By Daria Filimonova from Babel Idiomas 

Distance learning has a huge potential to improve training methodologies, help students reach the required performance level and allow longer retention of information. It has been rapidly transforming the educational landscape.  

However, many institutions are currently facing the challenges of the digitised age. According to recent research, distance learning can easily cause social isolation and lack of communication skill development in online students, promote a more rapid shift to a sedentary lifestyle, increase screen time and encourage plagiarism. What’s more, it has been exceedingly challenging for many educators to navigate the difficulties of adaptation to the new methods of teaching.  

It has become clear that teachers should embrace and embed social and emotional learning in educational environments. Emotional Intelligence is an incredible foundation to build upon.  

As AI gains momentum and replaces people at all levels in the workplace, special credit will be given to those who have high ability in EI. Learning that helps students and teachers develop mindfulness, cultivate ethics and compassion and find solutions through a systems thinking lens has become the main priority of the project.  

Partners from 5 countries (Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece) have created a course in emotional management, which includes intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of emotional skills.  

Upon the completion of this course, teachers and trainers will be able to improve their online performance, build self-esteem and establish and maintain supportive relationships. They will also help their students harmonise the emotional and cognitive aspects of learning.   

The course contains 24 modules that include a great variety of explanatory videos and presentations. Over the course of project implementation, we have analysed 12 menaces that teachers and trainers can face when teaching online.  

There are two modules dedicated to one of the menaces. Each module consists of practical examples and valuable tips on how to work on either intrapersonal or interpersonal aspects of the problem.  

Technical problems. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 1 and 2.  

These modules are dedicated to technical problems that teachers and students can face in online classes. Dealing with the digital divide, compatibility and accessibility issues and digital illiteracy can cause stress and anxiety, undermine confidence and ruin rapport in classes. Many of us may have realised that the implementation of online courses doesn’t always go smoothly. Explanatory videos and learning activities of the modules are well-designed to help learners develop conflict and stress resilience and increase their digital expertise.  

Lack of communication. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 3 and 4. 

Communication and cooperation challenges and lack of students’ socialisation have been identified as the main experiences that can easily impede successful learning. The significant gaps in teacher training due to the sudden transition to virtual education made it difficult for educators to acquire a professional identity if compared with in-person education. Non-verbal communication, social adaptation and stress resilience have proven to be flawed as well. All this causes students’ dissatisfaction with distance learning.  

The modules on the lack of communication skills provide learners with valuable information on how to understand the emotions and intentions behind the information. They include practical examples of how to engage actively with the verbal and nonverbal feedback of others and adjust the message to facilitate greater understanding.  

Adaptation of materials and activities to online teaching. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 5 and 6. 

The new technology abetted the extant educational system and it gifted the contemporary educational system with a newfangled drift. Teachers and trainers should use a great variety of educational materials to satisfy the needs and interests of learners. Adaptation of materials and activities to online teaching has become exceedingly important at every stage of the learning journey.  

These modules provide learners with invaluable insights into emotional adaptability and adjustment of emotional responses to changing situations and demands. Teachers and trainers will learn how to promote a better degree of control and reduce failure dynamics through engaging and practical activities.  

Building rapport. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 7 and 8. 

Building rapport can be compared with walking a tightrope. It’s all about maintaining a balance between being objective and treating people with compassion.  

What’s more, building rapport is an ongoing process and even great rapport can be destroyed by an awkward statement or biased opinion. The modules on rapport building will help teachers and trainers foster an open mind, convey positive first impressions and establish common grounds with their learners while teaching online.  

Witty dialogues, filmed class scenarios and independent scientific studies that support the content of the modules give learners a great opportunity to gain a deep insight into successful class management.  

Motivation and attention keeping. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 9 and 10.  

It has become clear that many students who took online courses fail to complete them and get lower grades than their peers who learn in person. 

It’s also well known that students who have better connections with their teachers are far more committed to learning and better prepared to overcome difficulties.  

The modules on motivation and attention keeping will help teachers and trainers instil motivation through relevant and practical materials, understand student-centred learning approaches, encourage students to set their sights high in order to achieve great results and autonomy in learning and incite motivation in those who have no motivation at all.  

According to Plutarch, it´s better to think of education as “a fire to be kindled” than “a vessel to be filled.” 

Emotional distance. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 11 and 12.  

When making the transition from classroom teaching to online teaching, there is a need for adaptation, not just to resources and materials but also personally for both teachers and learners. Teachers and trainers should avoid falling into the trap of becoming distant and unfriendly. Many of us have been in a situation when our emotions prevent us from seeing the big picture and responding appropriately. What´s more, classroom isolation can limit learning experiences.  

These modules contain many useful tips and practical examples of how to cross the possible divide and make students feel that they are genuinely welcomed when coming to online classes.   

Fatigue. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 13 and 14.  

Long Zoom calls can easily tire learners as they have to pay more attention than in face-to-face lessons. Distance learning can cause students to have conflicting feelings, cognitive fatigue and a high degree of mental tiredness.  

Reading facial expressions through a computer screen requires more effort. 

Screen dizziness and technological problems add even more obstacles leading to Zoom fatigue. It’s well-known that high levels of stress and fatigue are associated with decreased academic success, well-being and quality of life.  The modules dedicated to these issues can be of great help when it comes to raising awareness of the potential health dangers. Exceedingly engaging and well-designed texts explain to teachers how to avoid a debilitating state called burnout, improve work performance and regain balance.  

Poor time management.  Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 15 and 16. 

Teachers and trainers shouldn’t underestimate the toll that poor time management can take on their careers and personal relationships. The inability to list, prioritise and track goals as well as adjust to changing priorities can negatively affect teachers’ work and performance.   

Upon the completion of these modules, teachers and trainers will be able to disconnect entirely from negative sentiments when they have to schedule and complete a demanding task. They will learn how to express the proper confidence in order to follow strict, but effective, time management methods for the purpose of completing time-demanding educational tasks. 

Fear of change. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 17 and 18. 

Behind the decisions that are not easy to take lies change. It is natural for us to fear change because the outcomes are unknown. When we cannot foresee what will happen in the future, we make up scenarios and imagine the potential negative consequences, which, in turn, creates tensions and worries. The fear of failure may also come into play.  

These modules contain explicit explanations of useful strategies that can encourage teachers and trainers to move towards a path of positivity and beneficial outcomes, welcome and embrace change, and grow professionally.  

Group activities. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 19 and 20. 

Facilitating group activities can be truly challenging in online classes. In every classroom, there are students who always raise their hands to participate and those who don’t. It can be truly challenging to bring introverts into discussions, as they are reluctant to add their voices. The problem of student engagement is exacerbated by distance learning. Digital platforms can create additional communication barriers, making it difficult to read subtle but important elements of discourse.  

Group activities presented in the modules are designed to stimulate deeper discussions and adapt a think-pair-share strategy to Zoom. Motivational brainstorming sessions will enhance creativity and give a much-needed boost to problem-solving skills.  

Concentration problems. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 21 and 22. 

Some educators prioritise task completion over actual learning. Others are not aware of the risk of multitasking. Not many of us know that an average teacher takes 1500 decisions directly related to education on a daily basis. This means 4 decisions per minute. 

Upon the completion of the modules, teachers and trainers will have acquired the ability to identify their own distractions that might be undermining the effectiveness of their work. They will also learn how to put into practice different methods and techniques to counteract lack of concentration. Finally, they will understand the power of short mental breaks, movements and other practices to improve concentration and mental health 

Discipline problems. Intra- and interpersonal aspects.  

Modules 21 and 22. 

There are many potential problems related to the lack of discipline that can arise in online settings: disruptive or intimidating behaviours, students monopolising conversations, cyberbullying and taboo topics. What’s more, students are at higher risk of becoming passive learners. 

The way an educator presents themselves sets the tone for a classroom environment. Therefore, it’s essential for teachers and trainers to be models for their students. Teachers who can’t discipline themselves can’t expect their students to set their sights high. A breach of discipline can easily take attention away from important tasks.  

Upon the completion of the modules, teachers and trainers will be able to de-escalate conflicts, identify the needs that are not met and become exemplary models for their students.  

Stay with us and discover all the benefits that come with pursuing an online education! 

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