your systems simple and intuitive to use, and your students will teach themselves how to use them and do what you need them to do.
These are our 5 tips for Designing Your Live Home-Based Learning (HBL) Lesson, we hope they prove useful for you!
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Written by Lim Weiyuan.
Weiyuan is a Co-Founder of Reactor School and Head of Reactor School. He has run two businesses over the course of 8 years.