The benefits of online teaching

Sheila Thomas writes.

I read with interest Ella Rhodes’ article ‘Preparing for the new teaching term’, outlining the experiences of academics in finding innovative ways of supporting students in their learning during the pandemic (October issue).

I can give equally positive feedback from the school experience of teaching and learning online. I was approached in November 2020 by a former colleague who had become the Headteacher of a secondary school in the Midlands. She related to me the difficulties the school had encountered in recruiting a maternity cover teacher for A level Psychology for January to December 2021. The usual avenues had proved unfruitful, people being naturally unwilling to relocate mid-pandemic for a position which would finish halfway through the academic year, with the successful candidate potentially facing six months of unemployment afterwards. I now live in Portugal, having relocated here after teaching Psychology for 25 years in UK schools, and together we worked out a way of making the online teaching both practical and enriching.

Using GoogleMeet, I was able to teach large classes even during lockdown. I found that students, working in the comfort and privacy of their own bedrooms, without the distractions of others in a classroom environment, were able to focus much more effectively. It also became apparent that, for some of the more reticent and shy students, contributing verbally on screen was much less daunting than speaking in front of the whole group in a classroom.

I would also endorse Dr Nordmann’s view in the article that online chat boxes provide a very comfortable way for students to interact with me and each other. Inclusivity and flexibility increased using online methods, and greater responsibility was taken by students for independent learning. The lack of social contact was without doubt a major burden for the students, but breakout rooms and small group activities made it possible to build a sense of community and belonging.

It is the school’s intention to make this innovative solution to its recruitment difficulties more widely known. After all, there is a great wealth of expertise amongst retired teachers and other academic staff who may have moved on to other things. Using technology creatively in this way enables everyone to benefit.

Sheila Thomas

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