I’ve been teaching AWS courses for the past year or so. Many have been with an online teaching environment. This opens up the class to more people–there’s less cost in taking a course from your office or living room, as compared to flying an instructor out for an on-site. However, this learning environment does have challenges. Below is my set of best practices, some suggested by other instructors.
- Set up your physical environment. This includes making sure you have a fast internet connection, a room with no noise, and that your computer and audio equipment are set up.
- Set up the virtual room. Load the materials, set up any links or other notes. I like to run virtual courses entirely with chat (audio conferences are really hard with 20 people) so I make a note about that.
- Test your sound. This includes having a friend login and listen to you beforehand. This run through can help make sure your voice (which is your primary engagement tool) is accessible to your students.
- Email a welcome message to all the students, 2-3 days before class starts. Include when the class is happening, how to get materials, etc. I’ve definitely had interactions with students from these emails that led to a better outcome for everyone.
- Calculate your latency. Ask an initial question that requires a response as soon as the question is asked. Something easy like “where are you from?” or “how many years of AWS experience do you have?” Note the latency and add it into the time you wait before asking for questions.
- Ask for questions. How often can vary based on previous AWS experience, but every 5-10 slides is a good place to start.
- Answer questions honestly. If you don’t know, say so. But then say, “I’ll find out for you.” (And then, of course, find out.)
- Allow time for students to read the slide. At least 15 seconds for each slide.
- You, however, should not read the slide.
- Draw or use the pointer tool to help engage the students and pull them into the material.
- Find out what students want out of the class. Try to angle some of the content toward those desires. You may be constrained by knowledge or time or presentation material, but you can at least try.
- Engage your students. I like to make corny jokes (“have you heard the one about the two hard problems in computers science?“), refer back to technologies they mention having familiarity with, and talk about internet kitten pictures.
- Remember your voice and energy are the only things keeping these students engaged.
- Follow up on any loose ends. This could be questions you didn’t get answered or more mundane items like how they can get a certificate of completion. I had one student who couldn’t get access to the materials and it took a few weeks of bugging customer service reps across organizations before he did. Not a lot of time on my end, but a big deal for him.
Note that I didn’t cover the content or particular technology at all. They aren’t really relevant.