Running an online school - Part 2

Today I will continue about running an online school covering study materials to be used and consistent grading I have covered this in the past, setting up an online school parts 18 and 19 but I will reiterate some elements now in the context of the school being up and running, possibly with other teachers working for you.

Study materials

It is a legal minefield and to be honest, any long-term teacher sees many connections between a lot of the material out there, with stuff recycled, rejigged and even reused. I have a lot of material that I have written myself over the years, plus plenty of others that fall into the above categories.

  1. Original study materialsOne of the questions you should ask any new teachers is do they have any original material?If they do, and they are happy for the team to use it, then you have material that is safe to use. However, if you can come up with good stuff, then that can give you a competitive edge. And my earlier blogs can help very much in this regard. It is, of course, extra work, but you are then giving a unique experience.
    You may well find, as I have, that your hard earned material ends up as, as some of mine has, across the internet. It is annoying, but I feel that is the internet. It is the wild west, to some extent. I just feel, that with your own stuff, you teach it better, you present it better and it grabs the students better. I always much prefer teaching with my own material. It fits my teaching mojo and makes me happier.
  2. Аdapted study materials
    It is important to note that direct plagiarism of a publishers work could result in a lawsuit that could be very expensive. Particularly if you got successful quickly and were perceived to be worth suing. I would say that publishers would be reluctant to sue unless they were very sure of success, and that you will still exist to claim the money from. You could paraphrase the work and that may keep you from any legal problems but it is far better to either create the lessons yourself.
  3. Partners study materials
    If you can partner with a publisher and they have everything you need.
    In my experience, publishers are reluctant to give you the power to use their stuff online and I spent many fruitless hours talking to most of the main educational publishers. However, I feel that this will change and some of the big online platforms have secured deals with publishers. This option is certainly the easiest.

Consistent grading

Here you may not be grading on an official exam but rather internal grading and exam preparation. However, you will need to give accurate feedback to your students as to the likely grade they can expect barring a disaster in the exam. This comes with experience and practice but you do need your teachers to work together to get a consistency. You have to work together as a team if you are going to be successful. Online teaching and particularly with the magnificent platform of Vedamo Virtual Classroom, allows a level of teamwork impossible in a traditional school. You can all monitor each other, support each other and see how each other does things, with the record function. While nobody has ever managed to get fully consistent grading yet, you are giving yourself a better chance with Vedamo. By talking and working together, you can get as close as possible to dependable grading. We are only human but we owe it to the students to be the best we can be.

Grading rubrics always help as a guideline. It’s surprising how much of grading is box ticking. If they have done the right things, then grading is easy. My experience is that often teachers take things from the rubrics that aren’t there. Or they read them incorrectly, or assume that something is meant when it doesn’t. This can be right from the placement tests when you are deciding what level the students are when you are placing them into groups.

I had a recent experience with 5 teachers plus myself checking a placement test for around 200 students. They had little experience of such tests. Despite giving them what I thought were straightforward rubrics, there was a huge inconsistency in how they assessed, and as I was doing all the blind testing I had to ask them to explain their logic and how they applied that to the rubrics. Some would get very defensive, only interested in fighting their corner, and one just marked very hard all the time. With patience, and explanations, they slowly started to accept what I was saying. I showed them what to watch for, and to match what they saw to the different levels in the rubrics. They were a bit blinded by the intelligence or not of the answers but that doesn’t necessarily affect the level of the English. Once they focused on trying to match the rubrics to the papers, life got easier. Incidentally, they were amazed at how quickly I could do it, but I have been doing it for a long time.

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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