Building an effective interactive classroom is one of the biggest challenges that all online educators face. How do we breach the digital divide, and create an interactive, proactive and unique learning environment tailored to meet the needs of every Bready, consistently lesson after lesson?

According to Faculty Focus.com, elearningindustry.com and various subject matter experts including Educator Scott Cooper the effective online classroom makes use of the following:

The effective creation of context:

While Buddies often teach a wide variety of Breadies across the spectrum from pre-schoolers, through to graduates and business people, their classrooms all require the following:

1. The deal-breaker (5 golden minutes)

Your introduction to your Bready and the first 5 minutes are crucial in establishing an effective and successful classroom. Building a rapport with your student at this point is crucial as this will determine the student’s level of participation and sets the tone for all future lessons.

2. Creating an optimal learning environment:

Another key aspect involves building up trust and creating a learning enabled environment. This is crucial as students will begin to feel comfortable sharing information with you, talking to you and participating freely in the lesson.

Nonverbal communication can be effectively used here: setting the tone with a warm welcome board and background for toddlers and school going Breadies is a very effective tool. Personalise your classroom, make yours and make it unique. Don’t underestimate the value of props, realia, songs and rhyming activities for younger learners and games and ice breakers for older students. Ensure that effective TPR is used at all times as this plays a key role in understanding and embedding learning, particularly in younger learners.

An additional way to involve younger Breadies is to invite them to bring some form of toy or realia into the classroom and asking them to share the item’s meaning and relevance with you.

3. Creating watercooler spaces

Create a warm-up space and cool down space similar to those found in brick and mortar classrooms where Breadies feel free to relax and engage more informally.

Don’t underestimate the effect of humour, assess your Bready and make use of a joke, slapstick humour or a pun if appropriate. (This works especially well in lessons with younger students).

4. Sharing: engagement and reciprocation are crucial

Share something about yourself with older and professional students. This brings you closer to the Bready and reduces the perception that the teacher is a disembodied stranger somewhere in cyberspace. This is also a golden opportunity to engage with your student and to get him/ her to engage with you by sharing something from their life. This usually allows the student to simultaneously relax and focus on the lesson topic and content. Presenting a mini profile for older and advanced students may also be effective.

5. Continuous active engagement

Now that you have effectively set the context and introduced the content, ensure that you remain open and engaged with your student at all times, provide ample speaking opportunities, make notes on significant details and follow up on the questions that you don’t have an immediate answer to. Always provide your student with feedback. This goes a long way in terms of building your credibility and in maintaining and retaining students.

6. Always add value!

No matter what the student’s level is, add something unique to enhance your lesson. Your student will see and appreciate your efforts and will be motivated to reciprocate by working harder and contributing more to the lesson, creating a dynamic, enjoyable and successful partnership!

7. Give your students the gift of feedback

During the last 5 minutes of your lesson summarise and reinforce what has been learnt and give the Bready the opportunity to ask questions about the lesson content and to discuss and interpret the material. Where possible Inform the student what the next lesson will be about. This generates interest in the topic and activates prior learning, also tell the student if any special preparation is required for the next lesson and always end on a positive note!

Using the above tips will ensure a successful lesson and set up a successful long term partnership with your Breadies at all levels.

Marina van Staaden is a Contracted Buddy at IQBar. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, reading novels, sewing and arts and crafts