The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school shutdowns have created an incredibly challenging moment for educators. Yet this crisis is also an opportunity to reimagine learning for all students. Distance learning is new for many, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. Online, blended, and flexible learning environments engage students and build content mastery.
There are many interlocking pieces that must be navigated to create an effective distance learning experience. You have to consider equity (Do all of my students have access to the learning?), engagement (Are my learning activities both interesting and effective?), logistics (How will my students access the content?), impact (How will I assess my students' learning?), parent involvement (How can I partner with parents from afar?), and more.
In order to create an effective distance learning experience for students, we believe that it is key to keep the solution in mind: in this case, a learning experience that is engaging, meaningful, and effective for students.
If you've recently made a transition to distance learning or are planning for it, you are likely wondering about some of the following:
Equity: How can I ensure that all learning activities are accessible to all students? How will I support students with special needs, without reliable access to devices and the internet, or with limited English proficiency?
Safety: How can I support both the physical and the social-emotional well-being of my students and their families amidst this crisis?
Meaningful learning: How can I ensure a culture of high expectations and academic rigor continues despite the disruption of normal learning activities and classroom culture?
Logistics: How do I figure out the tools, resources, and skills I need to facilitate effective and engaging distance learning?
Community: How can I connect and communicate on a personal level with my students from afar, and build in opportunities for collaboration and community between students?
Fortunately, although the challenges of successfully implementing distance learning are very real, successful implementation of distance learning also presents exciting opportunities for both teachers and students.
Personalization: The availability of high-quality digital content, online tools, and adaptive softwares makes it possible for teachers to be more responsive in real-time to individual students' needs. Digital assessment tools can help teachers easily identify trends and design customized supports and growth opportunities for students.
21st-Century skills: Distance learning gives students practice with crucial real-world skills such as using new technology, managing their time independently, and collaborating virtually with peers and instructors.
Teacher and student role: In a distance learning setting, the teacher role shifts to that of a coach/facilitator, rather than a "sage on the stage", which can lead students to feel more ownership over their learning and growth.
Creativity: The innovation required to shift to distance learning draws on teachers' creativity, encourages experimentation, and teaches new ways of delivering content.
Flexibility: By blending both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, and providing students with choice over their activities, pacing, and demonstration of mastery, teachers can provide flexibility for students and families that allows them to maximize their own learning.
BetterLesson is building on more than a decade of expertise in virtual professional development to offer urgent support to teachers and leaders around the country as they rapidly shift to supporting students at a distance. Through student-centered pedagogy, experienced coaches and high-quality instructional materials, we help educators move from ideas to action.