Most of the nation’s teachers have recently performed a miracle: they transformed their standard curriculum into distance learning in a matter of days.
This is no easy feat. Remote classrooms are an artform separate from standing in front of a traditional classroom, and they come with hundreds more complications, such as internet connectivity, reaching out to students with limited or no device access, and motivating students from miles away.
The good news is that some of these challenges aren’t new. The corporate training world has been experimenting with virtual learning for the past twenty years, so there are some best practices that teachers can follow to make the best of this messy situation.
1. Plan Your Time
Similar to any lesson plan, it’s important to know how much time you have available and to map out how you’ll spend that time. However, with distance learning, you’ll want to make some new allowances. Make sure you build in time for:
- Technical hiccups as everyone tries to connect
- Video lags or muting issues
- Socializing! Your students will still want to be able to chatter away
2. Know Your Technology
In the analog world, you wouldn’t start teaching without knowing where your blackboard is, where you students are going to sit, or how to connect your screen to the projector. It’s the same for your learning technology.
Take time to learn the ins and outs of your virtual classroom so that you know how to make the most of this new world. Encourage your students to do the same. To get you started, here are some of the tip sheets from popular classroom solutions:
Tips for Zoom
Tips for Google Classroom
3. Plan for Technical Difficulties
No matter how well you know your technology, there are going to be issues. Some of it will be on your end, and some of it will be on your students’ end. When planning your lesson, think through what those obstacles might be, and what your back-up plan could be.
For example, you may want to play a video for them, but when you press play, it lags and they can’t hear anything. What are some alternatives? You could plan on sending a link to the video, you could ask them to watch it before class, or you could cover the content outside the video.
For more tips on planning for technical difficulties, check out our on-demand webinar, How to Handle Technology Trauma in the Virtual Classroom with Cynthia Clay (she speaks to adult corporate training, but the principles still apply!)
Above all, be ready to be nimble as your best laid plans will probably go awry.
4. Plan Non-Technical Options
Speaking of being nimble, all your planning for an effective virtual classroom may be moot if your students don’t have the internet bandwidth, devices, or time to make it to class.
That’s why it is important to provide non-technical options, too. While our current situation is new, distance learning actually goes back decades. In fact, Arthur Murray taught ballroom distance via mail as far back as 1920.
Think about what kind of printed packets you can provide your students. For example, you may want to include an overview of your lesson, worksheets, and even tests or quizzes to students, shipped directly to their homes.