Navigating the digital classroom as an online educator

5 min read   •   September 14, 2023
Natasha Maritz

It’s no secret that online teaching (and learning!) has become increasingly popular over the course of the past few years. Technological advancements, with new apps and tools available at our fingertips, mean that many homeschoolers can now access quality education from the comfort of their homes.

As an online educator who moved from teaching in a brick-and-mortar school to a digital classroom, I am often surprised by the reactions I get when sharing my story with family and friends. There appear to be a few misconceptions: “Wow, you can choose when to give class!”, “It’s amazing that you have so much free time!”, and “You are so lucky to work from home – you must spend all day watching television!” are just a few examples of their perception of what it’s like being an online teacher.

Here are a few frequently asked questions to give you a glimpse into how I navigate the digital classroom.

Do you see the learners that you teach?

Yes! At the Impaq Online School, learners are grouped into classes. I like to spend some time greeting learners before the start of every class, and we encourage learners to switch on their cameras to enhance interactive lesson participation. I often share my workspace with learners as I teach Mathematical Literacy to illustrate and explain lesson content.

Is it possible to connect and bond with learners via an online platform?

We connect on so many different levels – some of which I never thought possible. There is a balance to maintain between having academic classes running on time and making time to bond, but even a simple: “Hello, how are you?” in between lessons goes a long way!

Do you get to choose when to present lessons?

All Impaq Online School educators and learners follow a structured timetable. Before the academic year kicks off, we are added to the relevant subject and grade groups on MS Teams, which houses the digital classroom. It is our responsibility to schedule classes and ensure learners can access these classes. MS Teams provides an excellent workspace in which we can share lesson content, classwork, homework, and additional resources that learners can use to their academic advantage.

Can you choose your own working hours?

A teacher’s day never has enough hours! I find that it’s better to get a head start each day – I switch my laptop on at 06:30 while enjoying a cup of coffee. This allows me to catch up on emails and ensure that my lessons are prepared and ready for the day ahead. This is then followed by a Homeroom session, after which I jump into my daily lessons. One of the major advantages of being an online educator is that I can slip away from my laptop for a few minutes when I have an opening, whether this is to unpack the dishwasher, quickly chop some veggies for dinner, or even steal a few kisses from my baby boy. Flexibility in working hours, while a perk, is balanced with the constant pursuit of delivering excellence.

Read more: Finding work/life balance with the Impaq Online School

Do Impaq Online School learners write exams? How does it work?

Learners registered at the Impaq Online School complete tests and exams that are invigilated by online school educators. Learners receive the relevant timetables in advance, and we schedule the test or exam sessions accordingly. Learners are expected to join the session 30 minutes before the start of the test or exam. Invigilators then remind learners of the rules and regulations while completing room checks. We require learners to switch on their cameras and microphones for the session to ensure academic integrity and fairness.

Also read: Do’s and don’ts of online learning

How do you navigate load shedding as an online educator?

Unfortunately, online educators also experience load shedding and the challenges this presents. As such, we also need to have a backup power plan (such as a generator or inverter) in place to ensure that we can continue to teach effectively without power interruptions disrupting online learning. Planning is key!

How do you approach dressing professionally in a digital space?

It’s important to always dress professionally… At least from the shoulders upwards! You never know who might be watching. Luckily, teaching online means that you can dress comfortably and professionally at the same time.

The rise of online teaching and learning has transformed the educational landscape. Still, the assumption of abundant free time and a casual work-from-home atmosphere contrasts sharply with the reality of a dedicated, structured, and dynamic teaching experience. The journey of transitioning from traditional classrooms to digital ones has broadened education horizons and revolutionised how educators connect with their students. As we embrace the ever-evolving digital classroom, it’s crucial to remember that being an online educator goes beyond the confines of a screen. It’s about dedication, innovation, and the unwavering commitment to shaping the minds of tomorrow.