Learning is a lifelong process. For most of us who believe in formal schooling and supplementary education, learning can never be completed without assessment. For enabling great learning, periodic assessment is equally important. If we can pinpoint to the strong and weak areas of a student, customizing a study plan to suit his/her needs becomes much easier. We at Vedantu, strongly believe in solving everyday problems for learners and teachers and thus, we created our own Learning Management System (LMS) recently.
It has been 2 months since we launched our LMS (Learning Management System) and it has been an amazing ride to see the product being used in unique ways by our teachers and students.
Why we built the LMS? In our user research, there were few Key problem areas that we identified with Content Sharing and Tests/Assignments:
- Content Creation – Teachers did not have any easy tool to create personalized content (tests, assignments, notes) and share with the student on Vedantu
- Content Sharing – Teachers could not share tailored content as per the requirements of the student and the topics taught, which resulted in students not receiving enough tests, assignments to practice on time.
- Content Consumption Interface – Test/Assignment sharing, attempt and evaluation interfaces were not intuitive and had very few options that led to offline sharing and submissions with no tracking.
- No Tracking and Reports – Students and teachers did not have the progress tracking and reports at one place.
Tests and assessments play an important role in the entire learning cycle for a school student. Assessments inspire teachers to ask these important questions:
- Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?
- Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?
- Is there a better way to teach the subject, thereby encouraging better learning?
Hence, we came up with the following solutions to address the problems and concerns:
- Completely new LMS for teachers – Teachers can now create their own personalized tests/assignments/notes to suit the learning needs of their students. Teachers can unleash their creativity and create interesting tests and assignments for students.
- All Types of Tests/Notes – Students shall now get objective, subjective and mixed tests along with Assignments and study material from their teachers for practice
- Easy interface for the attempt – Students can now easily attempt tests/assignments from desktop or mobile. Students can type answers, take a photo of the written answers, add attachments, record audio or video answers. This helps students in reinforcing the concepts they have learned and also help them in gauging their learning.
- Track Progress – Students can now attempt and track all their tests/assignments/notes from a single page. Now they can view the report of each test and assignment attempted, anytime!
Now that we have our awesome teachers using our LMS for more than 2 months, we have some great practical stories to share…
“LMS was something I always wanted as I was not really happy with the kind of ready-made tests we had before. I wanted to create my own tests. Initially, it took a little time to understand the process but now I am very comfortable.
Tests and assignments are integral part of teaching – learning process. With subjective test, I am able to check the student’s’ ability to comprehend whereas objective tests are the best way to test learning outcome in a quick, time-saving manner. Auto evaluation of objectives is such a boon that combination of objective and subjective test helps me to handle assessment of a number of students at once.” – Sweta Rai
“I have used LMS enough to be able to use it in a very effective manner. I am very comfortable with it now.
During a class, I set the expectation to complete a test by the coming weekend. Weekends being a little light, are the best time that they can attempt the test with full enthusiasm. Even though I set the expectation to finish a test by the coming weekend, I set expiry date to at least 2 weeks. Due to unforeseen circumstances (school load, sick, travel, guests etc), a student might not be able to get time to finish test on time. I don’t want them to complete it just for the sake of it. If they can’t finish it by the weekend, they can finish it later.
Student reaction is positive. Many students and parents remind me if I fail to provide a test on time. Attempt ratio is very high. Its not 100% because there are students who are taking class for casual learning right now and want to take serious classes later (eg. one student based in Toronto paid for OTF, never attends it, gets the video and watches later. He has plans for serious Physics studies starting in a month).
In case of OTF, it also helps me gauge myself. If a few students in a batch have performed poor, then I have to improve them. But, if most of them have performed poor, then I need to improve myself. I did a poor job in explaining the concept to the class.LMS helps me gauge the level to which a student has understood a concept.I can then plan to either revise the concept with student or move on to the next one.
I do see a few shortcomings and have suggested a few enhancements. If they are implemented, my productivity would increase. But the current product, as it stands now, is a good tool in itself.” – Bhavdeep Sethi
“LMS is very comfortable for me as I can prepare my own question paper and assignments for my students depending on their individual capability. I am having freedom to choose questions for designing a question paper which consists of all type of questions varying from easy to difficult. I am including reasoning type questions, concept based questions and HOTS questions.
Students are very eager to take test as they want to evaluate themselves. Most of the students attempt shared tests and assignments within 12 hrs, this shows their willingness in taking test.
Evaluation is very easy, in case of MCQ, True/False, Match their is an auto evaluation option, and also I can add a comment for wrong and correct answers, because of this student will get to know their mistake once they finish their test.
I share a test with my students after every topic completion. From their test results, I get to know how clear are they with the concept and what topics they are facing difficulties with. I discuss the difficult topics in my next session and clear students’ doubts. This makes the student and teacher self satisfied. Student will be very confident in taking test at their schools.” – Santoshi Gururajan
“Prior to this tool, it was difficult to send tests, assignments, notes and similar tasks through mails or phone. It was equally difficult to keep the track of them.This process has become relatively convenient and easier now. This tool is very simple and easy to use. Though there is one time effort to create tests and assignments but once we create them, we can use the same with many students that s reduces my workload by leaps and bounds. Students are also very enthusiastic and zealous to learn via this tool. Though the attempt ratio is little less, but I must say it is increasing day by day.
Moreover, interesting fact is that students are asking me to share the homework without fail. This tool is really helping me a lot to set the goals for my students. They can see their grades and they can improve their grades by keeping track of their marks.” – Manisha Bhala
Assignments are usually dreaded by students, be it at the primary school level or during postgraduation. Few teachers manage to make their assignments interesting enough for students. Such a trend has made plagiarism rampant in many submissions. It is also not uncommon for children to seek the help of older members in their family to submit the assignment on time.
The top complaint from most children is that assignments are akin to copying texts from reference books. Most students wish for assignments that are not time-consuming and do not require lots of expertise. They also fervently wish that assignments ultimately ‘mean’ something and are not just given for the heck of it. Perhaps it is time for us teachers who have trouble with late or incomplete assignments submissions to have our assignments relooked at.
Here’s a checklist to find out if the quality of assignments given is good, bad or otherwise:
Is the assignment personalized?
Children love to give a personal touch to assignments. Hence, assignments that ask for their point of view on topics, or assignments that ask them to write a poem or story tend to arouse interest in the students. The assignments that require students to conduct home experiments are considered some of the best, as these have a personalized touch and incite learning by doing.
Are the assignments the same for all students?
Students are smart. Often, they are smarter than the teachers expect. Common assignments are thus easily copied by everyone in the class, without any regrets. Such a habit must not be encouraged through assignments that are given en masse. Students should be given different topics as assignments. This may even prompt a discussion among them, on the given topics.
Do students learn from each other during assignments?
Two minds are better than one. Therefore, when more than one student works on a given problem statement, the solutions are noticeably better. Teachers must hence try to involve as many students as possible in the projects assigned to the class. Examples are science projects, plays, etc., which require a group effort. If this is not possible, teachers can also give marks to groups, according to the aggregate marks secured by the members of the group. This will encourage students to peer review their assignments and projects, something that’s very effective in the learning process.
Are assignments time consuming?
Assignments should not come in the way of daily studies and daily play. They should be a healthy part of the day, and should typically be around a half hour to one hour long. Beyond that, the tired minds of students will not work at their optimum capacity. But that’s not to be the case for secondary classes, where assignments are week-long. In such cases, time management is up to the children themselves. But even then, students must not be burdened, lest they grow a dislike to the subject itself!
Are they meant for students or experts?
Science experiments and projects are the usual suspects for an involvement of outside hands in the students’ assignments. This is simply because the expectations of the teachers from these projects are too high. Gone are the days when a student could bring lenses to class to explain phenomena of light, now the student has to come equipped with a PowerPoint presentation, a huge chart with explanations, and thankfully the lenses too. Such work requires expertise, which is expected of graduate students, not primary or secondary class goers.
To sum it up, assignments should be in the interest of students. They should not overburden them, and neither should they pressurize the children to stretch beyond their capacity. Also, assignments should be made more fun, so that the children respond to the demands of the class in a way that is encouraging to the teacher as well as fun for the children! Assignments are not meant to be dreary. They are a way to take back the fun and warmth of classrooms to home, in keeping with the fact that education is a never ending process.
“I need a teacher to provide personal attention to my child to ensure he learns well”
“My child needs to learn the following and I see that he is struggling a bit to do the same – Need your help on this”
We are sure while you read the above sentences, you were visualizing images of different parents who spoke the same words to you.
Now the real question is:
What does the student (or) a parent want from a teacher? Is it just personal attention to facilitate student learning?
Is it an achievement of the student’s learning outcome in an enjoyable learning environment? In simple words ‘Is the student learning and enjoying the way he/she learned things?’
I am sure there is no guidance required for anyone in picking the correct one from the above two questions.
It has been several years since the concept of ‘Individual Tutoring’ and ‘Group Tutoring’ gained popularity as extension avenues to everyday learning from the schools. But to us at vedantu, the questions are-
- Can One-on-One sessions provide an environment where students can collaborate?
- Can a group tuition ensure sufficient interaction time and attention span of the teacher with all students?
The solutions to these question lie in the fact that a great blend of offerings could enable a teacher handle both the above challenges effectively and make learning fun for the students.
One-to-Few – An offering where teacher handles just 3 to 7 students.
A blended model of teaching where the learning is personalized and gives enough room for each student to learn from his/her peers.
This calls for a detailed analysis of what this can do to the students and the teacher:
- Bonding within students and between the teacher and students is very strong
- This opens up room for the teacher to apply varied pedagogy
- Students have the opportunity to support and learn from each other
- Avenues for student interaction are more.
- Opportunity to provide personalized feedback still remains intact for the teacher
- Peer teaching and learning can be encouraged
- Teacher has the option to conduct group-based learning activities
- Content sharing/assessment evaluation happens in a controlled environment
Just awesome…Isn’t it? The new offering seamlessly handles a lot of learning and teaching challenges and yet offers interaction and blooming opportunities for students.
What do you think, don’t we see ANY challenges at all with this new offering to impart learning?
An honest answer would be – Yes, we do see some of them. The most common ones coming from teachers would be –
“As a teacher, I have varying levels of learners in the same batch”.
“I do not have enough time to interact with all students”
Though it seems that we should agree to the above challenges that teachers face, but with time and experience, we have understood that these challenges are only exclusive to unprepared teachers.
Now that we know the lacunae, let’s see how effectively we can handle them and explore a few ways to make the sessions awesome for both – the teacher and students
Do the Homework Right
Have a plan ready for each level of learner in your batch. Remember, these plans should ideally be the strategies that can be applied to learners in all your batches. These strategies can be broadly devised for three phases of your sessions- Pre-Session, In-Session & Post-Session. (These examples are just a few among the hundreds. It is just a question of exploring them)
For example, you can get to know the level of learners well before your session by asking them to fill a KWL chart
You can also get a hang of the student’s understanding of the concept taught by an Exit Ticket
You can additionally check the understanding of the entire group and individual students by asking them to create Concept cards/Theme Cards on the taught concept. The best part of this exercise is, students are allowed to create the listed parameters to cover the concept on their own, which they cannot do without going through the understanding of the concept and these tools can be used in all subjects as well.
Involve Multiple Intelligences
When a student can learn in different ways…Why teach them in one way?
Every student is different and unique are their learning abilities and adaptation to teaching styles. Some students grasp the concept well, just by verbal communication to them. Others understand well through images –Images & drawings. Whereas some are comfortable learning by doing various activities. Others may understand a concept well by practicing several worksheets. Also, it is a proven fact that students learn quickly and retain most concepts taught to them using multimedia.
Once a teacher makes sure that his/her session involves a blend of teaching tools and methodologies, catering to the aforesaid needs, the question of teaching effectiveness doesn’t even arises. The teaching is bound to be effective even for a set of students with varied learning levels.
Encourage Peer Learning through Collaborative Activities
It is a proven fact that students feel more comfortable to ask questions and express their lack of understanding on any concept with their peers. In a confined group with the same learning objectives, it is very easy to make students teach their fellow mates and learn from them as well. Remember, every student feels proud when given an opportunity to impart learning to his/her peers. They express well, collaborate and arrive at lateral outputs when given a chance to work as a team.
Customize Assessment Strategies
Work out a plan to customize your assignments and tests for students with the different pace of learning. Give a comprehension-level assignment for a slow learner, which would boost his/her confidence in learning the concept. Once the comprehension-level assignment is completed, the slow learner gains the confidence to go for the next level assignment and the teacher should encourage and ensure he/she completes the same as well.
Similarly, an application/synthesis-level assignment for a quick learner gives him/her opportunity to express the subject expertise and boosts creativity helping them move to the next level
Create Avenues for offline interaction
A WhatsApp group can do wonders to facilitate offline interaction between you and the students, as well as amongst the students of the batch. You can safely utilize the platform to introduce the peers, check their learning progress, and solve doubts or any other difficulties.
We are sure with slight modifications in your teaching style, your students can achieve oodles of confidence in the subject/topic taught and would add multi-fold to your teaching effectiveness.
Content and Pedagogy are directly proportional to the effectiveness if any One-to-Few session. It is your preparation, the plan and the genuine willingness to execute that creates all the difference.
Trust Us… at the End of the day… It is truly worth it…
This article is contributed by Dr. Sundar Rabindranathan
He is an educational consultant and trainer who has trained students & teachers in more than 300 schools throughout India. Sundar currently heads Teacher Management at Vedantu and likes to play badminton in his free time.
We, at Vedantu, have always been curious to do something new and better. So when One-to-Few (OTF) online batches were launched on Vedantu, we thought of finding the best ways to make it more meaningful and interactive for our students. One of the most engaging ways that we could think of, was making a group outside the class. This would be a kind of offline Vedantu group, where the students are still in touch with each other even if they are not in the class. After researching on what can be done to break the ice between the students and the teacher of a particular online OTF batch before the first class, we ran a student community building experiment using asynchronous interactions via a WhatsApp group. And lo, there we were. Creating our own WhatsApp experiment! we were sure it would work best in a small OTF group tuition where a focused group of 5 to 7 students learn in a common online classroom.
The reason we did not exceed this number by 5 to 7 was simple, we didn’t want the personalized interaction to be compromised in any way. From our experience it appears that when there are more than 7 participants, the learning outcomes are compromised and the learner satisfaction goes down. Smaller group sizes make this phenomenon less likely to occur.
In launching such batches we ensured that the students enrolled for a particular class be comfortable with each other from the very first online session on Vedantu, as they are new to each other. The teachers are also guided to be sensitive to different communication styles and behaviors for various cultures to be seen in a learning community.
Here are a couple of pointers we kept in mind for a successful group interaction and meaningful learning of the group in an online environment.
1. Start WhatsApp interactions well in advance!
The course teacher creates a WhatsApp group a few days before the course starts. The teacher initiates the interaction by framing a simple activity for the learners to introduce themselves to the rest of the focused group, by writing one or two paragraphs about themselves, their interests, hobbies etc. The teacher then have students respond to at least two of their fellow course mates in the forum.
When learners feel connected, the barrier of the technological infrastructure comes down. Learners feel they are part of a community and establish a social presence. The social presence, which is an important & intangible dimension in an online ecosphere.
2. Highlight the Purpose!
It is vital to highlight the purpose of the group. This helps learners and their parents know that the WhatsApp group is a special group – A group that would help improve the learning outcomes of the entire online study group you are part of. Also, it is a great medium to stay connected with the teacher, fellow learners and understand their academic needs, anytime and anywhere.
3. Early contacts lasts long!
As soon as the the group is created, the course teacher ensures that he/she induces some interaction. We saw some really amazing work from the teachers to break the ice. It involved sharing ‘Question of the day’, ‘Thought for the day’ or a fun activity that engaged the entire group. Doing this early on really helped in ensuring that a bonding is created amongst the group members and learning became fun.
4. Profile pictures – Make it real
The admin of the group also encourages students to upload a profile pictures of themselves in the WhatsApp Group. Although it is not a compulsion, but having a profile picture helps putting a face to a name. We are sure you’ll agree, this minor change of putting across a picture helps building and strengthening personal connections multifold in a student community online.
5. Utilize the Group Better
The teacher, who is also the admin of the WhatsApp group, makes sure that it does not becomes a yet another place to chit chat, but also plays a key role in major announcements of online tests and assignments. It was observed that whenever a doubt was posted, not just the teacher, but fellow students do come ahead to clears the doubts. Here is where the magic happens and social connections get stronger with a whole new meaning. The key remains in striking the balance! Whenever it was possible, we ensured creating groups based on experiences and kept a healthy mix of experienced online students and first time online learners.
6. Be available at the need of the hour!
The teacher makes sure the concerns and questions of the students are resolved well in time. We observed, in most cases the doubts were peer-solved and the teacher remained a facilitator in the group. while this enhanced the peer learning amongst the students, teacher makes sure to go an extra mile to arrange for a one-to-one session for further doubt clarification. As a matter of fact, when a teacher is involved and supportive of his/her students, higher levels of learning outcomes are more likely to be achieved.
The entire exercise was so much fun and gave us some really great insights – How a small study group behaves, how the interaction amongst complete strangers can be achieved, and what enhances the personalization in a group of 5-7 students learning an academic topic. Overall it was a great learning experience for all of us. It also paved way to an awesome community at Vedantu – Our very own OTF student community!
Image Credits – Google Images
About the author:
Namo works with Vedantu as Product Research Manager and is a Physics enthusiast. In his free time he loves to explore new cuisines and restaurants.
A Happy New Year to All of You!
We thought today is the right time to discuss the need of teaching out of prescribed syllabus with our teaching community. Especially when the examinations are right around the corner, we should encourage our students to cement their concepts by exploring the subject in depth, which would help them crack their exams like a cake!
Children often complain after exams that the questions were out of the syllabus. Teachers are repeatedly told to strictly follow the syllabus and to not digress too much, which more often than not, stifles the learning process of the children.
Textbooks are a one-size-fits-all creation. It is expected to be an umbrella of knowledge, and underneath it, it’s perfectly alright to teach more and to delve into subjects deeper. Teaching beyond syllabus, in our opinion, is the most interesting and exciting way to teach.
Why is teaching beyond syllabus, by definition “unnecessary”, a necessary component for holistic education? We have five reasons.
Reason 1: It enhances the learning process
The more we teach by going beyond syllabus, the bigger picture or deeper picture we can make available to our students. This will make them take more interest in the topic and enhance their learning process. This is especially true because the proverbial threat of exams does not lurk in the corner when it comes to learning out of syllabus topics.
Reason 2: Curiosity does not kill the cat
That’s one myth that needs to be busted. Really, the more curious a child, the more promising he/she is! When students ask questions, it is a clear indicator of their interest and understanding in the subject. This must be encouraged and nurtured. It might require teachers to venture out of the typical curricula. For instance, if a student shows great interest in botany, a trip to the nearby botanical garden is perhaps called for!
Reason 3: The class can go exploring!
Scientists, engineers, and the greatest names we know today went exploring for truths. They indulged in research. The research comes with a zest for more and more knowledge. Little Einsteins are also born that way. It is empirically proven that interests in subjects are sparked by factors that are not always related to the curriculum. Sometimes, questioning the behaviour of sub-atomic particles, which lies out of the scope of typical science textbooks could lead children to take up summer research jobs in labs that encourage children to do the same. In fact, such research-based study is highly lauded by prestigious scholarship programs throughout the country. Students who have a vast volume of knowledge are bound to be better equipped to deal with higher studies in the said subject.
Reason 4: It makes teaching non-repetitive and keeps it fun
This is one of those few cases where you cut the cake and you eat it too! Teaching out of syllabus makes students learn more, and is also fulfilling for spirited teachers. Often, teachers are told to stick to the syllabus. Teachers can only twist and turn the given material in limited ways, and eventually, the teaching process loses a lot of its charm. We should keep a little leg room to explore other peripheral topics for our students. Imagine teaching students about Indian poets like Irfan Habib or Tiruvalluvar when covering poetry by Sylvia Plath or Oscar Wilde.
Reason 5: Topics Out of syllabus are interesting too
Out-of-syllabus topics can be taught through industrial visits, picnics, games and much more. Since they are not part of the syllabus, we teachers have all the flexibility in the world to innovate and think out of the box when trying to teach these topics. However, it is important to beware of the time that such interesting topics can consume.
In sum, teaching beyond syllabus is welcomed by students and offer an interesting opportunity for us teacher to overcome mundane teaching. It is not only fun, but it also enhances the learning process of the children. Teaching out of syllabus also creates more little Einsteins than teaching from the syllabus. Let’s not be bound by the given curricula. Let us think out of the box, and let us make our lessons more memorable.
Teaching and teaching it right is a tough job in itself, and when you have a few difficult kids to deal with, it becomes even tougher. Worry not, today in this post, you will see 5 powerful tips that will help you teach more effectively. These tips will not only help professional teachers to teach better, but also homemakers, mothers and tutors to deal with children more effectively.
1- Mind Your Tone & Voice
The general course of action followed for handling difficult kids is to shut them up with a huge shout or lecture them for their misbehavior or lack of attention. You Shouldn’t! The more you shout on, yell at or lecture a child, it is more likely that the child will dislike you and become resentful.
Rule of thumb is to NEVER ever lose your cool! If students discover a few of your pain points that raises your tension, they’ll keep triggering it time and again. The more calmly you handle the situation, the easier it becomes for the child to build the rapport with you.
Also, don’t shower them with false praises it’ll do more bad than good, instead give them targets to accomplish and praise them on real achievements.
2- Build the Foundation Right
Talk to your students, understand their requirements, counsel them whenever needed and be with them as their mentor and friend. Keeping some pre-conceived notions regarding your students would be the last thing to do as a teacher. Completely avoid being judgmental, let your students feel at ease, greet them with a smile and let them know you are really happy to teach them. To teach effectively, striking the right cord with students is really important.
Set the expectations right with the students and let them know of the consequences in both positive and negative scenario. Stick to your rules, the child should be convinced of the same consequences every time he/she fulfills the expectation. This would motivate them to meet the expectations most of the times.
3- Be Positive, Proactive & a Good Mentor
Being positive is something every teacher should follow and follow it very religiously. Being positive not only gives you strength to deal with everyday hurdles in dealing with difficult kids, but also lifts you up along with kids and people surrounding you. Proactively monitor the entire set of students and figure out the ones who need your attention most. Make them sit near you or make sure you stay near them during the teaching hours – this ensures the child is attentive during learning.
Try to be their friend, appreciate them for their achievements in front of everyone, but don’t shout on them publically, shaming in front of everyone doesn’t work at all. Share with them your own anecdotes – this will inspire them.
4- Make Learning Interactive and Interesting
Gone are the days when teachers used to stand at a podium and deliver the lecture and pupil used to jot down from the little written on the blackboard. These days’ students are more informed and resist boring lecture methodology of teaching. To keep the interest alive, use activities, give examples from day-to-day life and involve them as much as you can in the teaching.
Try ‘gamifying’ the lessons, this builds healthy competition among the students and make it more interesting for kids to understand the concept. Also, make use of ‘peer instruction’ in your sessions – this encourages direct participation of students in learning. Studies have proven that peer instruction harnesses pupils’ collective knowledge to deliver measurable improvements in learning.
5- Build relationship with students & Parents
Have you heard of teaching or learning happening in silo? It never happens! Try connecting with your students at a personal level. Know their interests, ask them about their family, relate with them on common grounds. Take out some time for interacting – talk with their peer, involve parents, and take help from your colleagues to know about the student better. Appreciate them for their achievements in co-curricular activities, including sports, choir singing, theater performance, etc. Regularly follow-up with parents for keeping a tab on child’s improvement on the behavioral front at home. Educate parent and involve them in corrective steps.
We believe with these few handy tips, you’ll be able to handle your students more effectively and teach them more efficiently. We would love to read more about your experiences, don’t forget to share them with us in the comment section.