How to teach
During a crisis disruption of normal CSE delivery, there is usually uncertainty about how CSE could – and indeed whether it even should – continue. There are many questions, but foremost among them is the question of how to go about providing CSE in a digital format. This chapter answers that question.
Digital and hybrid approaches to CSE are limited in what they can provide, but so is in-person CSE. Being aware of the ways that these platforms may not meet everyone’s needs allows us, in times where we have the option, to choose mindfully what kind of pros we absolutely need and cons we are most able to accept.
For the purposes of this document, online learning is broken up into three large categories of ways to reach learners online: synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid. Synchronous learning is structured so that teachers/facilitators and learners/participants are all engaging at the same time while asynchronous approaches happen across time with teachers and learners engaging at whatever times they are available. Because these categories are so different, they require entirely different approaches and must be considered independently. Hybrid methods are some combination of synchronous, asynchronous, and even in-person approaches. The most common hybrid approaches have some combination of in-person and online participation.
Regardless of the approach, each of the digital and hybrid methods requires adjusting the timing of sessions/activities that have typically worked in-person. Time moves differently online and accounting for that difference is necessary for the learning to feel natural in the online modality. For example, running faster through something isn’t the same as trimming or modifying it for the new approach.
- Technological complexity – managing the details in a video conference call takes attention and involves a learning curve.
- False sense of connectedness – because it is possible to see each other’s faces, but it does not offer true eye contact or the possibility of seeing full body language.
- Security – zoom bombing is one example, another would be participants taking screenshots or photos of the screen, and so on.
- SEDRA contribution: our experiencee has consisted in multiple mixed formats, that means the educator is online while the group is face to face. In this cases the difficulties multiply: faces are not seen, contributions and discussions are not heard well, people from the group are ‘anonymous’, gestures got unnoticed, etc. Therefore, it is essential to have an ally on the other side, predictably the regular educator. Meeting with her/him/them beforehand is vital in order to work on the content, the structure and giving them clearly instructions of what is needed. The success or the failure depends on this.
The biggest challenge that comes with digital CSE is the safety of the participants and the educators, which is why we have devoted an entire chapter to this issue. Before moving forward with any synchronous CSE, be sure to consult with this chapter to ensure the program is not bringing more harm than good.
Making the process of teaching CSE feel more organic and natural to the virtual space itself is essential. Consider the kinds of online tools that interface with synchronous structures and make them central to the curricular structure. Ways to modify existing programming in ways that feel natural are instrumental, and having a good grasp on what feels natural is a great place to start.
Here are a few examples of digital elements to use strategically:
- Whiteboard feature
- Polling feature
- Breakout rooms (can be used for small group conversations and also for when a participant needs a one-on-one chat with a facilitator)
- Private and group chat/messaging systems
- Digital slides that are shared
- Social media groups that are formed after the learning experience to continue connection
- Anonymous question platform (can be something that is for general use like google forms or a polling software or ones that are designed for anonymous questions)
Many of these elements are available within synchronous video platforms and also via outside platforms. Consider the whiteboard feature. While the one available within Zoom is sufficient, there are benefits to using Google’s JamBoard because of its integration with Google Image Search or even much more robust whiteboards like Mural or Miro. The more robust the program, however, the more time will need to be spent training participants on how to use it. The costs and benefits of this trade off will depend on many factors, including how much time total the program uses (the more time, the more likely it is that additional technical training will pay off on a more robust program) and the average and range of quality of the Wi-Fi and computers the participants will be using (the lower the quality, the less useful the more robust whiteboard systems).
Finally, however optimized your digital CSE is, there is always room to grow.