Providing Online Childbirth Education
As the U.S. is taking steps to manage the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many childbirth educators are scrambling to convert their in-person childbirth classes to online classes. We have outlined five steps to help you navigate this situation.
1. Decide on a Class Platform
There are many approaches to online education. Typically, the options fall into one of three categories: live video conferencing, live webinars and recorded online classes. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Below, we break down the differences.
Video conferencing allows real-time, two-way interaction (conversation) with participants. This option works well for small groups or one-on-one meetings/classes. Some popular free platforms include Google Hangouts, Skype and Facebook Messenger.
Webinars are usually one-way communication (lecture), where the instructor and/or the instructor's screen is visible. Webinars may offer a chat feature for participants and/or the ability for participants to "raise their hand" virtually to ask questions. Some popular platforms include Zoom, GoToWebinar and Webex. Keep in mind that pricing and features can vary by platform.
This is the most involved approach. Online recorded courses are typically set up as pay-per-user. They can have either a dedicated start date or allow participants to enroll at any time (evergreen). Courses are typically divided into lessons, filled with short, pre-recorded video content. The course can include discussions, quizzes and downloads. Some popular platforms include Thinkific, Teachable and Udemy. A lot of planning and preparation is required to record and set up online classes. There are also various fees associated with hosting the course and/or per-user. Please note, Plumtree Baby PowerPoints licenses do not allow for their use in recorded media. They may only be used in live classes and webinars.
2. Gather Equipment and Visual Aids
For live conferencing and webinars, you will need either a mobile phone, tablet or computer. Webinars are typically conducted on a computer. A strong Wi-Fi connection is important. Some instructors use a headset or microphone for clearer sound. A webcam (either separate or integrated into your device) that provides clear video is also important. Test all of your equipment to ensure it is working and meets your needs.
Participants will either be watching the instructor or the instructor's screen. Many platforms allow you to alternate between the two or they provide a pop up video of the instructor over the screen. You will want to plan ahead for the content you will show on the screen to help reinforce topics. PowerPoint (or similar) slides work well for this purpose. The licensing for Plumtree Baby's PowerPoint programs allows for their use in live in-person or online courses and the content can be customized for your needs by hiding, adding or rearranging slides.
3. Parent Materials
Online childbirth classes often have less participant interaction, discussion and practice than in-person. It is important to provide supplemental material to help reinforce the information presented in the class and facilitate continuing education for parents. You can share downloads and links of suggested reading or viewing, such as the free resource Birth A to Z. You can also provide printed materials.
At Plumtree Baby, we have a program in place to send Preparing for Birth parent workbooks, individually by mail, directly to your online class attendees. At just $12 per student, this is an easy and affordable option. Use the button below to place your order. (We can also send other book titles and handouts. Contact us to learn more.)
4. Practice First
Before going live with your first class, do a trial run with a friend or family member acting as a participant. Ensure you have good sound and video quality, become familiar with the platform controls and rehearse (and time) your content a few times.
5. Take Heart and Start Teaching
Don't let all of this information or the new technology scare you! Parents need the education and preparation you can help provide. They will be patient and flexible as we all adjust to the changes the pandemic brings. Support from your fellow educators can help. There are several childbirth educator Facebook groups, including a group for Plumtree Baby educators, that can provide guidance and encouragement. Keep in mind that this is a temporary situation and we will get through it together!