Virtual learning is in full swing for students of all ages, and teachers are constantly discovering new ways to keep their students engaged. While online learning may not be the reality forever, the use of technology and online communication in education will likely remain important in the future of education. Methods like the flipped classroom model, which supplement instructional videos as homework, are here to stay. So, how can teachers better their students’ online learning experience? Here are the five best online teaching tips from five educators.
Tip #1: Support student learning and interaction with Prezi Video
One of the most common challenges for teachers is helping their students stay engaged and attentive during class. To address this issue, many teachers have turned to using Prezi Video. Prezi Video allows educators to bring their content on-screen with them, eliminating the need for screen sharing, blending their lessons with images and graphics, and ultimately helping them better connect with their students.
Author and teacher Michelle Singh says that her favorite features of Prezi Video are being able to personalize the content she shares with students and families, and the ability to create multimodal content. She loves that she can easily personalize her videos by adding her voice and video, and choosing different frame views.
“When we share information and content with students, parents, and families, we must be flexible,” Michelle says. “Prezi is one tool that allows us to do just that.”
Michelle explains the importance of educational continuity in this video:
Robert Molloy, a 5th-grade teacher at Nettle Creek Schools in Indiana, uses Prezi Video to present textbook content to students in a fun and interactive way. One of his favorite features of the platform is the ability to use keys on the keyboard to transition between camera views without needing to fumble with the mouse. He also appreciates that he can import PowerPoint decks to Prezi Video, so he doesn’t have to remake slides.
Watch his lesson about finding the theme in a story here:
Many teachers have found use cases for Prezi Video outside of the classroom, too.
William Jeffery is the Assistant Principal at Columbia-Brazoria Independent High School in West Columbia, Texas. “I recently had to give a presentation to other principals,” William says. “They were impressed at the way the information was presented using Prezi Video.”
Warren Potter, a Music Teacher at Salmon River School District in Potsdam, New York, has used Prezi Video in some unique ways. Because his school is fully online, Warren created a virtual open house for the elementary school music program with Prezi Video.
Take a look at the virtual open house he created for his music class:
Tip #2: Plan to be flexible (yes, this is a paradox)
In an online setting, it’s not always clear to teachers whether their students are paying attention during class. Kevin Beaugh, the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education and an Assistant Professor at South Plains College, sometimes suspects students may be catching up on social media feeds, cooking lunch, or petting their dogs instead of focusing on the class.
“I overcome this by incorporating as much participation-based activity as possible, such as gamified quizzing, while maintaining a view of everyone’s camera feed. I am also working on chopping up the time into more manageable segments, with “nature breaks” between,” Kevin says.
Robert’s school adopted the hybrid model, meaning they offer a combination of in-person and virtual classes. This has posed a unique set of challenges for Robert, who says he often has students disappearing from in-person classes, making it hard to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine. He tries to adapt his and his students’ routines to fit the current situation, which isn’t always easy. He says that using Prezi Video has given him more flexibility with the hybrid model.
“Teachers were given the option of whether or not they wanted to go live via Google Meet. I watched several of my colleagues attempt this and heard the frustrations it came with: ‘students can’t hear me,’ ‘I can’t hear my students,’ ‘Suzi says they have a bad connection,’” Robert explains. “This didn’t sound fun, so I opted to pre-record lessons for my virtual students with Prezi Video, and I’m so glad I did.”
William pointed out that one of the biggest roadblocks in virtual instruction has been student access. While accessibility has always posed a challenge for students, shifting to a format that relies heavily on technology has been especially difficult. Many students, even those considered technologically savvy, struggled with the transition, and teachers even more so. They ultimately learned to be flexible and absorbent to the constant influx of new technology, tools, and platforms.
Tip #3: Use tools that create a dynamic environment
Michelle has a ton of experience trying out online educational tools. She said that she recommends teachers use platforms like Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Blackboard, or Canvas, to support students in both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Bottom line, having spaces for both large and small group discussions, as well as for students to work individually, will give them a well-rounded educational experience, even virtually.
When asked what his favorite tools are to help navigate the virtual classroom environment, William pointed to Microsoft’s learning platforms as great for classroom collaboration. He loves pulling PowerPoints into Prezi Video on Microsoft Teams, and he says the combination of these platforms is a great way to deliver visually pleasing instruction. Prezi Video is complementary to many platforms that are heavily used by educators, making it a convenient means to boost the visual impact on the average classroom lecture or activity.
Robert likes using Prezi Video because it allows students to rewatch lessons as many times as they need to. One of the most important online teaching tips he’s learned is to provide students flexibility – it’s crucial to relieve the stress many of them are feeling from the current challenges of online learning.
“They can go to the bathroom 100 times, make it to their doctor’s appointment, go out to lunch with Aunt Irma who is only in town the Tuesday before test day, and STILL not miss a thing (or frustrate their teacher),” he says.
What’s more, Robert says that Prezi Video helps him hold his students’ attention. He loves building dynamic presentations in Prezi Video because they are never looking at one slide or image for too long.
And when it comes to 10-year-olds? “You HAVE to keep things moving if you want to hold [their attention],” he adds. “And so far… it’s working.”
Tip #4: Invest in audio and lighting…it’ll pay off
Most teachers never thought they would be ordering ring lights and microphones to teach their classes. But nowadays, having a home studio with good lighting and clear audio can make your students feel as if they’re back in the classroom with you.
“I would set myself in front of a window for my videos earlier this year. Now that it’s darker in the mornings, I have invested in a media light,” says Robert. “It was only a few bucks on Amazon and cleans up the quality.”
William says that to improve his audio, he likes to pad the floor and areas surrounding his computer with blankets and pillows. This takes out the echo in audio that can result from an emptier room with hard floors. Some more affordable video quality suggestions are to invest in a high definition web camera and stock headphones with a mic to improve your audio.
For those looking to really step up their game and splurge, William suggests investing in a high definition DSLR camera, a RODE mic, and color-changing lights from Amazon. He recommends following educators on YouTube who provide good resources for looking and sounding your best.
Tip #5: Use virtual tools for in-person instruction
Presumably, schools will return to in-person learning in the future, and many teachers plan to continue using Prezi Video when this happens. Robert has built up a decent library of lessons that he can use for students during class in a station-style exercise, with one of the stations being the Prezi station. And, he has the added reassurance that he can use these lessons if he has to miss a class, and can simply send the substitute teacher pre-recorded Prezi videos.
Prezi Video is also a useful tool in the flipped classroom model, where teachers can send students pre-recorded lectures to watch as homework and can spend class time engaging in active learning exercises. Warren says that he plans to use Prezi Video for this use so that he can create instructional videos that are better rehearsed and more polished.
William is looking forward to using Prezi Video for virtual (and eventually non-virtual) presenting. He also wants to try out different use cases for it, like using it for videos on his podcast and presenting at conferences.
While the future of learning is uncertain for most educators and will likely be for a while, there are plenty of online teaching tips to make virtual learning easier and more engaging. Oftentimes, the challenges of remote learning can seem overwhelming, but finding ways to interact with students and make them feel a sense of normalcy may make all the difference in their ability to learn. See how Prezi Video can make your online lessons more engaging and interactive by viewing some of our favorite examples in the Teacher Gallery, and get started by creating your first video today.
For more online teaching tips, check out our playlist on YouTube: