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Planning online lessons

An article on considerations a teacher needs to have in mind when planning online lessons.
© UCLES 2021

Before we think about planning and delivering receptive skills lessons, let’s start by thinking about planning online lessons in general. Planning online lessons is similar in many ways to planning face-to-face lessons, but there are some different considerations to make.

Task 1

Read the article below about planning online lessons and answer the questions.

  • What is the same when planning online lesson and face-to-face lessons?
  • How do the tools in a platform affect planning?
  • What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning?
  • How does the context affect your planning?

Decisions you need to make when planning online lessons

What’s the same
Many of the decisions you need to make when planning online lessons are exactly the same as those you make when planning face-to-face lessons. You need to have a meaningful learning objective, and material and activities that are logically ordered to enable learners to achieve that objective; you need to decide how to monitor learning and deal with feedback, and you need to ensure that learners are engaged.
Different tools
However, the nature of online learning means that you’re unlikely to do everything in the same way online as you would face-to-face. Firstly, you have different tools available to you online (e.g. chat box, breakout rooms, interactive whiteboard), so you need to make sure that the materials and activities you select can work with these tools. For example, a drawing game that works on paper in a face-to-face classroom may not work online if learners are having to use a mouse on an interactive whiteboard.
Ensuring interactivity
You need to think about how you can make activities as interactive as possible online, how you’re going to gather answers to questions or tasks, and how you’re going to give feedback. In a physical classroom, you might ask learners to put their hands up or to call out answers to a reading comprehension exercise. However online, you’re more likely to ask learners to share their answers via the chat box so you can assess all learners’ reading skills, and then nominate a learner to explain their answer before you confirm it. You might want to display a reading text online and allow learners to annotate to show where they found their answers before you give feedback.
Synchronous vs asynchronous
Another important consideration is how much learning on your course takes place in live lessons with learners all working together at the same time (synchronous learning) and how much can take place outside of these lessons with learners working on material at their own pace in their own time (asynchronous learning). This will depend on your context. If you teach privately, you can agree on this with your learners. If you teach for an organisation, this is likely to be determined for you.
There is also the decision around what will be done synchronously and what will be done asynchronously. Synchronous lessons tend to be best used for activities that focus on collaboration and discussion, but the decisions you or your organisation makes very much depends on the context and your learners. For example, the majority of learning on a one-to-one course with a busy manager may be in live lessons, whereas the majority of learning with a large class of secondary learners may need to be asynchronous.
Achieving learner objectives in different ways
The same learning objectives can be achieved whether activities are done synchronously or asynchronously. You might decide, for example, to spend time in live lessons on oral language practice, while gap-fill-type language practice tasks are completed asynchronously as consolidation. Alternatively, you may feel that your learners would benefit from completing gap-fill-type tasks in class in pairs, so that you can help them to understand the language when they get answers wrong. You may feel that learners would benefit from completing an oral practice task out of class via an online voice recording tool, as they have more time to think, create and record than if they do it live in breakout rooms. Either way, the same outcomes are possible. Note that when combining synchronous and asynchronous activities, a learning management system (LMS) is generally necessary.
Flipped learning
Finally, you may choose to provide instruction asynchronously, with learners watching short videos of input (e.g. language presentation and clarification or explanation of a learning strategy) and then synchronous time spent on practice. This is known as ‘flipped learning’. You’ll learn more about that in week 4 of the course.

Check your answers

Task 2

Compare the two lesson outlines below. What is the learning objective for both plans? How is that learning objective achieved differently?

  • Lesson outline 1
  • Lesson outline 2
  • Check your answers

    Reflect and share

    What activities do you think are best done synchronously in your context? What activities could be done asynchronously? Why?

    Share your ideas in the comments below.

    © UCLES 2021
    This article is from the free online

    Teaching English Online

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