Online Education Blog #4

5 Tips from Harvard Business School

By Shlomo Maital  (with Maya Taya Arie)


Tips from Harvard Business School for online educators:

5 Essentials Tips for Teaching Online

For educators who have never taught online before—and for those brushing up on the basics—online teaching expert Bill Schiano shares his top five tips for creating a successful virtual classroom experience.

  1. Make eye contact.

If you want to engage students, you’ve got to be looking at that camera. Make your notes easy to see. If I’m looking down at my notes, you’ll see my bald spot, but you won’t see my eyes. You’re not engaged with me. Try posting a photo of your students near your webcam—remember that you’re talking to people, not a machine.

  1. Involve your students as much as possible.

Make your class session as interactive as you can. If you’re planning to just lecture, then record the lecture and make the recording available asynchronously instead. In a live session, remind yourself at least every 15 minutes to intersperse some form of interaction—be it taking questions, running polls, or calling on students to share examples, so it’s not just you speaking.

  1. Bring your best self.

As much as you can, engage yourself and show your passion. Maybe it’s with your hand gestures and vocal intonation, or maybe it’s with the conviction of your words. Remember why you became a teacher and use that energy, that sense of purpose, and convey that passion to your students. It’s even more essential online because you need to be bigger when you’re online—you’re often competing with more distractions and students who feel like they can go on mute and tune out.

  1. Remember that online connections are real connections.

Decide what the tone of your class is going to be—casual, formal, or somewhere in between. That’s going to help you decide what your assignments will look like, how you’re going to introduce your students to one another, and what it’ll feel like to be part of the community you’re building. The more you can build that community, the more your students are going to feel invested in the course, and the more likely they are to engage in the work. You want everyone in the class to want everyone else to be better. Many of your students will want that strong sense of connection, too, because they’ll miss being able to physically go to campus and talk to people.

  1. Embrace the opportunity.

You now have the opportunity to work with students online, which means they have an opportunity to learn online—this is going to help them develop skills that will be extremely useful to them in their careers. As more and more work gets done virtually, being comfortable interacting virtually and getting acclimated to the tools they’ll use in online courses will be helpful to them long term. Keep that big picture in mind whenever you’re struggling—and know that, with practice, you can absolutely translate your physical classroom skills to an online environment. 

   Excerpted from “Adapting Quickly to Teaching Online,” a webinar by Bill Schiano, Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University.