For a few years now, Dr. Collins Odote has been using digital technologies to teach and supervise his postgraduate students. 

An expert in Environmental law and Director, Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP), Dr. Odote has students spread across the world. In an interview with the University of Nairobi’s communications team he says “Just recently I supervised a PhD student from Sweden and another one from Uganda via Skype.”    “Without these technologies, I would have trouble reaching out to my students abroad or even those within the country who can’t make it physically to class because of other commitments.” He added.

For Dr. Odote, the news of universities shutting down across the world amidst COVID-19 pandemic and immediately resolving to teach online did not come as a surprise to him.  It was rather a great opportunity for universities to invest in online teaching and learning because it was the future of higher education.  “Online teaching has a lot of advantages over traditional teaching in terms of flexibility in working hours, opportunity to reach more students, easy communication tools and reusable online resources.” He observed.

University of Nairobi Online Teaching Resources

Dr. Odote has one secret: “The University of Nairobi has world class online teaching and learning resources.”  He says. “But we just don’t take much advantage of these.”  From the state-of-the art multimedia recording studio, to the E-library, websites and readily accessible Google Classroom resources as well as an efficient corporate email platform among others, the University of Nairobi is well set to conduct classes online.

Tips for Teaching Online

As academic staff venture into online teaching there is need to provide high quality training to students just like it would be in the traditional classroom. Here are five tips you can apply as you deliver your lectures remotely.

 Design Short Lessons:

Long lectures in ordinary face to face classes can be daunting for students and even more ineffective in online settings. Quoted in the, Marjorie Vai an ELearning consultant and Professor at the New School in New York says “The student should be engaged so no pages of text or an hour-long video.” She recommended presenting information in 10-minute chunks with varying formats.

Focus on Active Learning

To engage students who are not in the room during a lesson, your course should be a mix of discussions, collaboration, video and audio clips, and hands-on exercises with text and possibly brief video lectures. According to Rita-Marie Conrad author of “The Online Teaching Survival Guide” “It’s not just a lecture classroom online but an active learning classroom online.”

Do not rely on Live Video

You shouldn’t use live conferencing in every facets of your course because you cannot guarantee the quality of your feeds. Recently for instance, there have been reported concerns about privacy and security issues regarding popular remote conferencing app Zoom.

Keep Small Groups

It is easier for students to coordinate their time well if they are kept in small groups. Groups of not more than 10 can be useful for the purposes of discussions, collaborations, peer critiques among other group activities.

 Support Struggling Students

In a study titled, Online Course-taking and student outcomes in California Community Colleges, (Hart et al.,2018) observed that almost every student experiences some type of performance penalty where they earn lower grade than they might have or fail to complete the course when they switch to remote learning. “It is worst for vulnerable students.” In order to identify such student’s lecturers can simply ask students if they have devices and access to internet or just their opinion about transitioning to online studies.

The study also revealed that most successful virtual teachers conduct frequent assessments and check in on students via phone calls, emails and texts especially with those who are struggling to catch up.