The effective approach to distance teaching

In this text, Véronique C. Plouffe proposes a series of strategies aimed at maximizing learning results in a distance education context while minimizing the amount of effort provided by teachers, in order to reduce the risk of burnout. professional.

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By Véronique C. Plouffe, MBA, CRHA, Professor of Business Administration, Collège La Cité and student at Laval University

In this text, Véronique C. Plouffe proposes a series of strategies aimed at maximizing learning results in a distance education context while minimizing the amount of effort provided by teachers, in order to reduce the risk of burnout. professional.

The appearance of COVID-19 generated a massive transfer to distance education in the spring of 2020. Originally, it was a question of being able to maintain access to education through technologies, which distance education in emergency situations is called (emergency remote teaching). 

Although a recent survey conducted in the United States indicates that 75 % college students (post-secondary) prefer classroom or hybrid education, several institutions have nonetheless observed some benefits of distance education and plan to keep it, at least in part, in their educational offer.

In this context, it becomes important to reflect on certain challenges brought by online education such as faculty mental health. They may experience exhaustion, demotivation and a feeling of incompetence in the face of a lack of resources or the overwhelming workload following the transfer to a distance learning mode. 

To reduce the risk of burnout, even more difficult to identify when working from home, here we offer you a series of strategies aimed at maximizing the possible learning outcomes in a distance education setting while minimizing the amount of teacher effort. They will also speak, we hope, as much to those who teach in education as to those in higher education. 

Introspection is in order

First, be aware of the state of mind with which you approach distance education. Do you hope that everything will go back to "as before" or do you think that you are bad with technologies? Choosing to see distance education as an opportunity to grow and develop skills would make it possible to change their perception of the situation

It is no longer a question of surviving distance education, but of thriving in it.

It is no longer a question of surviving distance education, but of thriving in it. 

We know that each teaching service involves a good dose of preparatory work. Start by recognizing your stress, beliefs and emotional work that distance education requires. A greater dose of empathy for yourself could relieve you of negative emotions that make the work harder to bear. 

Less is more!

In the preparation of educational activities, apply the 3 R rule : Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. 

First, we reduce by wondering about the need for this task that we want to accomplish to achieve the learning objective. Is this activity which will take an hour to prepare essential? This elaborate layout too? 

Then, we reuse it by checking whether we can adapt already existing activities. This is a great saving of time on the drafting of instructions, on the layout or the evaluation grid. 

Finally, we recycle by collaborating with colleagues and by using material already available on different sharing platforms (including here is a directory, in English) or through textbook publishers. We will then of course make sure to respect copyright.

Avoid always wanting to test and use new apps. The philosophy less is more also has its place in the choice of technological tools. You will save time by doing a limited selection of solutions which will be most effective for your teaching.

Each new tool involves time to become familiar with its components and adds time to support young people who use the tool for the first time. Focusing on a small bank of well-chosen tools will make your planning easier and reduce the stress associated with novelty.

Go to the point as to the information needed and the tasks to be accomplished. It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to give a little more in order to cover all the bases and think about meeting the expectations of the learners. Knowing that only 20 to 30 % of university students would actually read compulsory resources, an informed choice will avoid overloading for all.

Small practical tips

Take advantage of the benefits of distance learning to reduce the burden of preparing for courses. Rather than making long presentations (just as long to prepare and more or less listened to by the students), use asynchronous training to suggest existing readings or videos. In class, you can take the opportunity to discuss and suggest practice activities. 

Another idea to reduce preparation time when it comes to presenting theoretical content is to call on a guest specialist. Welcoming a new person into the classroom has the advantage of energizing the course and often arouses the interest of the students for a longer period, thanks to the novelty effect and the potential to develop their professional network for the older ones.

Receive a regular feedback encourages students to invest more in the preparation required between classes and keep them more motivated. Take advantage of your training platform to, if it allows it, program in advance recognition messages to be sent when a learner completes a task. He will automatically receive your messages of encouragement.

In conclusion…

Just as distance learning requires special skills in students of all ages, distance teaching also requires adapting to new ways of doing things. Although the teacher's objective remains the same, the means available and the working methods differ. The avenues presented in this article are only a brief overview. It's a safe bet that several other good practices will emerge over time.

Editor's note: This text was first published on the blog of the Chair of Leadership in Teaching (CLÉ) on innovative teaching practices in a digital context - National Bank. It has been edited for publication in our pages.

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