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4 ways to adapt pedagogical approaches to the online classroom

Collaborative, liberationist, integrative and incentive-based methods can all make the most of the unique tool we have at our disposal to make online education even more effective

So often we hear that online education does not work for their students. We challenge this assumption. When done right, online education is a complementary tool that saves costs, raises grades and increases students' engagement. But when done without a pedagogical structure, it can be a disaster. If you have experienced the latter, then give me a moment of your time and read on.

Schools and tutoring companies struggle in the online space when they try to apply what they do in the physical classroom to the online sphere. So much about our environment dictates our approaches to teaching and learning. If we want to make education fit for the 21st century, adapting teaching approaches to the online environment is imperative.

We need to embrace the unique opportunities that online education presents while working to mitigate its challenges. Online education should be a resource that supports in-classroom learning to make teachers' lives easier and their crucial work more effective - not a parallel and unrelated form of education. We must create a synergistic relationship. This calls for new pedagogical approaches to education online.

Collaborative approaches

There are so many theories about how collaborative learning might benefit student outcomes. Through collaboration, students may develop explanation, demonstration, problem-solving and metacognitive skills.

The online class allows us to create separate spaces for mini-collaborations, such as breakout rooms to eliminate distractions. This canalizes student attention by controlling their environment for a period of time and making a clear break between collaborative exercises and the presentation that follows. By using Kahoot Quizzes and linking our online lessons to various interactive games, we are able to loop in entirely novel elements to the lesson to make the material more interactive. This helps to bridge the natural gap in engagement that can occur in the online space when lessons are not made engaging enough to capture student enthusiasm.


Liberationism is a pedagogy that, as its name might suggest, is all about liberating learners through education. It sees teachers as a "Guide on the Side" rather than a "Sage on the Stage". While our entire lessons are not run this way, each lesson plan must incorporate it to some degree. There are numerous ways that teachers employ this in the traditional classroom setting. Our teachers are required to empower our students in their lessons. Instead of dictating knowledge, they pass the baton, and invite their students to take the lead and introduce their own knowledge. The online lesson space facilitates this by allowing teachers to give control of the whiteboard and annotation tools to their students and let them take the "presenter role". This formal action of passing over the presenter role and giving them access to the teacher's tools allows them to take responsibility over their own education, to make the lesson less passive and to increase their confidence.

We provide our students with the booking links of our teachers - where schools permit us to - to allow our teachers to be booked in for 20 minute sessions by their students at any time. During these sessions, we work to ascertain what they don't understand and their particular learning style. We ask our students what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. This empowers them to take control of their learning.

Integrative approaches

Integrative learning is an approach where the learner brings together prior knowledge and experiences to support new knowledge and experiences. By doing this, learners draw on their skills and apply them to new experiences at a more complex level. The concept behind integrative learning is that students take ownership of their own learning, becoming critical inquirers who are able to make meaningful connections between different disciplines and utilise critical thinking to solve real-life problems.

Our tutors are constantly using resources from the internet as well as their own presentation materials to bring life to their lessons. Using technology increases students' interest and keeps them engaged. By using the internet to bring up examples that connect to discourse from students in the lesson in real time, we are able to make direct links between student interests and the lesson material. In every lesson teachers need to incorporate the interests of their students into their pre-drafted lesson plan.

Incentive-based approaches

Offering incentives is a simple and common approach to education that relies on rewarding positive behavior. We use this regularly in our interactions as teachers as it forms much of the basis of general classroom management. We work to take incentives to another level by using technology to track rewards and boost engagement. Reward based learning can often encourage the wrong behavior. For example, we may be encouraging students to complete exercises for a reward rather than for the sake of learning itself. To counteract this natural tendency, we train our teachers to award Purple Points as a reward for positive engagement with lesson material, attendance and positive behaviors that are specific to the individual.

In this context, students are rewarded for eliciting behaviours that are positive for their own personal development. Shy students may receive Purple Points for attempting to answer questions while highly active or independent learners may receive Purple Points for working together with another student or encouraging their classmates to provide an answer rather than answering themselves.

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