Anja's overflow

How does online teaching go quick & dirty?

I had handwritten down the framework for this blog post at the beginning of last week. But since it was so noisy on social media with all the tips, I held off for now. Then, over the course of the week, a number of traditional educational institutions contacted us with their questions about how to move to online from one moment to the next. From there, there seems to be a continued need for recommendations.

So here is our compact recommendation after 25 years of experience with “e-learning”, “online teaching/learning”, “social learning” and “education 4.0” – for rough orientation and as a guard rail for the time to come.

Pragmatic instead of ideological!

How I would like the work and education system of the future to look contributes little to the matter at hand, in my opinion. Now, traditional educational institutions whose programs (desired by educational policy) are built on a massive face-to-face culture need a framework for action that will acutely help them transition their current programs to the online world. The following points are important to realize:

  1. It’s not about tools!
  2. Nor is it primarily about methods.
  3. It’s about people and the social learning relationships.
  4. Do not tackle everything at the same time => decompartmentalize processes!
  5. Less is more!

So, as an educational institution, what do you need for the Switch?

Teaching organization

1. home base for the design of the teaching operation

To organize the teaching operation, there needs to be a central point of contact through which it is communicated to the teachers and learners (L&L for short) how this will now run. And what everyone can/should/must do.

  • So no PR, no motivation, no filler words, no frills.
  • But in the next step, certainly with co-design rights on the part of interested L&L.
  • Remember: this will be a process that needs to be able to be changed in an agile way, so it will be ALWAYS BETA. Will never be finished! Never!
  • There is no new standard. We’re all falling into a continuous experimentation mode now. And that’s a good thing.

To-dos in steps

  1. Think about a structure down to the individual courses and map it on your Homebase as a hierarchical model with links to subsequent pages.
    1. Here, everyone should be able to get to the content they need to be able to work online in the first place with as few clicks as possible.
    2. So down to the flow of the courses, the rough times, the content, the interaction opportunities. (More to follow below.)
  2. Give 5 different people a detailed task typical of the target group that they should be able to solve via Homebase. This is your quick & dirty usability test. 80% errors in your mapping of the future structure can be found and corrected this way.
  3. Goes into regular operation for at least 1, more likely 2 weeks.
  4. Meanwhile, parallel considers whether there are synergies in content between courses or classes.
  5. Works to streamline organizational structure to combine staff resources and become more team-based.
  6. Involve your learners. The more people involved, the better the result.
  7. Maps this structure to the home base.

What technique?!

Use what you already have and what you can always change yourself. And as easy as possible. The first step is not yet about learning management systems or other online academies.

  1. You have a website? Uses them to present the results.
  2. Use an Etherpad (e.g. ZUMpad) or a Google Doc for collaborative editing so that you can work collaboratively in real time right away .
    1. You can also use Dropbox, Nextcloud, etc. if you have experience with them.
    2. Otherwise, the two variants above are well usable – even without prior experience.
    3. Please do not send mails with file attachments (“new”, “ultraneu”, “meganeu” etc.) anymore! The subject is over. Adios!
  3. Later, you can gradually switch to a more solid working environment with WordPress/Nextcloud etc. or MS Teams, Google for Education or similar, depending on what your data protection experts say – and apparently the doors are suddenly opening now. You already have such an environment in regular operation? That’s great. Congratulations! Please tell us about your experiences!


Very important for your teaching in the next weeks, months and maybe years will be the regular communication. We could go into great detail about how to communicate online. We do not do that at this point. What you definitely need is a way to communicate asynchronously and synchronously.

A short excursus on asynchronous communication after all

  • The great advantage of online operation is that everyone can communicate when it suits him or her. Especially in these times, it will be challenging to catch everyone in sync at the same time in peace.
  • Another advantage is that with asynchronous communication you can also think once before (!) you answer. You can think through the question, weigh the answers, etc. This is also a skill that everyone needs to practice instead of quickly answering with a funny emoji or Giphy.
  • Please bring quality to your communication. Also asynchronous. This pushes the noise out and doesn’t tie up our time.
  • (Digression end)

So, what do you absolutely need in a nutshell:

  1. Think mobile first!
  2. First, orient yourself to what your target groups already use or can quickly install.
    1. So in the first step, use a central app from the messenger palette (WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Messenger, Discord, Wire, etc.) for asynchronous communication within the courses, both in group chat and in 1:1 coaching.
    2. You can also move this to a school app, especially this brings advantages in communication with parents. However, I would set that up calmly in the next step. No actionism, please!
    3. For organization-wide internal communication, you should consider the communication channels of the cloud solutions. Slack, MS Teams or WordPress with the P2Theme are also useful alternatives that can be set up quickly. If possible, do not start fiddling around yourself. Please use professional solutions! You will save yourself a lot of trouble in the medium term. As I said, pragmatic, not ideological.
    4. Für den synchronen Austausch, der die Bindung zwischen den Menschen erhöht, eignen sich die Videokonferenzen. Ihr könnt im ersten Schritt Jitsi oder ZOOM nutzen – oder die internen Lösungen eurer jeweiligen Cloud-Lösung.
      Wir haben in Refind zentrale Links zum Einstieg in die Online-Lehre gesammelt. Dort findet ihr auch alle aktuellen Videokonferenz-Lösungen, die in Betracht kommen könnten.
      1. Internally, the course has found that a weekly meeting with picture allows for better quality asynchronous communication. But then, if possible, do not use the precious time for “lectures”, but emphasize interaction. So having discussions, answering questions, inviting experts, working together on something in the whiteboard, etc. => We’re introducing some possible video conferencing formats next Friday (3/20/20) at 10am at the #DigiCLC20 online conference.
      2. If you have privacy concerns about the video images of the L&L (and especially the image background, since these are private premises), you can work with audio conferences. This also brings people together and into exchange. (To do this, you can simply use the video conferencing environments without a picture).
      3. Video conferencing consumes a lot of bandwidth. Depending on how well our networks go along the next time, we should pay attention to the efficient use of this variant. (And anyway do not tie up so much time synchronously).
      4. Many servers will probably collapse due to continuous online operation. I suspect that’s where the established players will set themselves apart from the fast-knit solutions. We ourselves always tend to go for the solid solutions, in order to avoid as much technical frustration as possible and to get to the content work quickly.
  3. Once you have introduced this basic equipment in regular operation and are actively using it, you can gradually add further, especially asynchronous, communication channels.
    1. Go primarily to the channels where your target groups are already moving anyway. Please don’t raise them to be unsexy alternative media that isn’t fun. Instagram stories, TikToks, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc. etc. are super ways to communicate with students, parents and grandparents. Not lecturing, but qualitatively with the necessary seriousness, but also with humor, if possible. No self-PR! Only pour content quality into the social networks, please 🙂
    2. Whether you want to use a learning management system for knowledge transfer, you can discuss later. This is not a priority at this time. If you’re already using one anyway, okay. You can do this, but you don’t have to. Only for the back of the head. But we’ll discuss that another time. Now we are in acute crisis mode.

3. control operation

Now you have a semi-established technical environment to start in. What to do with your learners, assuming they have even halfway solid Internet access!!!

  • Attention: The mobile data volume is limited for most people. WLAN not available in every household. Depending on the target group, creative solutions must be sought here.

Here is a framework along which I would begin to think:

  1. Morgenroutine etablieren => Ziel: Tagesstruktur geben
    1. In a certain short window of time, everyone comes together to strengthen the social bond. Here, a messenger channel is probably enough to exchange greetings, status quo, daily or weekly planning, status of work and spread good cheer.
    2. I know others think real-time communication would be too much stress for some in the current situation. We think it gives a structure to the day that many need now in this transition period until they can be self-directed and self-organized to make their days of the week completely on their own.
  2. Build collaborative teams
    1. The idea here is for people to work together on tasks in alternating teams and to work on them in a mutual exchange of ideas.
    2. Theoretically, one could now think about breaking larger tasks into various smaller subtasks and have the teams work on them cooperatively. Then it would be possible to report briefly in the morning routine what the status is – and individuals could also be represented by their team comrades. I know, this clashes a bit with the standardized exam and test thinking, but we have to get to that as soon as possible anyway 😉
  3. Afternoon Routine
    1. After lunch, everyone could somehow come together again and report on their challenges, problems, results, lessons learned, etc.
    2. Since some have little personal time now (see above), but others have all the more, we should use the opportunity and take advantage of asynchronous working and learning (see above). This means that some people have a lot of time to search for certain content in whatever form, collect it, summarize it, prepare it for different target groups, and so on and so forth. For this purpose, one could exchange information and distribute tasks. This is the time when networked learning can come into its own. All together and each at their own speed. Of course, no longer with standardized tests in mind, but I already hinted at that above.
  4. Exchange of the “teachers
    1. It’s obvious that everyone, really everyone, needs to get into learning mode now. This works best if the teachers in an educational institution also regularly exchange ideas and discuss their lessons learned in a routine (however that may be). Not everyone has to make the same mistakes.
    2. Collect your learning outcomes, share them, let each other help, also from the pupils or students if they can do something better. Yes, even they can’t do everything, and they live in different digital spheres than the Boomers. But honestly, whether you still need to be able to operate a mouse or set up an e-mail address in this age always depends on your perspective.
    3. With a first school, we will now soon break up the pedagogical day originally planned in presence into an online training. Let’s see what can be moved and nudged in these times.
    4. And otherwise, feel free to share your project ideas and realizations at If you need a code to sign up, contact me.

Interim summary

We all need to learn from everyone now. And compromise. On all sides. It is a transformative time. I never thought that such a virus would ultimately be the trigger that disruptively drives the (necessary) transformation.

Fortunately, we have this worldwide digital network. Let’s use it constructively! And as I said: pragmatic, not ideological! In this sense: Stay healthy! And look out for each other!

What now?

Do you have any specific requests that you would like us to address? Post it in the comments or send it directly to us. Anyway.

And mark the date in your calendar: Next Sunday (22.03.2020), the youth online event is dedicated to collaborative competence. Already in planning for months. It couldn’t have been timed better. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’m giving the keynote …

Learning to learn & teach from 2020 with @frolleinflow. How traditional educational institutions can proceed. #education40