Reading Your Classroom When Your Classroom is Online



Reading Your Classroom When It's Online

What happens when you can't see their faces?

What’s Included in This Post?
• Directions on Directions


K-12 teachers have honed multiple soft skills, but none is quite so important as their ability to read the classroom. They know when they need to give more direction on an assignment to make sure their learners are mastering what was intended. 

Transitioning to teaching online means that they can no longer do that– and it’s difficult to realize that one of your superpowers has been cut off until you see the results from your students’ work. 

How can teachers move their assignments and projects online yet have students produce the same level of high-quality work? 

Trade One Superpower For Another

The most powerful thing teachers can do when assigning work online is increase the amount of direction. What might seem like too much in the classroom is probably still not enough online. The information that you can include in the Rich Content Editor (RCE) in Canvas can become your students’ best resource. 

Teachers will find that writing great directions once will ease the amount of time they spend on their courses for years to come. To do that, you will need to develop the superpower of predicting what kind of questions your learners might ask.


How To Get the Most Out of the Assignments

First: tell your learners how much time they can expect to spend on the work. Yes, you’re estimating. As adults, we are constantly estimating if we can start a task before our next scheduled event. And our students of all ages are the same. 

Second: explain how it relates to the content. Perhaps your students have been studying poetry for the past two weeks and their assignment requires them to record themselves read a piece of poetry of their choice. Why is this important for them to do? How does it relate? Explaining that the audio quality of poetic reading enhances their ability to identify the author’s style and pacing might help students approach the assignment differently than they would have before. 

Third: tell them exactly what is expected of them. If you want them to record their reading using their webcam, tell them that is an expectation. Otherwise, you’ll receive audio-only recordings and the students will be frustrated they didn’t know that was a requirement. Perhaps you want the recording to be more than one minute but less than two. You should share as much as you can with them about what is expected.

PRO TIP: You should also let them know if they have a choice—in a different course, the instructor might ask a learner to build a solution to a problem using physics and provide an explanation. If they can talk about it instead of writing their explanation, let them know that as well. 


Fourth: tell them how they will be graded. If students are submitting answers to a series of questions and the first five are worth one point each, but the last five are worth five points each, that will influence how much time they spend on responding to each one. If there is a rubric, explain to them how they can view the rubric. 

Fifth: use the integrated features in assignments. Set a due date if one is required. Close the assignment at a specific time. Add a rule that takes off points for late submissions automatically. Limit the number of times they can submit their work. Or you can also make it unlimited. Use the features that work best for you.

Sixth: (and last!) include information on how they can get help. If they should contact the instructor, include that information. If there is an opportunity for them to submit a draft for feedback, include that, too! If you think they may have trouble using Canvas to submit the work, you can always provide a link to the Canvas Student Guide.

Bonus Feature

In the classroom, teachers often walk through how to complete the work, especially if it requires using a new or special tool. Doing that online requires recording a video (Canvas Studio is an easy-to-use tool!). Including that video in the directions helps students who are unsure about how to begin.

Added Support

We just published the Course Evaluation Checklist v3.0! The Checklist includes information on how to build great assignments and so much more. If this article has piqued your interest in improving your content and design, go check it out! 


Final Thoughts

The benefit of putting all of this information online is that you can copy and paste it into your next assignment. Modify the details, and you’re ready to publish! If you teach as part of a department or team, you can reduce the amount of individual work by dividing out multiple assignments amongst your co-workers. And you can also use feedback that you receive and improve your directions for the future. Try putting extra detail into your assignment directions and see how your learners excel!


Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!


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