by ADAMANTIA PANAGOPOULOU, PhD Candidate at Leiden University
I would like to talk about my first online teaching experience on 8th September 2020. I had to teach ‘CONSERVATION AND PHYSICOCHEMICAL STUDY OF METAL ARTIFACTS IN THE CRUSADER PERIOD’. The Leiden University and the Netherlands Institute of Athens (NIA) did an amazing job switching to online learning very quickly.
I had six years experience of in-classroom teaching, and I was ready to embark on teaching an online class. I did not know what to expect or how difficult it would be. One important question that remained on my mind was how I would be able to connect with my students. It is difficult to establish connections online, and I learned from teaching face to face in a classroom that connection is key to student engagement. Online teaching allowed me to function at optimal level mentally and emotionally. I used every aspect of my skillset and imagination. My scope was to keep students engaged and curious. How do you make people listen to you online? Question of the era. Furthermore, one of the most overwhelming and utterly enjoyable aspects of this job was getting to envision a course. What is the best way to explore a subject in twelve online classes and how did I want to do it? At first, I felt absolute freedom to explore and make connections to topics. Brainstorming in all its glory, random ideas for class topics, assignments and activities. The endless possibilities give way to general points that take on a narrative, which is then whittled down to twelve online classes.
This was actually the first time I would do online courses. I was fairly nervous when I started. I needed to hold their attention, engaged them intellectually and connected them emotionally while carrying out the process of knowledge sharing. Students grasped the main concepts of the unit, but when there was perceived doubt that they were not fully comprehending abstract ideas, then I tried to show an alternative learning method by videos. At the end, students were required to answer three questions that connected to the unit topic. There was a two way exchange of energies. I tried to approach students with openness and flexibility.
My first teaching experience taught me a lot about myself, as a future online educator. For example, I always knew that coming up with lesson plans was not easy, so I’m glad that I was able to have this experience to prepare me for it in the future. I also learned that I do not have a good sense of time when I am teaching, so I now know to make sure to make a schedule of what will be done at what time. This job really let me explore my love for being organized, more than any other job to date. In my view, teaching is like a performing art. No amount of reading or attending workshops will prepare me for the challenge. I only get better with practice. For all my inexperience, I hope I made at least a small contribution to the students’ learning. Whatever the future holds for me, I hope to always be a sharer of ideas; ideas that follow a narrative and can be broken down into weekly goals with further reading tangents and fun assignments.