As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, schools around the globe are shifting to online learning in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.
Here are some of the best ideas from educators from around the world:
Prepare and practice
1. Ensure digital equity
If your school does not have devices to send home with everyone, survey teachers and families ahead of time to figure out who will need devices and bandwidth.
Most families don’t have one computer per person. During a school shutdown, parents may also be working from home, meaning several people could be competing for one or two computers. Therefore, make sure all online apps work on mobile devices in case a laptop is not available.
You must figure out how to buy or rent Wi-Fi hotspots and then have a plan for distributing both devices and hotspots.
Schools that regularly have digital learning days – and have worked through home-connectivity and device issues – are already ahead of the game.
Teachers not already using a learning management system regularly, need to dive in now. Educators won’t regret spending time on this. None of this learning will go to waste moving forward as many of the skills learned during the online learning period will be equally beneficial in a regular classroom.
3. Provide clear expectations to staff and parents
During a closure, communication between administrators, staff, parents and students is more important than ever.
In an online environment, everyone’s anxiety is high and channels of communication need to be frequent, clear and succinct.
For big-picture communications, prepare an FAQ outlining all the details of how the school will operate during the closure so staff and parents are on the same page.
In addition to posting and distributing FAQs, schools should set up community wide texting to communicate quickly and then advise people where to find follow-up messages via email or on your website.
Next, prepare a step-by-step guide on how to access and use online learning tools and curriculum. Make sure you present this information in various formats including video and text and include screenshots and screen-casting tutorials.
4. Take time to plan
Invest some time to prepare your staff to teach online, before rolling out online learning with the students. The brief delay in starting online lessons will pay off in the long run.
It is prudent to plan before beginning online lessons. Make sure your staff has sorted out all logistical issues and understand the online learning model and tools.
5. Pack your bag
Make sure you have access to everything you need from home in case you are not able to return to school or bring home your school computer and move your files into the cloud.
6. Establish daily schedules
Expectations should be clear about when teachers and students need to be logged on. A full day in front of a screen is a lot for kids and teachers, especially for families who may be sharing one device. Many schools are choosing two check-in times – a morning meeting and an afternoon check-in – and then allowing families flexibility about how they organize the at-home school schedule.
Sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate the roadblocks that students might face while navigating this new territory.
7. Provide robust learning
Online learning should be at least as engaging as the classroom experience (if not more) or students will suffer.
- Break learning into smaller chunks.
- Be clear about expectations for online participation.
- Provide immediate (or at least frequent) feedback through online knowledge checks, comments on collaborative documents and chat to keep students motivated and moving forward.
- Include virtual meetings, live chats or video tutorials to maintain a human connection.
8. Design independent learning
Keep in mind that parents might either be at work or working from home and unable to help much. It’s important to design learning that does not require a lot of support from parents who might already be overwhelmed.
The biggest challenge is parents supervising what their kids are supposed to be doing and at what time.
9. Address the emotional toll
Check in with students and coworkers, especially those who are less comfortable with digital tools to see if they need any help or someone to talk to. Being sequestered at home can be isolating and exacerbate the fear of dealing with a global crisis. Taking time to check in about feelings of anxiety is just as important as checking on academics.
While it may seem fun to work from home, it can be challenging to keep to a regular schedule. Some things that can help include:
- Take regular breaks.
- Making time to exercise.
- Keep to a regular sleep schedule.
- Limit distractions when possible (turn off social media notifications, for example).
- Set daily and weekly goals.
- Make time to socialize, even if it’s virtually.
10. Choose the right tools and stick with them
A wide variety of technology tools, many free, are available to help.
With so much out there, it can be tempting to try to use everything. Instead, limit the number of tools, apps and platforms so students and their parents are not overwhelmed.
It may be a little harder for students to follow classroom assignments when you are not there face to face. Try to keep online instructions short, simple and clear. Consider making video instructions instead of text.
Videoconferencing will take you and your students into each other’s homes so it’s important to consider privacy.