My experience with online learning started when I joined online training courses organized by district four years ago, and as an adult learner I felt so at ease and comfortable when my trainer could only give lectures on her own but was unable to keep the class disciplined or focused. I could watch the course video while making a cup of tea, or browse other websites.
How would I know my next taste of online education came so different in a way that I was in the position of my trainer four years ago. Since the start of this semester, we teachers had to conduct online teaching following regular teaching schedule, which was a big challenge to almost every faculty member of the school. Colleagues, like me, probably have had some taste of online education in the past, but when it comes to being a teacher in online platform, everything was new. I was very glad the school provided detailed and holistic training for all faculty and staff members one week in advance, leaving enough time for us to prepare for this difficult situation. IT department had generously supported every member to set up the teaching platform or solve any connection problem.
Teaching, assessing, and interacting were all turned online, including quizzes, students’ writing samples, short-answer questions, listening homework, speaking homework, etc. Then how could students access the textbook when they left their textbooks in the school? How could teachers save some time in marking students blurring photos with writing questions? How could I communicate with students when face-to-face interaction was no longer a choice? How could students stay focused in the class? There were many questions for online teaching awaiting feasible plans and solutions.
After brainstorming with my brilliant colleagues in the department, the following measures have been taken to make online teaching less challenging for us. I started using OneNote Class Notebook to publish course materials, create collaboration space for students, and to collect assignments; I created QuizLet account to test vocabulary; I recommended smart apps to students for improving the resolution of their assignment photos; I asked students to switch on their cameras in the class and ask directed-questions to keep them focused. I made successful attempt with multiple online teaching platforms, including Wechat, Skype, Tencent Meeting, and Zoom, make sure all students had stable connection to the class. The process of trying something new was time-consuming, but also exciting. As long as a better tool or platform could be explored, tested and implemented, all efforts of us teachers are paid off.
As a Chinese proverb goes, solutions are always more than problems. With unity and solidarity of the school’s faculty member, I believe all difficulties would be overcome. “Winter will eventually pass, and spring is sure to come!”