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When Live Teaching is Not an Option (at IH TOC 2020)

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

I had the chance to present at the International House Teachers Online Conference today, where I talked about what asynchronous teaching is like and how we can plan and deliver good asynchronous lessons. Find my slides and the recorded talk here!

asynchronous synchronous flipped blended learning Jo Szoke Short and Simple English

Download the slides here:

IH TOC 2020 slides asynchronous teaching
Download • 1.34MB

Watch the recording here:

A lot of teachers believe that simply giving a list of tasks and chapters to read satisfies the definition of distance teaching. I don't wish to blame them. Mastering online teaching so quickly as most teachers had to due to the pandemic crisis results in solutions that might not be the best. But now that we've been doing this for over 2 months, we can start reevaluating our practices and upgrading our methods to deliver better courses that really cater to our students' needs.

First, we need to be clear about what synchronous and asynchronous teaching is

The most important element of synchronous teaching is that both the students and the teacher need to be present at the same time, possibly at the same place. This also means that those who miss the lesson, miss out on everything that happens during the lesson. It is crucial to point out here that recording a live lesson and then sending it to absent students does not satisfy either learning mode. It is not synchronous teaching because they only watch a recording which they cannot be part of, and it's not asynchronous because the lesson wasn't planned that way.

Asynchronous teaching means that the whole lesson or course is designed with asynchronousness in mind. What does that entail? That it's entirely time and location-independent. Students can join in whenever they can, and that doesn't influence their ability to understand the material and to fulfil the tasks. If we wish to design asynchronous lessons, we need to be aware of the fact that we have to guide our students through their learning path from a distance. We're not able to help them out in a flash, we cannot give them immediate support; therefore,

all the materials and tasks need to be designed and ordered in such a way that our students don't feel abandoned.

So how can we do that? The most important tips are the following:

  • explainer videos (these are specifically made for asynchronous or flipped teaching purposes, so a recorded live lesson is not an explainer video)

  • a variety of shorter tasks

  • forums, blogs, flipgrids that students can comment on whenever they can

  • interactive tasks with automatic feedback (it doesn't ALWAYS have to automatic but it definitely makes our life easier)

An example lesson running order

When you're designing an asynchronous lesson or course, just imagine that you're planning a real lesson, so the stages should be very similar to that of a live lesson. Take a look at this sample running order with a couple of app recommendations:

  1. Lead-in - open-ended questions on Padlet or Flipgrid with or without a prompt

  2. Present - explainer video

  3. Check understanding - interactive video quiz

  4. Practice 1- additional interactive tasks and activities on GoFormative or Nearpod (Liveworksheets and LearningApps are really good too)

  5. Practice 2 - open-ended questions on Classroom/Edmodo, Padlet, GoFormative, or Flipgrid

  6. Practice 3 (optional) - project tasks on any other website (create posters, videos, infographics, storybooks)

An example course setup

  1. Decide which VLE are you going to use (Google Classroom, Edmodo, Moodle, Schoology, Microsoft Teams Edu version)

  2. Plan the topics/modules of your course and set up clear categories for them

  3. Decide how you're going to track your students' progress (tests, quizzes, portfolios, blogs, flipgrids, essay submissions, interactive video tasks) and set up all the necessary platforms (make sure not to use too many websites because that can easily overload students)

  4. Design your materials (explainer videos, screencasts, presentations, interactive slides, interactive videos) - you don't have to design everything in one sitting, just make sure you're about 3 weeks ahead of your students

  5. Always be in touch - ask your students to actively use the VLE platform (not your email address!) for asking questions to keep everything organised

  6. Revise if necessary - be flexible, and change/modify/add things if several students run into problems (it's important to prioritise here; if only 1 student finds something difficult, that doesn't automatically mean that your material is wrong)

  7. Be consistent in grading - check submissions regularly, give feedback consistently, don't forget about your course completely

  8. Ask for feedback - make sure to give your students an online end-of-course feedback sheet to find out what you could improve next time

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