I am happy to acknowledge that what I will write here, I learned from one of my students who is now an online teacher of high school English.
This is about professionalizing the new normal of teaching online. So often, when students open their Zoom class they see their teacher, usually in casual attire, mostly in a study room or computer corner.
But sometimes, a teacher is situated at the dining table with various people running in and out of the kitchen behind. And this tends to diminish the seriousness of online learning!
My student, now a licensed LET teacher, held a Facetime call with me but from her online teaching corner. Seated at a desk with her laptop computer placed on top of a few books to raise its height, she could look straight into the computer. Otherwise, she would be seen on the screen looking down at the students in an “authoritarian” position. When the laptop camera is at the same level as the head of the lecturer, this gives a more “egalitarian view.” This is important to the learners!
Behind her, there was a 3 by 4 foot tarpaulin with the name of the school and its logo, the course title (Writing and Speaking English), and the name of the teacher.
On the left side was a space where the teacher could pin extra notes, or post a homework assignment, or add sketches or drawings to illustrate her lecture.
For each teacher to make his or her own tarp might cost a bit, and not everyone might be artistically talented to create one. But as the school is saving funds on the maintenance of classrooms, and sometimes also on air-conditioning, perhaps the school should sponsor these tarps as a “bonus” and additional teaching tool for their faculty. This would also assure uniform and correct presentation of the school name and logo. The administration could prepare a template on which faculty would fill in their name and subject(s) taught.
Students too should raise their level of formality. Some appear in shorts and sando, in their bedrooms with a brother or sister wandering around. Students should be asked to dress properly in buttoned shirts and trousers, girls in a blouse and skirt or pants. Or the school may insist that students be attired in the school uniform. A similar dress code should also be adapted for faculty.
While it might be expensive for all students to be given their personal tarpaulin for background, the administration could create a digital background design, with the school name and logo and perhaps the school motto all on a neutral background. These can be provided free for download on the school’s Learning Management System platform. Using this tarp, the student then would also lend more “class” formality to online learning.
If the school budget can accommodate it, the school should also provide each teacher with a headset (mic and noise-cancelling earphones) and a separate high-quality webcam. Optionally, and on request, particularly for teachers residing in areas with intermittent or no Wi-Fi availability, the school might also consider providing a portable wifi router.
These tools ensure that teachers can be seen and heard unambiguously and thus deliver clear lessons. These tools also professionalize online learning and make it a serious two-way learning system.
To succeed in online learning, professionalize.*