Emulating the Teacher’s Approving Nod in Teaching Material


While lecture style teaching barely has to be adapted when it moves online, the story is different for student centered, interactive formats that teach practical skills, like we do in our programming trainings. Compared to what we are used to in a classroom, the different channels of communication are limited in online platforms. A few examples: Nonverbal communication is extremely reduced. Informal communication between participants, used to clarify on assignments or information is much harder. If students are split up in groups to work on assignments, there often is no channel to deliver additional information to all groups at once. The fact that the participants of our embedded trainings have to interact with microcontrollers brings further challenges: assisting students with debugging hardware can only be done verbally as we have no possibility to physically check student's hardware, if needed.

When we had to move our face-to-face trainings online because of the corona virus crisis, this is how we addressed the lack of personal interaction in the design of our material:

  • We provided a walkthrough with
    • explicitly phrased tasks
    • expected outputs
    • troubleshooting pages
    • problem solving strategies and tiered aids
    • answers to expected questions
    • additional explanations
  • To structure this huge amount of information we
    • used a book structure with chapters
    • visually marked different kinds of information (action items, more details, etc)
    • separated assignments from solving strategies
  • We debugged our docs continuously before deployment by
    • letting target audience work through the material, using different setups to be able to anticipate as many problems as possible
    • integrating what we learned into the material
    • repeating this process
  • Conference: Write the Docs Prague
  • Year: 2020

About the speaker

Tanks Transfeld