Extending learning online during school closure – A short guide

Extending learning online during school closure – A short guide

Read Time: 6 minutes, 51 seconds

Posted on Wed, Jul 29 2020

In this short guide, we’ll explore tips for building and implementing a plan for online learning to keep students on track during both long and short term school closures. 

Understand access to technology

On determining how students will continue their learning while away from school, the first step is to find out whether they have access to an Internet connection and a device that they can use to access online learning materials, communications, and possibly live online classes. 

A shot survey can be carried out via calls, SMS, WhatsApp or with an online form using free tools live Google or Microsoft Forms.

The information gathered would help you determine how to deploy your online learning plan. The survey should be short and simple. Consider the following questions in your survey.

  • Will your learner have access to a device and an Internet connection to participate in online learning activities and receive communication from teachers? (Yes/No)
  • What type of internet-connected device will your learner have access to?

Review the curriculum

As you move forward to putting together an online learning plan it is important to take note of the number of teachers readily available (capable to deliver an online course and willing to partake), the ratio of subjects to a teacher (to avoid work overload). Also, the category of subjects/courses that can be taught online. 

It’s unlikely that students will be able to complete the amount of work that they would normally do during an on-campus school day. Younger students may not be able to receive support from an adult at home, and older students may have limited time for schoolwork due to access to technology. 

Review your curriculum and outline the subjects that fits into the online learning plan.

Establish a schedule

The move to online learning environment from a traditional classroom structure can be challenging for students. Set up a schedule to give students guidance on how to spend their time. As you plan the schedule, you will also need to determine how much time students will spend in synchronous activities (interacting with their teacher and peers in real time via video conferencing tools) versus asynchronous activities (working independently and accessing lesson materials at their own pace).

The information gathered from the initial survey can help determine the proportion of synchronous to asynchronous activities. Also, observations over time would help to determine the best delivery approach and activities a teacher schedule would include.

The schedule should also include check-ins which can be daily or once in a week. Check-ins can be a morning meeting in which the teacher would review with the students what they will be working on for the day or week. This can be done via video conferencing tools such as zoom, WhatsApp, Google Meet or via chat using discussion forum.

In addition, the schedule should also include a time of the day or week that the teacher will be online and available to answer questions and provide tutoring, intervention or instructional support.

Furthermore, breaks shouldn’t be left out of the plan. Just as students need to take breaks while at school, they also need to take break from engaging online. Breaks should be built into the schedule and be sure that students and parent/guardian understand the importance.

Setup an attendance policy for determining attendance. For example, attendance in a course can be considered if students complete certain percentage of the day/week assessments which can be in the form of homework, classwork, project etc. or attendance can be considered when students attend a scheduled synchronous (real-time) class.

Set staff expectations

It’s important to set clear expectations for teachers and other staff members about their duties during the school closure. Administrators, teachers, and other staff members should work together to define expectations and then publish a resource that details what specific tasks staff members in each role should complete in order to carry out the learning plan and comply with school guidelines for online learning.

Also, a timetable should be designed for the teachers to work with. The timetable should outline the subject to be taught by a teacher and the time of the day the lesson should be delivered.

Training

Every teacher no matter how tech savvy they are, need training on effectively teaching and communicating with students and parents in a fully online environment. You may feel like staff training isn’t important or there isn’t enough time for training, but if school will be closed for an extended period of time, training is important and the time spent on training will be worth it. The training can be a full day in person or online, along with shorter follow-up sessions in ensuing the teachers are equipped to support students.

Sections of your training should include the following:

  • How to use the online learning platform
  • Best practices for keeping students and parents engaged in an online environment
  • Best practices for teaching online
  • Schedules for the online learning plan.

Prepare students and parents for online learning.

The success or failure of online learning hinges on the awareness and participation of students and parent. Be sure students and parents know what is expected of them and know how to access online assignments and resources. Have teachers walk students and parents through logging in to their online platforms and accessing assignments and resources. The more familiar that students and parents are with the online learning platform, the more likelihood of success to be recorded.

Once your online learning plan is in place, share the following details with students and parents:

  • How to participate in the online learning plan
  • Online learning platform logins
  • Lesson schedules
  • Assignment and projects completion expectations
  • Attendance policies.

Policies can be communicated to parents through email, text messages, WhatsApp or any other communication channel the parents are familiar with. Staff members can also host a webinar or create a short video that explain policies, demonstrate online programs, and answer frequently asked questions. Parents will appreciate having the additional details and the ability to have their questions answered.

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