Engaging Content For Online Teaching And Learning

Finding the best way to pass across your content and get your students to understand you in an online environment can be quite challenging. This means we must seek different ways to present content to students in such a way that they can understand it, and also remain engaged as well.

6 Content Types For Teaching Online

Finding the best way to pass across your content and get your students to understand you in a face-to-face teaching environment can be challenging. Doing that in an online environment can be even more challenging. With virtual learning, reactions are usually not seen and one cannot really know if and when they become confused. Also, one cannot hear their voices or get the kind of instant feedback as one would have in a classroom environment. This means we must seek different ways to present content to students in such a way that they can understand it, especially in an online environment and also remain engaged as well.

Dr Phillips (not her real name), a university lecturer, had been teaching in this COVID period using  WhatsApp. She had simply typed out her note or taken pictures of it and sent it to a group of her students on WhatsApp. The response had been discouraging as students always had an excuse for not responding to her assessments. They always complained “we can’t see the note” or “we don’t understand it ma”. After a mixture of anger & frustration, she decided to try explaining the text with audio and the once dull class became active again. After attending a training I facilitated on teaching in a digital environment, she then understood the response and decided to try video!

A once dull class can come alive just by changing the content type from text to audio and even much more when changed to video! Click To Tweet

The Rationale

Why should teachers present students with contents using these different methods?

1. To cater for different learning styles:

Students have different learning styles. This means that, just like us, all the 30 students (or more or less) in your class, do not all learn in the same way. Some are:  

 * Visual learners (they learn by seeing);
* Auditory learners (they learn by hearing);
* Read & Write learners (they learn by reading & writing); 
* Kinesthetic learners (they learn by doing);

Some schools of thought even postulate 8 learning styles but the basic fact is that we all learn in  different ways and so do our students as well. This immediately shows us the need to provide  content that will cater for these learning styles, otherwise, some students might be permanently left  out and find it difficult to learn; simply because they do not learn in the way you have been teaching.

The goal of teaching is Learning, so students must be taught in a way that they can learn.  Teachers must present content in different ways to cater for students' different learning styles. Click To Tweet

2. To ensure student engagement:

One of the biggest challenges of teaching online is distraction. Students get distracted in a face-to-face environment where the teacher is very much in control, it becomes even more difficult to keep that control in an online environment. Why would you love to keep control anyway? (That’s a topic  for another day).
Using different content types can help minimize distractions and keep students engaged in the learning content. Those who would sleep off or click off while reading text, would come alive and stay on course while watching a video or playing a game.

Do you find your students always distracted and not engaged in the learning activity? Try presenting the content in another form! Click To Tweet

Content Types in an Online Environment

When creating content online, ensure to put content in:

1. Text – Try to give your students some note to read. Even if it is simply a paragraph of a few lines.  You can save them as pdf and upload it for them to download and read in their own time.

2. Image – You can get free images that depict your content or better still create yours with free online tools. Tools like Canva, Adobe Spark &  Infographia can be used to create graphics & infographics easily and for free. This can be shared with your students to capture the major points in your notes.

3. Audio – In addition to the above, teachers can record and post audio files with their text or image content. You can explain the note or a little concept in a short audio and upload for your students. You can also find relevant podcasts and share with your students. Audio and voice notes should be as short as possible. This will better ensure that your students don’t drift off while listening.

When using audio to teach, they should be a maximum of 10 mins and 10Mb. Click To Tweet

4. Video – Videos can be used to further engage your students. You can either find a suitable video  online on YouTube or create yours. To make a virtual class more engagement, you can show your face  so your students not only see your content but your face while explaining the content.

#Teachers should find or create relevant videos that can be used to teach and communicate  content to #students, this increases #studentengagement Click To Tweet

N.B – Ensure your video recordings should be a maximum of 10 mins and 15Mb. You can compress it if  it is more.

5. Games – Games can be used in teaching and learning in two ways.

Game-based learning – It is finding & using real games that can help students learn. A simple Google search on “Games to teach osmosis” will bring up options, that teachers can maximize in an online environment. Examples include Mathland, Duckstars etc.

Gamification – It is using the principles of games like levels, points, badges, lives, leaderboard etc.  for the purpose of learning. This is not exactly about playing games but about taking what makes games fun & engaging and adapting them for learning purposes. It involves giving students points or badges for completing activities or helping their peers, displaying a leaderboard based on total points etc. This engages the students and makes them active learners.

Whether it's in a #f2f or #online environment, the light bulb comes on when you present  content in a more engaging way – try video or even games! Click To Tweet

6. Internet – I remember taking a course in school and when we asked the lecturer for the course material, he simply said: “The entire internet is your text and it is examinable”. This for me is a big advantage of teaching online. Your students have access to content beyond you. They can learn from other experts in the field and this adds to their understanding of the concepts. Even though it releases the control from your hand but it is very beneficial to the students.

Students can search for or build themselves content based on the topic, They can find relevant articles, blogs, videos, documentaries that can be of help to their understanding of the concept.  Teachers can also use these to present content to students.

Sources of Digital Content

How do you get these digital content for online teaching?

1. Search for relevant Content.

The internet is full of content already created by other educators that can be useful for your teaching.  Whether it is text, images, videos or games, a simple google search can be used to discover content.

So let’s say you want to teach “Profit & loss” in economics or business studies, you can go to YouTube and search for “profit & loss explained”. You will see several videos from animated, to cartoonish, to lectures, etc. that explains the topic. You could also search “educational games to teach profit & loss” and you’ll see options.

N.B. For audio & video, your content must be relevant & short.Also, be sure to credit the source & creator.

2. Create your own Content.

There are times you do a search and don’t find something very relevant. What you find may be too advanced for the level you want to teach or not in a sharable format or worse still, it may be an entirely different context.

Using the example above, let’s say all the images or videos you see use dollars & pounds as the currency to explain profit & loss, this may be difficult for primary or secondary school students in  Nigeria, who use the Naira, to comprehend. You may, therefore, need to create your own content  yourself. There are many free tools available for you to create content. So whether it is images,  videos, or audio, there are online/offline tools that can be used.

So as you continue to teach online, ensure that you try your hand at using existing or creating new,  varying content forms discussed above bearing in mind that your students learn in individually different ways.

We are in times when teaching online is becoming a norm and there is indeed no going back from this. Every teacher must, therefore, learn to present content to students using different means.  Whether they find relevant content already created by someone else or they create theirs, different content types will cater for the different learning styles of your students and also increase engagement in the online environment.

In what ways have you been able to present content to your students and what has your experience been with this? Which did you find easier – finding or creating your content?

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