As schools and universities across the country begin rolling out their plans for the Fall semester and beyond, they are facing an unprecedented challenge due to COVID-19: the transition to hybrid or, in some cases, fully remote learning models for the foreseeable future. While it appears as though most states and districts are still physically sending their students back to school in some capacity, many are adopting hybrid models in which the students are broken up into small groups, with each group spending only a portion of the week in school – this being just one measure intended to increase physical distancing and ensure a safe return to school.
When not in the classroom, students are tasked with working from their homes; this poses a unique challenge for parents, students, and teachers alike. Beyond a lack of direct, in-person interaction between student and teacher, some students’ homes may not be conducive to distance learning. For some, this is simply because it is difficult to get into a learning mindset at home, where there may be distractions that are not necessarily present in a classroom environment. In more extreme cases, students do not have access to the same resources in their homes that their schools afford them – be this a lack of Wi-Fi or even a hot meal at lunchtime.
The flip side of the coin is that online teaching presents just as many challenges for teachers, if not more. We have compiled a list of best practices for remote teaching to help teachers, students, and parents succeed:
- Understand & Communicate the Online Platform
The online platform or “learning management system (LMS)” of choice will differ across different schools and school districts, so there is no absolute source of truth for effective online learning. Some schools have paid contracts with programs like Blackboard or Canvas, while others employ free tools like Google Classroom or Khan Academy. Regardless of what platform(s) you use, the best thing you can do for yourself and your students is leverage all the tools and resources at your disposal and become the subject matter expert. The more you know about the resources, the better you will be able to instruct your students on how to use them effectively.
- Clearly Display Information & Instructions
Whether you are simply instructing students on how to use a certain tool, or outlining a specific assignment, it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate. Post video tutorials, lectures, outlines, etc., and be willing to walk your students through them. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace, so try to regularly provide easy-to-understand resources. Always make sure to accurately label resources and assignments with the applicable dates and subjects to make them easily accessible. Moreover, establishing and maintaining clear patterns for where and when information will be available will help your students stay on top of their tasks.
- Be “Present” and Interact Often
Perhaps the biggest downfall to teaching from home is the lack of a physical classroom. It is important to not let this hinder your communication with your students, so they do not forget that they are still in school! While certain LMS like Google Classroom already come equipped with video-conferencing capabilities, other software like Zoom and Starleaf have stormed onto the scene in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Be it hosting an online lecture for your class or scheduling virtual office hours and one-on-one check-ins, tools like these allow you to be more available for your students; this is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to ensure their success. Again, it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate – when in doubt, reach out!
- Keep Students Engaged & Accountable
Beyond being present for your students, it is important to keep them attentive and on task. During online lectures, regularly soliciting feedback from your students can help ensure they are actively engaging with the content. If you only talk at them as opposed to with them, you are much more likely to be tuned out, and your message will get lost. Try your best to make lectures into conversations whenever possible. Further, require students to contribute regularly to online forums and blogs with their classmates to encourage collaboration and a free flow of ideas, where appropriate. While there is still a place for hard deadlines in the virtual classroom, acknowledging that some students need more help staying on task than others will help make them feel more comfortable during this time. Work with your students to come up with reasonable benchmarks or checkpoints for their assignments and projects, so they can stay focused along the way.
- Ensure Materials Are Accessible to All
While physical handouts and resources are largely being replaced by electronic files and PDFs, there is still a place for such resources. W.B. Mason offers a wide variety of school, office, and tech supplies to help facilitate learning, wherever the classroom may be. We have plenty of printer and computer hardware from HP and other leading brands; a Google Chromebook is the perfect complement to Google Classroom, allowing your students to get the most out of its suite of resources!
Certain software licenses like Office 365 are already widely used by schools, and are even more important in the era of online learning to ensure that your students can author, edit, and share files with ease.
The remote learning landscape is a new and at times intimidating one for students and teachers alike. That is why it is imperative that you equip yourself and your students for success. We encourage you to check out the wealth of products and resources available on our website, and additional insights and best practices from The W.B. Delivery.
To the new normal and beyond – W.B. Mason delivers.
1. Knerl, Linsey, and Julie Hayes. “10 Best Distance Learning Tools For Teachers”, HP®, 18 March 2020, store.hp.com/us/en/tech-takes/best-distance-learning-tools-for-teachers. Accessed 4 September 2020.
2. “Remote Learning Best Practices.” Landmark College Institute for Research & Training (LCIRT), Landmark College, 2020, www.landmark.edu/research-training/blog/remote-learning-best-practices. Accessed 4 September 2020.