The COVID-19 pandemic has made remote education crucial. It was treated separately from traditional methods of education. People who wanted to save some time and look for flexibility chose online education and other forms of remote education as alternatives to traditional in-class lessons. Now, remote education is the only option available for many students and educators.
Even in schools that still offer in-person lessons, classes are no longer the coherent units that they used to be. Some students study remotely, while others have hybrid schedules, attending some classes at school and studying online the rest of the time. Therefore, teachers have to adapt to the new standards, making sure that both online and in-person lessons will create a consistent learning experience.
The flexibility of online education also has its flip side because ensuring a coherent learning experience becomes one of the main challenges for educators. According to the Oxford dictionary, coherence is a term that has two meanings. First, it means the quality of being logically consistent. Secondly, it means the quality of forming a unified structure. Maintaining logical consistency is a necessity when teaching students because fragmented pieces of information don’t enable students to figure out the whole picture.
The ongoing changes that influence the education system during this pandemic certainly don’t contribute to ensuring a consistent learning experience. Of course, the learning process shouldn’t necessarily be linear. However, when students don’t have an opportunity to meet teachers in-person, it becomes especially important to not only make sure they can access necessary materials, but also understand them.
Many teachers assumed they could teach content the same way as in-class, but quickly realized that lesson plans should be adapted for remote education. Educators need to engage with students regardless of their distance, and keeping them engaged can be a challenge.
To present the material effectively, lessons should be structured in a certain way. For instance, students are not ready to get into the details of the subject from the very beginning. The best way to present the material is to start with a quick introduction and then get to the main points. Students may be tired at the end of a lesson, so teachers can use the remaining portion of the lesson to provide a quick summary or to ask questions to help students better memorize what they’ve just learned.
In other words, a lesson should consist of the three key sections: an opening, the main part, and closure. It’s also important to use transitions when switching from one subject or subtopic to another. Transitions will help you keep students engaged and make your materials more cohesive. Most educators know the importance of openings, transitions, and closures, but these concepts are rarely considered a priority. Quite often, teachers simply plan the material they’re going to present but don’t plan how exactly they will help students learn it.
Usually, the introductory part of a lesson only takes about five minutes, but it has a big impact on how much students will actually learn. The type of introduction depends on the type of audience and its distinctive features. Generally, starting a lesson with a quick overview builds lesson consistency because it enables students to quickly evaluate their existing knowledge and helps teachers identify areas that may need additional explanation. An effective introduction should relate to the previous lesson, provide a quick summary of the current lesson, and build up students’ engagement to pique their interest.
Closures establish a clear connection between different lessons. An effective closure should not only summarize the whole lesson, but also explain what students should prepare for and what the next lesson will be about. A good closure can also consider the lesson topic in a broader context. This way, students will be able to think about how the material of the lesson relates to the general goals of the course and its real-life applications. Besides, providing some background information related to the content of the next lesson can help students understand what they should focus on and what topics they might need to research.
Although there is little research on the importance of openings and closures, many experts agree that openings enable students to better prepare for a lesson. Openings, closings, and transitions can help teachers structure their lessons in an easy to comprehend way, making these lessons more cohesive. Such boundary markers help educators develop engaging lesson plans. Creating the right structure, however, is not enough to ensure consistent engagement.
Don’t forget that consistent learning experiences also depend on the communication between a teacher and students. When a lesson begins, a teacher should establish their presence immediately, talk about homework, answer questions from students, and then start the introduction. Even though online lessons don’t enable educators to maintain the same level of communication as when teaching students face-to-face, effective online communication should be an integral part of remote education.
One of the best approaches is to enable students to contact their teachers any time, not only during a lesson. For instance, teachers can engage with their students on social media or simply answer their emails outside of the working hours (but make sure to follow a healthy work-life balance—for example, not answering student questions before bed). Online education is associated with a certain degree of flexibility, which means that students may replay lectures or revise other educational materials at any time. Therefore, if you want to ensure the consistency of the learning experience, they should also be able to communicate with their teacher at any moment.
Online education has never been so big. The coronavirus pandemic forced many teachers to try new approaches and learning the quirks of remote education. Online learning offers a number of benefits. For example, students can enjoy flexibility and study in a comfortable environment, with no need to be physically present at a certain location.
Providing a cohesive learning experience, however, becomes a challenge. Many teachers realize that they need to change their approaches to make sure students stay engaged and the material is easy to understand.
Teachers can make their lessons more coherent by maintaining a clear, logical structure. Introductions, closings, transitions, and other boundary markers can help students digest the material easier. These elements, as well as effective communication, can help educators ensure a consistent learning experience, no matter whether lessons take place in-person or online.
Rhonda Martinez is an ESL teacher, avid reader and effective educator. She writes reviews for LegitWritingServices and enjoys writing essays for literary magazines and journals. Besides teaching and writing, she is a lifelong student of Chinese philosophy and a passionate geek for all things edtech.