Online pedagogy: general advice for architecture tutors, scholars and mentors.

Sara Kolata
4 min readMar 15, 2020


This section is designed to help you think about how you’ll teach online.

This is a simple break-through focusing on the most common teaching practices that are effective in an online environment. Below you’ll see general advice.


· Focus on the pedagogy, not just the platform: the attributes of a physical classroom don’t guarantee that a class is effective or engaging. The same goes for online platforms. Time spent now thinking about how you want to teach using this technology will be time well spent. In particular, I encourage you to think about which of your classroom-teaching strategies translate well to the remote setting, which don’t, and what new approaches you might incorporate.

· Take advantage of interactivity: online technologies can encourage and facilitate more “lean forward” behaviors than the traditional classroom. Moreover, most students are digital natives who already use remote technology for their own meetings and gatherings. Take advantage of these possibilities. This applies even to courses that are traditionally more lecture-based. For example, as described below, you can increase learner engagement by:

- Surfacing questions that learners have around the material

- Using polls to get a sense of the aggregate “temperature” of the room

- Inviting students’ answers on particular questions

- Having students engage in small “buzz group” conversations, or

- “Cold calling”

· This is an opportunity to innovate: although the online environment removes access to certain modes of teaching, it opens up a number of new possibilities, some of which you may be able to bring back to your physical classroom once the crisis is over. Students are likely to be more forgiving of missteps in a new environment. Take advantage of this difficult time to experiment with new teaching methods and tools.

It you are still debating on which platforms to use read this article for some advice: Free remote working tools to help designers and architects stay connected with their team.


· Set classroom norms: if using Zoom to convene your course, circulate clear expectations around behavior.

· Determine your priorities: as you think about continuing instruction online, consider what you can realistically accomplish. Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus? What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Will you emphasize some things and de-emphasize others in order to add engagement and accountability? Keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations.

· Audio matters: use a good headset, perhaps one with an attached microphone.

· So do time zones: although your class time won’t change, many students’ time zones will. Consider amping up your energy to stimulate theirs. Students who don’t attend a session live can be asked to engage in a peer discussion, write an individual response, or simply watch the recording.

· Don’t expect to master everything on day 1: you will learn (fast). Your students will learn (even faster). You may even want to recognize this fact explicitly with your students, and invite their ideas for how to engage with/structure the technology for your particular course. Invite them to be co-creators around pedagogy.


· Students have a range of abilities, and not everyone will disclose: there are likely students in your course with learning or sensory disabilities. They are not required to tell you, and they may not feel comfortable telling anyone. Rather than asking these students to identify themselves to you, employ practices that reach a wide variety of learners.

· Text is universal: assistive technologies (such as screen readers, magnifiers, etc.) are nearly always designed to work with text. If you send images to your students, include descriptions. If you use video chat such as Zoom, assign someone to create a transcript.

· Some students need additional processing time: don’t expect everyone to understand after being told once. Provide transcripts and chat logs for later review. When you show images or videos via screen-share, provide those files for students to download. This will especially help students with dyslexia and other reading impediments.

· Select accessible resources: some online resources have already had substantial work done to improve accessibility. YouTube allows viewers to suggest caption improvements on many videos. Interactive simulations such as the PhET tools are usable by the blind.

· Be an advocate: if a student does self-identify as needing assistance, help them find it.

· Take care of your hands: you’ll be typing a lot more. Pay attention to your tendons (and your shoulders). Take breaks.

Follow this space and join my Facebook group for architects for more posts alike and do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.



Sara Kolata

Helping architect and design specialists, mentors, tutors, scholars and consultants transition into a digital world.