Creating an efficient and effective digital classroom requires online teachers to develop exceptional communication skills. Twenty-first century teachers need all the skills required to develop lessons plans for traditional classroom instruction, and they must be able to apply them to digital teaching environments.
Education delivery is evolving. As the evolution progresses, the overriding challenge for educators and administrators will be finding ways to embrace new technology and teaching environments in a responsible, practical and educationally sound manner.
The National Education Association (NEA) has created guidelines for teaching online classes that outline the support systems online teachers will need to succeed. Traditional classroom teachers have a high-quality education, rely on myriad resources and expect strong leadership to enhance their outcomes in the classroom. Digital classroom instruction will require those same foundations along with technology and support systems to create an engaging, productive environment conducive to optimal learning.
Technological resources do not relieve online teachers of their responsibility to acquire advanced skills through professional development. The emerging technology-dependent setting of online learning will demand that educators hone their existing skills and embrace new ones.
An online learning environment requires clear, concise instruction. Educators experienced in face-to-face classroom instruction methods may need to develop stronger written communication skills. Skills for using graphics, videos and digital audio files for communication with students are essential.
Conversations with students and parents today rely more heavily on texting, email and voice-messaging. Rather than meeting in-person for parent-teacher conferences and student tutoring activities, online teachers often use a webcam setup.
Online teachers will also have to develop skills and knowledge specific to Web-based educational systems. Teachers should be able to demonstrate proficiency in these six areas:
Time management is even more critical in an online learning environment than in a traditional classroom. Information on the Internet changes frequently. Teachers must be able to evaluate information and update course materials as necessary to ensure students have timely, relevant information.
In addition, instructor feedback should be provided to students as soon as possible. Assignments should be graded within one week of submission. Providing a rubric with appropriate feedback for assignments encourages students to review their work and ask questions about subject material as the course progresses.
Students taking classes in an online environment do not always attend class during normal school hours. Scheduling conference time and office time during evenings and weekends is essential.
Online teachers must be able to evaluate student performance accurately. Educators will “take roll” by monitoring access to the class, reviewing discussion posts and grading assignments. New methods for identifying learning difficulties and other factors that affect academic performance are necessary in a digital education environment.
Some students may experience difficulties retaining information learned through an online course. An effective online educator must have sufficient skills to develop engaging course curriculum that motivates and encourages students to participate fully. Interactive components, timely, relevant supplemental readings and group activities reinforce retention. Teachers must develop skills to help students fully engage according to individual learning abilities.
Supportive administrators, proper training and education, collaboration with peers and mentors experienced in online education delivery systems and a continual professional development program geared toward equipping today’s teachers are all essential tools for online teachers. Students’ academic success depends on skilled, highly motivated teachers in both traditional and online classrooms.