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5 Spooky Online Teaching Mistakes to Avoid

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

As Halloween rolls around the corner, we wanted to help you to save the spooking for the holiday by keeping it out of your classroom. We have compiled 5 common mistakes instructors make while running an online class to keep you from falling victims to these easy tricks. Read to the bottom and you may even find yourself a special treat from the Yellowdig team!

Below are some common mistakes teachers can avoid to thoughtfully build communities in a virtual learning setting:

1) Requiring students to reply to your prompts in discussion boards

This very common but very detrimental mistake is a root cause of many discussion board problems. It stifles any opportunities for real conversations, and instead encourages students to write mini-essays for the professor. Then, it results in many students repeating the same thing over and over again or struggling to find a new angle that hasn't been written to avoid plagiarizing.

We recommend saving these types of questions for your exams and allowing your students to have the freedom to bring in their own questions related to your class topics. This method is much more engaging for students in a discussion board because they can tie your material into current events, other classes they are taking, or even other parts of your class. This type of thinking is much more along the lines of what we hear most professors intend to facilitate with their discussions, yet miss the mark by putting their students in a box.

2) Relying too heavily on synchronous elements of class

Yes, tools like Zoom have been critical to education's mass transition to online learning, but they have their limitations. We have heard of TAs sitting in Zoom office hours all alone week after week. Those students don't have less questions than previous years' students, the transition to online learning has made students needs different than in person.

We have seen professors have a lot of success with setting up an asynchronous "help forum" to meet the needs of students in this new digital world. See an example post from one of these discussion boards below.

Most students are no longer able to meet up at the library with their classmates to do their biology class homework together or run down the hall to the really smart computer science major at 2 am right before a lab is due, this is where a Yellowdig community set up as a "help forum" comes in. Since students may not know each other before the class, this give students an opportunity to reach out to their classmates for questions they have about the class. The existence of the forum helps not only the students asking the questions, but also reinforces material for the students answering and reading through. A whole class of students will likely be able to answer a question faster than a single professor, and this helps to prevent repeat questions.

3) Ignoring best practices set by online learning tools