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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.






 The New Pricing Model:  “Name Your Price.  Really!”

By Shlomo Maital


   Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge has an interesting piece by Michael Blanding, about research by marketing assistant professor Shelle M. Santana.   Santana studied “pay what you wish” (PWYP) pricing.  

   PWYP?   According to economists, it makes no sense.  If you can pay, say, one cent, or nothing, why of course that’s what everybody will do. 

   Yet another case where economic theory misleads.

   “Research shows,” notes Blanding, “that when people are able to set their own prices, almost everyone pays something – and sometimes well over the suggested price.”  Santana says she was interested in the broad variance of prices people pay, under PWYP, and who pays a little, and who pays a lot, and when.

    She found that by controlling the environment and context, she can influence what buyers are willing to pay.

    Some examples of PWYP?   Radiohead’s In Rainbows album has ‘name your price’ downloads.  Dallas Theater Center has Pay What You Can nights to attract new patrons.  Boston Pedicab has an ‘open fare’ system.  Panera Bread has four nonprofit Panera locations with PWYP (I wrote a blog about one, some time ago).

    In one experiment Santana and a colleague designed a PWYP promotion  for a pack of gum at a student café at NYU.   At one scenario, their sign showed a pair of hands shaking, and read “It’s Your Turn to Set the Price Today”.  At a second, the sign showed a group of hands in a circle, that read: “Because We’re Partners, It’s Your Turn to Set the Price Today.” 

    Guess which sign got the highest price?  Of course – the second sign got an average price of 69 cents, compared with 57 cents for the first.  That’s a 21 per cent difference.

     Why?  Creating a communal norm…  pro-group, rather than just pro-self.  Moreover, customers are willing to pay more, often much more, when a portion of the proceeds is donated to charity – something many companies discovered long ago.

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 22 July 2015.  “Research and Ideas”

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital