Online teaching and learning is a growing area of exploration as the opportunities to teach and learn online grow. There are as many opportunities for developing online teaching and learning as there are to develop in-person teaching and learning, and some of the methods used online are not even available in the in-person environment.
Online sessions can be more tiring for teachers and students than in-person sessions, mostly because we are using senses that are not particularly accustomed to being exercised in particular ways (this will change as new generations grow up with this technology). Because of this, it is important to mix up methods of delivery of material, and to alternate contemplative/experiential material with didactic material. 20 minutes of didactic material online may be as much as a student can reasonably take in, and it may be as much as a teacher can remain present and focused for, especially as they are scanning the students video images, responding to chat messages and responding to verbal questions at the same time.
This may be different in different settings, but for online contemplative teaching and learning environments, a good guide is to limit didactic material to 20 minutes. The “talking head” phenomenon online can send viewers to sleep partly because viewers are not actively engaged, and partly because there’s a limit to the amount of didactic material students can take in, especially within a contemplative/experiential context.
Prioritizing synchronous online time
In addition, to compensate for lack of in-person connections and to help students remain engaged, it is important that students have plenty of time to connect with others during the synchronous class time. Students can read material and view videos of didactic material in their own time (asynchronously): their online time is best utilized in contemplative experiences and connection with others.
Below are some ways to present study material and contemplative material synchronously and asynchronously.
Study/didactic material can be offered asynchronously via:
- Video of a teacher presenting a topic;
- Video animation of presentation of a topic;
- Video of a Powerpoint presentation with a teacher voice overlay;
- Physical book;
- Online article;
- Downloadable PDF of book chapter or article;
Contemplative material can be offered asynchronously via:
- Dowloadable PDFs of instructions;
- Video of a teacher leading an exercise or meditation;
- Physical book;
- Audio recording of teacher leading an exercise or meditation.
Group sharing can be facilitated asynchronously via:
- Between-session discussion board between participants and the teacher;
- Between-session emailing between the teacher and participants, or simply between participants
Study/didactic material can be offered synchronously via:
- Live online meeting;
- Live Powerpoint presentation that a teacher speaks to;
- Live presentation of an Infographic or any other visual material that a teacher speaks to;
- Spontaneous mashups.
Contemplative material can be offered synchronously via:
- Live offering of a mediation or exercise by the teacher;
- Playing a video or audio recording of a teacher offering a meditation or exercise during the video conference (e.g. by sharing the teacher’s screen and audio).
Group sharing can be facilitated synchronously via:
- In-session video break-out groups;
- Chat function during a live session;
- Between-session video meetings between participants.
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