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5 Principles of Effective Distance Learning

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5 Principles of Effective Distance Learning

July 3, 2020

Congratulations on surviving the spring semester with the sudden shift from in-class instruction to remote teaching overnight. This summer’s prep must feel like preparing for the battlefield as you get ready for the fall. I spent an afternoon with Melissa Rohrbough, one of the veteran Health Science teachers at the highest ranked school district in Texas. Here are some of the insights she shared, as she prepares for the fall semester.

1. On-site and distance learning

If you are among the educators who are being given the option to choose between teaching remotely vs. on-site with social distancing policies in place, here are a few things to keep in mind. There are different sets of new routines you will have to embrace for the fall. Since students are also being given the option to stay home vs. come to school, educators will have to set up their lesson plans so that it accommodates for both remote and on-site teaching. If your course has labs, some school districts are offering mail out options to students to do the labs at home and then return the supplies. 

A way to reduce mail-outs is by using supplies that can be found around the house. For classes that require hands-on practice for use of medical equipment, teachers are going to be extending labs for after-school, so that students who are opting for distance-learning, can still do their labs on-site periodically.

Teachers who are opting for remote teaching may have students who have opted for on-site classes. These students will be going to a special assigned classroom to view their classes through teleconferencing with that teacher. 

2. Standardizing lesson planning

One of the most important components in ensuring a successful school year is going to organize lessons so that all your assets that you need for an activity is in one place. Checklist of assets for each lesson that you are going to teach based on the curriculum outline:

  1. Digital Projection: a video or image to frame the activity
  2. Teachers’ instructions: How to scaffold the activity
  3. Students’ instructions: What the students will do to engage with the concept
  4. Supplies: Can students use objects around the house to do the activity
  5. Worksheets: If applicable
  6. Questions that can feed into quizzes or tests

The following is a screenshot of how all the assets for a lesson can be organized in one place using the Mekumi Ed platform.

3. Grouping students for increased engagement online

A solution to “silence” in on-site or virtual classrooms can be grouping students so that they can discuss questions together and answer questions collectively, on a daily basis vs. only for group projects. This removes anxiety for students of them feeling singled out, voicing their perspective and/or asking questions. It also helps students practice their 21st century skills used to measure their workforce readiness markers.

Also, asking students for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down every day for their lessons will give the teachers a sense if their delivery style is working for the students.

4. Offering freedom and flexibility within a structure

Melissa found that she had much better luck keeping the attention of her students if they knew ahead of time the due dates for all the assignments and projects. She asked her students to turn in projects for major grades vs. taking tests, so that she does not have to deal with students trying to cheat on tests. She also offered students a choice of activities for a lesson so that the students felt more vested by having a choice in their learning.

Melissa found that she had much better luck keeping the attention of her students if they knew ahead of time the due dates for all the assignments and projects. She asked her students to turn in projects for major grades vs. taking tests, so that she does not have to deal with students trying to cheat on tests. She also offered students a choice of activities for a lesson so that the students felt more vested by having a choice in their learning.

5. Personalizing education differently

Personalizing education for students by asking them to bring items and stories they want to share with their classmates can act as a mental check-in for students and give them an opportunity to feel heard.

We pray that teachers worldwide are supported more, recognized more, celebrated more for all their efforts to be of service for our students.

We can roll out strategies and policies as administrators and companies till we are blue in the face. At the end of the day, it’s our teachers who have to turn words on paper into curiosity that grabs the attention of students of the snapchat era, and prepares them for the real world.

About the Author
Sarah Jabeen is the founder and CEO of Mekumi, which builds solutions for educators and learners to develop 21st century skills.



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