Behind The Structure Of The Perfect Virtual Classroom Session

Being an online tutor is quite different than being a presenter. While both approaches have elements in common, the virtual classroom requires more interaction and there are greater expectations from the online audience. Having a strong virtual classroom session structure will help both you and your online students manage the whole learning process. Although there are 3 major phases of each session (introduction, body, and closing), there are many more elements to consider when creating the perfect online tutoring practice.

Crucial parts of every online tutoring practice

Instructors must carefully manage the virtual classroom for effective online tutoring practices. This includes different challenges like laying out expectations, coping with physical space, staying in control, and determining how to distribute information.

  • Timing

When it comes to challenges with timing, instructors need to take a balanced approach so as to not be too strict nor too lax. A discussion that is micromanaged may feel stifled or rushed. On the contrary, inadequate pacing may lead the discussion to feel directionless and your online students could lose focus. Here is the strategy used by experienced online tutors: choose 2-3 points to anchor session pacing around. You can use the extra time to add details to the topic, or you can use questions and add listening and responding techniques to speed up the session.

When planning your virtual classroom activities flexibility is the key.

  • Interactions

The virtual classroom is all about meaningful interactions. Therefore, successful management will impact your entire training. Providing an interactive lecture means determining how to structure and manage the interactive class period. There are as many ways to structure an interactive class session as there are interactive techniques. Instructors might add an occasional activity to a regular lecture class, or include several activities in every class period. Many instructors use a combination of different activities. Additionally, try to create an atmosphere that stimulates interactive learning.

A comfortable virtual classroom environment will ensure that students take part in a variety of activities.

  • Virtual classroom management

First, clearly lay out your personal expectations for student behavior during the tutoring session. Second, carefully evaluate the way you will distribute information. For example, use PPT slides, verbal clues, or other methods to provide guidelines to your online students.

Here are some other useful tips: set aside a precise block of time for group activities, offer productive and appropriate feedback, and provide clear instructions.

Elements of the perfect virtual classroom session

Along with the organization of the entire online tutoring practice, you also have to pay close attention to each session. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Start with the problem

Every single session of yours should have a clear goal. Focus on one topic. Moreover, begin your tutoring practice by directly stating the problem. This kind of start will stress the subject right away. Additionally, starting with a problem will have a positive impact on the online students at the end of the session when the problem will be solved.

  • Add context

Continue to provide details about the problem. Make your online students connect the case to their own lives, if possible. Furthermore, this is the time when you can present some of the previous ideas that were used to solve the problem. Also, help students see the bigger picture. Point out some mistakes and try to avoid them.

  • Possible solution

Whatever the problem, always try to find the most simple solution first. Leave the small details and deep thoughts for later. You may also note that there are numerous solutions to some problems. Try to motivate your online students to participate and to offer their solution as well. Furthermore, connect the solution with previously gained knowledge to show them the bigger picture.

  • Question the solution

Now that you have shown your students the simple solution, it is time to challenge them. Provide them with arguments against the solution. Moreover, add details, questions, and provoke them to doubt it. Additionally, offer your students alternatives and let them consider which one is the most appropriate. Allow each student to find their own solution.

  • Dig deeper

Once you have alternatives to the simple solution, test them thoroughly. Provide your online students with additional knowledge that they will remember. Give them details to create their puzzle successfully. Here you can also test their level of understanding.

  • Provide resources

Make sure the end of your online tutoring practice has a happy ending every single time by finding a solution to the stated problem. However, don’t let the session end with the solution. Give feedback and provide extra resources for those who are interested. Alternatively, give your online students homework or assign them additional reading.

Tips for an effectively structured session

Once you have identified some small learning objectives to focus on during the entire tutoring practice, plan different activities for each part of the session. Such planning will involve knowing your audience and anticipating their needs, interests, and ability to contribute.

At the beginning of the online session:

  1. Use an interesting introduction or find a personal story to tell
  2. Clear up any unknown terminology
  3. Raise questions that will be answered at the end of the session

During the core of the online session:

  1. Determine some key points
  2. Organize the material in a logical manner
  3. Effectively incorporate audiovisual or support materials

At the end of the online session:

  1. Summarize the lesson
  2. Answer the questions from the beginning of the session
  3. Relate the material to past or future sessions

The benefits of a well-planned teaching structure

Having a well-planned teaching structure is not only useful for the online tutor; it also helps online students be aware of what they will achieve, what they will be studying, and what the steps of the process will be. Although in a looser structure student activity is more open, it is important that students know that things are under control. The choice of teaching structure has implications for the work of instructors as well as the students. Online tutors can create a safe learning environment with the help of a good structure. Additionally, it will keep your students engaged.

In terms of the definition, a highly structured classroom is not necessarily better than a looser one. The choice usually depends on the specific circumstances and online learning goals. However, the appropriate session structure is critical for the quality of online learning.

Therefore, to achieve a better result in the virtual classroom, consider revising the following elements:

  1. The choice, learning bites, and sequences of the content
  2. The organization of the online students’ activities
  3. The strict definition of expected results and the online learning process.

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Tanya Ilieva has strong experience in journalism, advertising, creative copywriting and digital marketing. She has a PhD in Graphic design from Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication in Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. Some of her creative works in advertising has been rewarded both in Bulgaria and abroad. Her fields of interest include: philosophy of language, semiotics, visual metaphors, linguistic.
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