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    • #4645
      Laura Berlage

      winter crittersOne of my biggest learning curves beyond having to suddenly need to master videography (something I hadn’t studied before) for tutorials was how to pace a class for online learning.  This is a very different animal from an in-person experience!

      Fortunately, I started with single-session beginner level needle felting classes (hundreds of them), which helped me master the dramatic arc of a Zoom class before stretching it out into a more involved experience.  The same emotional states landed at the same spots, as if we were in the midst of a theatrical play together.  Here is the breakdown for this single 3-hour class structure (of course, exact times will vary slightly depending on each class’ unique mix of students):

      • 15 minutes prior to start (curtain): log on, tech check, small talk and community building with host coordinator.
      • 5 minutes to start: begin letting in students and helping them with any tech trouble/early class anxiety (I find this works much better than letting everyone in right at start time).
      • Start: host instorduces themsevles, you, and the class.  Round robin of student intros, expect this to take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on class size.
      • 10-15 minutes post-start: fully introduce the project, materials, and how this class will work.
      • 20 minutes into class:  start the project, walking them through each of the steps.  There will likely be a mix of “oh this is so awesome” and “this makes no sense” for you to triage.
      • 45 minutes into class:  switch your camera to personally check in with each student to see their work-in-progress and how they are doing.
      • 1 hour into class:  share some anecdotes/stories, encourage students to share related anecdotes on the subject (e.g. who has a story about foxes?).
      • 1.5 hours into class: 5 minute break–stretch, pee, find a snack.
      • After break:  check in with students again and see how things are going/triage bigger questions or offer suggestions for project tweaks.
      • 2 hours in:  offer encouragement and inspiration for students who are hitting the “I don’t think this is going to work” crisis of belief.  If the sheep really is trying to become an alpaca, embrace it’s inner alpaca.  Also a good spot for some trivia or context about your project subject.
      • 2.5 hours in:  start gradual windown.  Ask students how they will use/enjoy their creation.  Offer links and ways students can stay in touch with you or find additional classes, kits, and materials.
      • 2.75 hours in, wrap up your project and take a moment to celebrate everyone’s creations.  Find something encouraging to celebrate with everyone.  This will be the “when it all comes together in the end” moment for students, and they get really excited about their accomplishments.
      • 10 minutes to close, host often shares info about upcoming events and opportunities as well as they/you encourage any additional questions or concerns.  Pitch “what’s next” to students.
      • Wrap up on time, encouraging everyone that you hope to see them again soon.

      What you might notice from this sequence is that within the 3 hours, there is about 2 hours of actual teaching time.  The type of project I can work into this time frame is something that typcially (at least in my method) requires an hour-long tutorial to explain without any student questions, and a project I can do in about 45 minutes on my own without having to demonstrate or explain details as I go.  So, roughly, a 45-minute project becomes a 3 hour class in this matrix.

      Students will tolerate a 3-hour class with a mid-way break as a single session, but this can feel very long when you are hosting a course over multiple sessions.  Instead, a 2-hour gathering with no break is much more comfortable, and students will have better focus.  They hang in there for the 3-hour one because they REALLY want to finish, but when there is homework in-between sessions, “Zoom fatigue” will set in much faster.

      In a 2-hour session, the first one will take those 15 minutes for intros, and you can expect about the same amount of time in returning sessions for student check-ins and progress reports with their projects.  Wind-down time can take significantly less, as you’ll have multiple sessions to stretch into for sharing links and pitching “what’s next” to your students.  This will leave you with about 1.5 hours of actual teaching time per session.

      I find that in a multi-session course, I also have to pad less time for students to “catch up” with me while I’m working.  Instead, I set the expectations for students about how this class works right at the start, noting that our time together will be focused on me showing them what they need to see for the whole week.  This way, students can choose to simply watch, ask questions, and take notes, then do the homework between sessions.  Or, if they like, they can work along with me, but they don’t need to fret about “getting behind” on their piece because they will have all week to finish up the homework before our next meeting.  Knowing that this is how a multi-session framework rolls can really help with student anxiety as well.  Some students will LOVE to work alongside you, while others cannot split their focus between watching you and working on their own peice to save their lives.  This model leaves room for both learners.

      For multi-session, 2-hour courses, plan to bite off 2 big lessons/techniques per session (roughly one an hour).  These might include smaller sub-lessons in order to learn, but two big concepts seems to be the chewable size for students.  Too much all at once, and they overload and retain nothing.  Not enough, and they get bored in the spaces between classes.  Occasionally I can get 3 medium-sized concepts to fit instead of 2 big ones, but you get the drift.

      For the projects and medium(s) you want to teach, would single sessions work well, or multi-sessions?  If multi-sessions, how might you best break up the material for what can be covered in 1.5 hours and 2 key concepts?  What questions do you have about class pacing for learning online?

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