By Sharon Lee
Class of 2018, Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and Associate Faculty from the School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences
We were all hunkered down at home during Circuit Breaker when I first learnt about the workshop “Facilitate Impactful Learning Virtually”. This workshop came at an opportune time as I was scheduled to teach online in the new semester and a little nervous about it. Having attended other virtual workshops, I knew that the success of an online session depended very much on the facilitator’s ability to interact and engage with the participants. I was eager to learn new ways of engaging with students and develop the skills needed to teach an online class effectively.
“… it is not only possible to retain a personal touch, but also to harness the strengths of technology to make the online classroom more inclusive than a physical classroom.”
My greatest concern about teaching online is the difficulty in establishing a personal connection with the students. Yet, Dr Parveen, our trainer, demonstrated how it is not only possible to retain a personal touch, but also to harness the strengths of technology to make the online classroom more inclusive than a physical classroom. Through her warm words of welcome at the start of the session, her genuine interest in the participants and her encouraging demeanour throughout the session, Dr Parveen set the right tone and created a safe space that was ideal for interaction and learning. Instead of introducing a myriad of online tools for collaborative learning, she emphasised the importance of establishing rapport with the participants and designing a workshop with people in mind. Through this hands-on workshop where she elicited our views through the chat and annotation functions on Zoom, we learnt how it was possible to use these simple tools to facilitate discussion and do quick polls. In fact, during the presentation segment of the workshop, I learnt that the use of external tools can lead to disengagement if the learner finds it difficult to navigate external platforms. By having us experience the learners’ perspective and involving us in the discovery of knowledge, Dr Praveen showed us how to facilitate a workshop effectively while retaining the human connection.
“As long as we place learners at the heart of lesson design, online learning can be an immersive and inclusive experience for all.”
More than just imparting content knowledge and sharing useful tips, Dr Praveen modelled the best practices for us. It was through watching her facilitate the session that I learnt most. Since then, I have been taking a people-centric approach towards lesson design and putting into practice what I have learnt. I would strongly recommend this workshop to anyone who has to teach virtually.