You just tossed the rest of your semester online. You never taught online before, let alone wrote for online delivery. First, let me applaud you. You did a great job; you’re making things happen in a situation that is not ideal. Second, go back to your content with less panic in your heart and eyes. Scan for areas where you might otherwise see your face to face learners getting tired, confused or disengaged. Then consider these super low-tech ways to improve online content presentation.
Call it out
Pause to check knowledge
Let someone else speak up
Call it out
The quickest, low-tech way to catch the attention of an exhausted online learner is a design hack. Create a call out of an important fact, interesting tip or big idea by calling it out in a different, bigger size font and color. As you do this throughout your course be consistent with that font, font size and color, this will enable your learner to scan for those juicy bits to gain high-level understanding. If the platform where you are teaching has little creative flexibility you can make callout graphics in Power Point or Word and screen shot them into your lessons.
Pause for knowledge checks
Knowledge checks can help simulate the moments you would pose questions to a live class, opening things up to the group for discussion. Low-tech knowledge checks can be added to online courses with ease. It’s as simple as adding 3-5 questions about the content covered and posting a pdf answer sheet underneath. This will give learners time to consider the questions before they download the answers. Keeping it low-tech but stepping it up a bit to include email, you can also have learners email you the answers for credit. Respond with an answer sheet. You can even set up a rule in your email that kicks learners a response with the answers. Be sure to define the email subject line in the assignment instructions. Adjust the settings in Outlook or Gmail to keep an eye out for the subject line you defined and your email platform will take care of the rest. Do not allow learners to submit all the answers at once. You want them making considerations and getting quick feedback as they move through the content to stay engaged.
Let someone else talk
This is a simple way to appeal to audio senses and stimulate minds to keep learners engaged. Switch up the voice. Have a colleague or someone at home record the definition of important terms or content summaries throughout your course. If you choose to do summaries don’t let more than 3 topics pass before you add those reflections. In the spirit of keeping this low-tech and convenient, have your voice talent record the individual sound files on their phone and email them to you so you can upload them to your course. Most (Andoid or iOS) smartphones support voice recording.
Try out my simple tips and let me know how they worked. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you get stuck. Let me know your ideas, even if you have yet to try them - share your low-tech hacks for improving online courses below!