As more and more people are adapting to learning and teaching online in 2020, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing teachers we have working in the team at RMIT Online. To kick things off we caught up with Kyla Raby, one of our facilitators from the Masters of Human Resource Management to find out what advice she has for people entering online study and what she enjoys most about her role.
When Kyla is not teaching with RMIT Online, she is a team leader at the Australian Red Cross.
When you first started to teach online, what surprised you the most?
I was pleasantly surprised at how possible it is to create a feeling of being face-to-face with your students in the online environment, have really meaningful engagements with them and create authentic connections.
What key piece of advice would you have for someone preparing to teach for the first time?
Plan your webinars and be prepared. Webinars are not something that should be improvised—no matter how skilled a facilitator is or subject matter expert someone may be. If you are asking students to invest time into their studies, the expectation must go both ways and investing the appropriate time and thought into preparing how to facilitate a live learning opportunity is essential to its success. In your preparation, consider what is the best time to schedule them to maximise live attendance, how you will promote your webinar to spark interest and heighten anticipation, and be sure to create frequent opportunities for active engagement within your webinar structure. The most effective webinars will take course content and assessments, and rather discuss them separately, blend them together and create activities or tasks which encourage discussion and learning.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of RMIT Online teacher coaching sessions?
Don’t be afraid to share openly and honestly with the coaches in the areas that you are finding challenging. There is no shame or embarrassment in this. We all have different areas that come more naturally to us and equally other things that don’t. However, the coaches are such a great resource and can really help you work on your identified areas of growth, but you have to be brave and bold enough to first self-reflect on what these areas might be.
Is there anyone in your personal or professional life who guides, motivates or inspires you to achieve? Or any thought-leaders you would recommend other teachers to follow?
I am very lucky to have had a range of people in both my professional and personal life who have guided and inspired me, for which I am forever grateful for. Words of wisdom from my mum to 15-year old Kyla, which I have revisited in many different settings since were 'be yourself, that is the only person you can be'. I think this is quite applicable to our work as online facilitators. The online revolution and the rise in popularity of social media have taught us that people are seeking out authenticity and relatability in the online world. We need to be prepared to be our authentic selves and show our own vulnerability when we might not know something, our relatability as normal humans who also make mistakes, and, most importantly, we must demonstrate our passion for teaching our subject matter.
In terms of thought-leaders, I am currently listening to the audio book Dare to Lead by Brene Brown and I couldn’t recommend more highly checking out her research on vulnerability.
What's the most effective strategy you have found for keeping students engaged?
I have found that putting a lot of thought into incorporating particular activities that will encourage engagement and sharing of reflections in a safe environment is really effective for student engagement. This doesn’t just mean the simple ask-a-question-to-the-group strategy, which often results in long awkward silences or the same few students being the only ones to answer. There are other creative ways to stir engagement. Often video conferencing software will have a group chat, polling, or even breakout room functions available within them that you can utilise. You can use these functions to encourage multiple responses to a question at one time, and is a safe option for students who lack the confidence to contribute verbally. You can also use polling to gauge how comfortable students are feeling with course content, or assessments, and if student answers can be shared anonymously can allow them to see how others are faring and take respite in the fact that they may not be struggling alone!