Teaching online is an effective method for educating people whether it is academic (grammar school, high school, or college) or for corporate education. However, to provide the most value, you should follow these guidelines. These rules are also useful for online meetings. Teaching online is just a meeting between a teacher and students.
1. Your classroom or office should be free of distractions.
Being free of distractions is more than having a quiet environment. Distractions are also visual. Position your camera at a wall not a glass door or window. You want your students/co-workers, your audience, to focus on you, not who is walking past your door or what is happening outside.
Make sure your wall is free of distractions. You don't want your audience to focus on papers on a cork board or other material that is not relevant to your class or your meeting.
Disable popups. You don't want your audience to see your email notifications, Facebook, or other notifications. Shut off any instant messaging tools that send you notifications.
2. Notify your audience in advance if your online class/meeting will be offsite.
Sometimes your schedule will dictate that you will be offsite. Starbucks or other places that offer free WI-FI are usually fine for an online class/meeting. However, notify your audience in advance. That way, if your environment is a bit noisier, your audience can see people behind you, they will know why. Your audience will also know in advance if they were planning to discuss something confidential or display confidential information.
If your audience objects, reschedule the class/meeting. Remember, people are paying for your time and have the right to accept it in a way that they find professional.
3. Dress appropriately.
When I teach online, I teach from home. This does not mean that I can dress like a slob or that I have to wear a suit. If your school or workplace has a dress code, follow it even though you are at home. Some may require that you abide by the dress code. I find that dressing business casual always works well.
4. Take note of your physical appearance.
Many cultures associate tattoos with the seedier side of society, for example drug addicts and prostitutes. This is a good time to follow the old saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans." Wear clothing that covers your tattoos. Some schools or businesses will require you to do this.
For men, be clean shaven. Some cultures consider being clean shaven as a sign of professionalism.
5. Be prepared. Do your due diligence.
Nobody likes a teacher who is not prepared or a meeting that does not have a clear focus. It is your responsibility to know what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it.
Some schools do not pay teachers for prep time or only pay a small amount. This is wrong. However, you are the person on stage. Your audience does not care about the fact that your school does not pay you for prep time. That is between you and the school.
If you are referencing websites, have each site open in a separate browser tab. You can quickly switch between sites. If you are using PowerPoint, you may want to use the cloud version. This allows you to have your slides available in a tab and often, I find that it runs quicker than having the app open.
6. Be comfortable when the unexpected happens.
Sometimes a site becomes slow. Sometimes, my students can not see my desktop that I am sharing with them. At first, they can, then they have a bandwidth problem and can't. I don't stop the lesson. I know what I want them to learn from the lesson. If they can't see my desktop, I switch to conversation, I ask them questions. If they were reading, I will read to them and ask them questions. They may have lost the reading part of the lesson but they get extra time for their speaking and reading skills.
This is no different than teaching or having a meeting face-to-face. You don't stop because the technology is not working.
Online classes and meeting are useful and effective. Follow these steps to add more value to your class or meeting.