Teachers planning to move their teaching and learning online must be aware that it is important for them to equip themselves with certain skills. Besides the ICT literacy that is to be expected of them, what other skills would they need?
In truth, the basic teaching skills that a teacher is supposed to have in brick-and-mortar classroom still applies and perhaps it may be argued that some of them become even more essential. The essential ingredients of what makes a good class and lesson will still remain. Teacher beliefs and values, class management skills, a clear understanding of the learning outcomes, the assessment of the learning, good instructional planning and motivational skills are all still important ingredients of a successful class whether online or otherwise.
However, the manner these skill are put into practice in the online classroom will differ quite considerably. For example, with regards to the need to create a safe learning environment, in a brick-and-mortar classroom, everyone is able to see and talk to each other spontaneously while in an online classroom, this is not the case. Plus the facial gestures and the nuances in the way words are spoken that is so important in everyday communication is replaced with only dry and impersonal text. This is where the well-known emoticons come into play. Other examples of unique online class management skills include for example taking into account the types of online behavioral tendencies of online participants.
Good instructional planning or design becomes even more important in the online classroom. Good instructional planning is required in a brick-and-mortar classroom but in such classrooms, teachers can make spontaneous adaptations to the situation in the classrooms. In an online environment it is not as easy to do so. This can influence considerably the flow of the lesson or instruction.
In short, teachers need to familiarize themselves first with the likely online classroom environment. They must also remember that the online classroom environment can differ according to the kind of learning activity that is to be used. A discussion forum is quite different from a synchronous chat session. The facilitation approach for both would also be quite varied. Drill-and-practice activities require perhaps less class management attention. The best way for teachers to understand the differences between these environments is to perhaps undergo an online class themselves.
In seeking to understand the students’ online experience, the teachers must learn to be online students themselves. The online experience for the teachers does not have to be a class on online learning itself. But it is important that whatever the online course the teacher undergoes, the teacher should consciously note the experience and compare it with their past classoom learning experience. Only then can they craft an online lesson themselves. The crafting of an online lesson goes beyond the technicalities of the online learning platform. More important is the re-shaping of the traditional teaching skills to fit the new environment.