Zhenya shared his tips for running an online course. He has done this twice, running a writing course called My First Preprint (online) at Higher School of Economics Academic Writing Center.
- Completely online (first delivered through wiziq, but then they switched to anymeeting, which is free of charge), group size: 20 s/s
- Learning by doing – working and re-working their own texts. A product-oriented course
- Very intensive with strict schedules (writing a paper within a 3-month period – a challenge, but a manageable one)
- Peer review
- ‘One size fits all’ approach (people from a range of fields, e.g. economics, logic, linguistics)
Technology stack (all free of charge):
- Anymeeting to deliver webinars
- Skype for one-to-one meetings and group discussions for peer feedback
- Schoology – a platform where they created virtual classes – discussions, threads, materials. Zhenya recommends creating an account because this will allow you to transfer all your materials to another course.
Structure of the course
Six 180-minute webinars – each covering one part of a paper (Intro/literature overview / methodology & results / findings / … ), led by two different tutors – interlaid with homework done through schoology. Between webinars, 1-2-1 proofreading sessions with tutors or native speakers, distant proofreading, online peer correction with a tutor.
Potential problems and some tips
- Webinar preparation is time consuming (It took Zhenya up to 4 hours to prepare a one-hour class)
- Requires clear structure. Plan well ahead and know what you’re doing – you can’t ‘go with your students’, since they can’t even see you
- Show consistency – let each webinar follow the same structure, because you’re also educating s/s to work with you
- Should be entertaining! Zhenya’s rule of thumb is ~1 slide per minute. To add interactivity, get the s/s to type their answers in the chat box – works a lot better than online converstation because headsets normally don’t work, there’s echo etc
For a successful online course:
- To avoid high drop-out rates, make the structure of the course crystal clear. S/s need to know what happens when, what the rules for attendance are, etc.
Start each webinar by reminding what has been covered, when you meet next, etc
Send the s/s a reminder 3 days before each deadline, so that they don’t lose track and don’t start procrastinating. On Zhenya Bakin’s course drop-out rate was ~35%
- Be prepared to support s/s with technology – they’ll have technology issues, be ready to come up with tips what to do
- Show enthusiasm. Online teaching is like fairies: they die if you don’t believe in them. Give people support.