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Teaching Online: Things I've Learned

 
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In the last 2+ years, I have used an online meeting platform for teaching (for teaching almost exclusively adults, and retired adults at that). Some days I think I've learned more than my students from the whole experience. Here are five things that surprised me about online teaching:

1. The "meeting space" is a real psychological space. You can actually have a cohesive sense of the class, with camaraderie and fellowship as you get to know each other and work together and share fun stuff: things related to the lessons, personal observations, jokes and stories. I initially resisted teaching through the internet for a long time, because I thought it would be terrible. Oh yeah, I’d still rather have a physical classroom, but as I have learned to use the medium, my class experience has gotten better and better.

2. Just because you have said it in class, and put it on a slide, and e-mailed everyone about something, still there will be someone the message didn’t get through to. Accept that this is just the way it is, cheerfully communicate the message again, and keep on moving!

3. Even though you have the freedom to work from home via online teaching, conversely this means you don’t have the freedom to leave home now and be away for extended errands depending on how tightly you’ve packed your schedule. Home isn't so much my starting point for the day's tasks now as it has become the center of my daily orbit because of the many times throughout the day I must be here in front of my computer.

4. DON’T SCHEDULE ANY STUDENTS OR CLASSES BACK-TO-BACK. So many reasons to not do this, I will sum it up with “just don’t.”

5. Attrition rates are super high—over 50%--for online classes. It’s just that way. When teaching online, keep this fact in your expectations and don’t take it personally when you lose half your class in the first month, or students suddenly cancel their tutoring. It’s not you—it’s just life.

There's plenty more to say, of course--and I probably will add on to this list later!

 
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How do you arrange payment?
Fee up front no refunds?
Fee partially paid and then paid on a weekly basis?
Is the on going cost a contributing factor?
 
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I taught online for 15 years.   I quickly found it was critical to set the tone for the classroom.  I spent many hours researching where my students were from. …and the students themselves.   That way when someone introduced themselves, I could respond with a comment like “ Oh, that’s the town with the stone bridge and the ice cream place next to it.”   It tended to create a tighter bond.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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John C Daley wrote:How do you arrange payment?
Fee up front no refunds?
Fee partially paid and then paid on a weekly basis?
Is the on going cost a contributing factor?



  • For my fellow  American students, I ask for payment via checks to my P.O. Box. (Internet payment processors and website hosts BOTH take a whole bunch off the top for themselves, and on top of that of course I already have to pay a lot of my hourly rate in self-employment taxes, so checks give me the opportunity to keep the most of what I earn.)
  • For my international students I had used Stripe originally, but I will have to find something else/talk to my bank because the Stripe folks surprised me with a policy I do not like.


  • First lesson is always free, so students and I can gauge how well we will work together. For classes I usually wait a week before asking students for the first payment, but I am giving everybody a month to self-sort this year before paying anything.

    NOTE: This is purely a hobby for me, related to a personal mission in life, and not at all a livelihood with any bills depending on my earnings, so I don't need to have anybody's money right away, you know?
     
    Rachel Lindsay
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    John F Dean wrote:I taught online for 15 years.   I quickly found it was critical to set the tone for the classroom.  I spent many hours researching where my students where my students were from. …and the students themselves.   That way when someone introduced themselves, I could respond with a comment like “ Oh, that’s the town with the stone bridge and the ice cream place next to it.”   It tended to create a tighter bond.


    Wow, I'll bet it did! That's a fine idea! You were teaching online before it was common, it sounds like. You were one of the pioneers of online teaching?
     
    John F Dean
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    Pioneer?  No I don’t think so.  I began in 2002.   There were many ahead of me.  
     
    gardener
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    Rachel Lindsay wrote:For my international students I had used Stripe originally, but I will have to find something else/talk to my bank because the Stripe folks surprised me with a policy I do not like.  


    You may want to explore Wise, which offers multiple currency accounts. For people outside the US it is similar to Paypal, you can send them a link they transfer into (in my country they use the 3 most common electronic payments, for example), you can get a debit-type card to use or transfer balance into your bank account. it's a lot like Paypal but without all the headaches, hair pulling and disasters that Paypal has come to embody. And their rates are fab.
     
    Rachel Lindsay
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    Tereza Okava wrote:

    Rachel Lindsay wrote:For my international students I had used Stripe originally, but I will have to find something else/talk to my bank because the Stripe folks surprised me with a policy I do not like.  


    You may want to explore Wise, which offers multiple currency accounts. For people outside the US it is similar to Paypal, you can send them a link they transfer into (in my country they use the 3 most common electronic payments, for example), you can get a debit-type card to use or transfer balance into your bank account. it's a lot like Paypal but without all the headaches, hair pulling and disasters that Paypal has come to embody. And their rates are fab.



    Thank you! That sounds very nice indeed. I will look them up!
     
    John C Daley
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    can I ask what part of the policy you dislike?
     
    Rachel Lindsay
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    John C Daley wrote:can I ask what part of the policy you dislike?


    They charged me $3 every time I gave someone a refund.

    I had a few students who couldn't figure out how to work the payment button, and so I refunded for those mistakes. And then some people paid me class fees before their first week, which I don't like because I would rather them have that week free to try it out than have to give them a refund after realizing that this class is not for them right now.

    (My sister told me this, but I still don't understand how this works:) And apparently there is some kind of scam people can do that I was a victim of where people will randomly use website payment buttons to pay for things wrongly--not sure how though?--and when the decent website owner refunds their money, they get real refund money even though their payment somehow wasn't actually real.

    I only found out that I was being charged for all of these transactions when one day I had a negative balance through my payment processor. I contacted the company to find out how that could possibly be?!?!? Charging me for the refunds: that's how.
     
    John C Daley
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    I am pretty sure all payment compoanies will have fees.
    Maybe check them out.
     
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