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26 März, 2020

Working remotely – Keep in mind these 6 points and you’ll nail working from home

When life moves online, the least you need is getting stuck in administrative tasks. Here is what you can do to get them out of the way and be productive in an unfamiliar environment.

What digital tools do I need to keep work and classes running during limitations and lockdowns due to COVID-19? Where do I get them and how do I set them up?

Two points are crucial in this situation: Ensuring communication can happen during this time in the most fluent way possible, and having a space to exchange work results and materials. 

For that, a variety of tools are available on the market, and right now many providers are offering free access to their products. 

For communication it is important to keep in mind it’s best to divide it into two categories: Constantly available channels and punctual, scheduled meetings or classes. While standby availability can be ensured via messengers even, for scheduled catch-ups video-conferencing or at least phone conferences are the better option. Another point to consider is you want to keep information in the same place, as it avoids creating a chaos of different pools where important information might get lost in between and be hard to find. As an example Zoom, Skype or Hangouts are convenient options to use. 

For exchange, it is worth considering using an LMS like Moodle, Blackboard or D2L/Brightspace, Canvas, MS Teams or Google Classroom if you are an educational institution. Urkund has integrations to all these LMS  and our text-matching software helps you in supporting the evaluation process of your students’ work.

As a company, bear in mind you want to create a file system that stays organised during the remote working time – for all team members. One of the most popular options is Google Drive, which gives you as well the opportunity to keep all your schedules and files in place and share them with colleagues and other departments. For huge file transfers, wetransfer.com is offering a free service. 

UNESCO has created an extensive collection of different resources for learning and working remotely: http://bit.ly/2vt0xnT

As well, The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) has published recommendations and resources for teachers and students: http://bit.ly/2QppRTb

How do I organise teamwork off the grid? How often should I organise what type of meetings?

Once you have made sure the infrastructure is set, you still need to get your work scheduled and get everyone on the same page. 

Regardless if in a company, university or school, start the remote working and studying phase with a first meeting where everyone is present. Video-conferencing is recommended, as it makes a difference if people see each other and you as well can use visual elements. A shared screen can come in very handy when explaining to co-workers or students a new tool you will use from now on or a new set structure. As well, it adds at least partial visual expression and does not feel as distant and anonymous as a phone conference. 

Agree on a weekly meeting that every team member should attend. Consider a daily catch-up within departments or smaller teams additionally, maybe with a time limit of 15 or 30 minutes. This helps to keep a notion of connection and prevents isolation, in which people sometimes might fall otherwise while working from home. As well, it might ease up some bottlenecks or delays which the lack of direct communication might cause.

Using a joined calendar can help to keep track of all members‘ resources. As well, consider encouraging a habit of personal work documentation, as that can help to keep track of project work. If you already are using tools like Jira or Asana, that might already be something you do – otherwise, a joined spreadsheet with key tasks accomplished is a good start to keep track! Direct communication during lunch breaks or just by sharing the office space is not existent. Therefore, every shared platform on your team‘s work is helpful in keeping a notion of connection and informing each other.

Keeping rituals as under regular work circumstances has often proven to be helpful. Having a set time for beginning work, splitting private and work tasks and avoiding privately browsing the web during working hours can help to establish a healthy and productive routine. Also, a Social Media blocker can come in handy for keeping yourself away from your social timelines. Find a collection of different options here: http://bit.ly/2Wp1IQj

How do I keep people connected and the team spirit alive while working remotely?

As a team leader or manager, make sure you check in on your teams as usual. Be present, be available, and if possible, also try to once a day also enable conversations not related to work. 

You can also establish remote co-working in a joined space. As an example, you can set up a Slack channel named #coworking with a call set up to join. This way you can digitally provide a collective space for people to get together to get work done and be productive – on the other hand not feeling isolated and detached from the team.

Camera on – or not? How to overcome virtual boundaries

Online meetings come with a variety of different challenges, including the question if cameras should be turned on or not. We all know the dreaded front camera face and how distracting it can be to look at your own face during a virtual meeting. However, online meetings or classes should essentially mimic real-life interaction, and cameras are an essential part of that. So try to have cameras always on. When addressing your class or peers, make sure to say your name and look directly into the camera instead of at your screen. To overcome potential awkwardness, start with an ice-breaker or any introductory activity you find fitting to your class. (Find more tips on how to overcome barriers here: https://bit.ly/3dxjMht

If you want to create classes that require a slightly more advanced camera then the one on your laptop, find some great tips here: https://bit.ly/2QJfiu3

They don’t need to be expensive nor advanced and are easy to set up and are perfect when filming a class. However, for simple check-ins with your class, your built-in laptop camera should be enough. Pro Tip: There are ways to hide your background when using Zoom, for example, check it out here: https://bit.ly/3ag7gAN

How Urkund can help – Assuring quality of education and original thinking

With classes moving online, we need to make sure to move all aspects of a physical class online, including the guidelines and regulations for assignments and tests. This is a great opportunity for all teachers to finally test the online learning tools and apply them accordingly. But we also know it can be, at first, an overwhelming experience where everything is new, all at once. To safeguard your quality of education, and the legitimacy of your assignments and tests, make sure to have Urkund installed. Our text-matching tools are effective, easy to set up and a very cost-efficient way to install quality assurance into your online classes. You can use Urkund in three different ways: 

  1. Through your current LMS (we integrate into all commonly used LMS)
  2. Via email (No LMS needed)
  3. Through our web inbox (no LMS needed) 

If you need any help with setting it up, reach out to us at support@urkund.com or check out our webinars and guides coming up. You will find all the knowledge on our website under www.urkund.com/support

How To Involve The Whole Class: Tips On Getting Everyone In The Classroom To Talk

Setting up a virtual class usually takes time as you need to think of the resources and ways to have your students engage in this new learning environment. However, there are a few techniques that you can follow to engage everyone, even the shyest ones. 

Plan ahead the different ways that students can interact. Polls and quizzes can be an effective tool to start a discussion and gather students’ ideas. This way you involve students with the study material and make the class more interactive. You can find some examples of quiz templates here: https://bit.ly/2WJPeCV

Engaging a range of students and not letting the same voices dominate the class is essential for making students understand that engagement is important and required. 

Warm calls can be very helpful for passive students, so call them and let them know in advance the questions you will ask them. 

The chat box function is another useful way to motivate the entire class. The chat window can be used to either share ideas and answers from students or to support a student with further instructions. 

Keep your students active. A common challenge in online learning environments is that students can be distracted more easily. So, try to interact with them at least every fifteen minutes. 

Assign students to groups. Group work can be a smart tool to actively engage students. You can provide them with a topic to work with and the means to communicate, like messaging platforms, video conferences, or any other tool that will help them stay connected. This also ensures that students will be prepared. 

Last but not least, have in mind that internet connections may be slow sometimes, so pay attention to your speaking pace and try not to speed up your talking.  

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