Remote Learning Guide

With the recent pandemic sweeping the world many countries have closed their schools. Administrators and teachers are scrambling to find an alternative to the typical classroom learning. This guide provides some ideas and tips on what to consider when creating a remote learning setup.

 

As there are many options and factors to consider, decide on what works best for your school, teachers, and students. You will likely encounter problems, so use the design thinking approach of empathizing, testing and iterating to improve your new learning environment and approach. 

 

Use the following decision tree to navigate to the section that is most relevant to you. In case you have further questions contact Mario (hello@thrivesdg.com) to be one of five administrators/educators to get a free 30 minute consultation call.

How to support students that don't have internet and/or lack a device?

What should you do to make sure seniors can graduate and are future ready?

What technology best fits the remote learning needs of your school? 

How can you keep students engaged and motivated during remote learning?

What to consider when making remote learning content and what's available?

How to organize and plan the remote learning so it works effectively at your school?

How to ensure teachers and students know how to use the remote learning technology?

Do you need any other support to make your remote learning successful?

Section A:  Is remote learning the best solution for your school?

 

Before you jump into finding a technology solution to this problem make sure it will actually work for your school. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Do all your students have internet access?

  • How tech savvy are your teachers/staff?

  • Are your students, teachers, and/or staff willing/able to use the tech you provide?

 

If you’re unsure about the answers to these questions, it’s highly recommended you call or email your students, teachers, and staff before choosing a solution to learn their needs and preferences. Another option is to send a digital or paper survey to them via email or post. 

 

Once you know all these factors you can start creating the solution for your school. Using technology can work extremely well only if all your teachers and students can use it! So what happens if a technology solution doesn’t work for everyone at your school? Here are just a few possible alternatives to consider:

  • Provide a printed packet with 2-3 weeks worth of content that students can pick up or is mailed to them

  • Have a sign-up sheet for students to access your computer lab and/or WiFi (consult with local authorities) 

  • Connect parents with internet providers currently giving free access like Comcast, T-mobile and others

  • Organize digital hubs in your city for students to have access to internet and/or computers

  • Develop an extensive summer school program for your teachers and students

 

If your teachers have issues with technology you may need to train them and/or provide other support. Check Section D for support with this.

Section B: What technology should you use for your remote learning?

 

At this point you’re ready to choose the technology needed for your remote learning. You will soon realize there are many options to choose from! It’s best to start with a few tech tools and add more if necessary to make it manageable for teachers and students to handle. The below techtools are just a few suggestions of what you may want to choose. 

 

Text Communication

Email will work for some communication However, some apps/tools will make it far easier and more effective to stay in touch with  teachers, staff, students, and parents. Choose what people are familiar with or is easiest for people.

Slack - www.slack.com

Whatsapp - www.whatsapp.com

LinkedIN - www.linkedin.com

 

Video Communication

For teacher training and lessons you will likely want to use video to communicate. As there are many options, choose the one with the features you need. Some options will allow you to connect to social media platforms and/or record the video to be watched later for anyone who misses the live version.

Zoom - www.zoom.us

Streamyard - www.streamyard.com

Skype - www.skype.com

 

Submission and Content Management

Teachers will likely want to collect assignments, projects, etc. from students. For these options consider what operating system teachers and students are used to. You may also consider the size and types of files users submit. Some tools are better suited for video uploads than others.

Google Suite - www.gsuite.google.com

Dropbox - www.dropbox.com

Seesaw - www.seesaw.me

 

Assessment Management

Many teachers will also want different ways to assess learning outcomes, standards, skills, etc. For this you should consider what is most engaging and adaptable to what is being assessed.

Kahoot - www.kahoot.com

Classtime - www.classtime.com

Schoology - www.schoology.com

 

If you still need technology that better fits your needs you can look at the list offered by UNESCO:

https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures/solutions

Section C: What to consider when making remote learning content and what is already available?

 

Once you have decided on what type of solution works best for your school you should consider how you want your teachers to be involved. You can have your teachers develop their own content if they are familiar doing this and are given enough paid time to create it. Be sure to provide them with the following:

  • Updated guidelines that ensure seniors meet the requirements to graduate on time

  • Key dates and deadlines for assessment, exams, etc.

  • Remote learning schedule (see Section G)

 

You may require some pre-made content. Here are a few options to consider:

If non of these options fit your needs you should contact a curriculum developer to help you. Contact Mario (hello@thrivesdg.com) if you need support finding one.

Section D: How should you prepare teachers and students to use the remote learning technology?

 

There is a good chance that you will be introducing new technology to your teachers and students. Ideally it would be great if you can train your teachers in person, yet chances are you’ll have to find a way to do this remotely. Here are some possible ways to do so:

  • Use one of video communication tools from Section B and schedule a walkthrough of the new technology

  • Create a video walkthrough of the new technology and share this with your teachers

  • Hire a Edtech consultant to provide remote training and support

 

Depending on the age and tech savviness of your students you will have to consider how to instruct them to use the new technology. It's a good idea to talk to parents to share your remote learning approach, especially for younger students. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create an instructional video for the students/parents to use the new technology

  • Make an instruction and troubleshooting guide for parents to use the new technology

  • Have the teachers give a video walkthrough the first day of the remote learning

Section E: How do you ensure seniors can graduate and are future ready?

 

Before taking on this step, check with your guidance counselor(s) and/or records to see how many of your seniors have already met the requirements. Depending on what they are missing to graduate you can develop your curriculum accordingly. These are some possible approaches:

  • Adjust the requirements to ensure most or all seniors graduate (consult your district if necessary)

  • Focus on the core subjects and content most seniors need to graduate

  • Provide a summer program for any seniors that are far behind


The 2019 QS Skills Gap Report states that most US college graduates lack the skills employers expect like communication, problem solving, interpersonal skills, and leadership. With that in mind be sure to offer your seniors the opportunity to develop these skills and work on real-world problems. Contact Mario (hello@thrivesdg.com) to learn how Thrive can support your students with an experience to develop the skills to be future ready.

Section F: How can you keep students engaged and motivated during remote learning?

 

Regardless of age students will get distracted and will likely have trouble focusing. This is a new and stressful experience for all of us, especially if anyone in the student's family is ill. With that in mind it’s more important than ever to ensure the remote learning experience is fun and engaging! It’s extremely important that you give a mix of learning experience and incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL). 

 

Here are a few different types of learning approaches/styles you can use:

  • Flipped Classroom - create/share instructional video for students to watch and have a discussion afterwards on the topic and to clarify any parts students don’t understand

  • Gamification - is a way to add game-design elements to learning to motivate and engage students

  • Choice-Based Learning - allowing students to personalize their own learning so it matches their interests, background and preferences

  • Self-Directed Learning - a process for students to assess their own learning needs, set learning goals, and seek out learning resources

  • Project Based Learning - a student-centered approach to learning where students explore a specific problem or topic

  • Design Thinking - a student-centered problem solving approach during which students use a framework of steps to explore a problem and develop a potential prototype

These are some SEL resources you can use:

Section G: How will you organize and plan the remote learning at your school?

 

Remote learning is a much different experience than learning in a school. Teachers will have far less control of each student’s environment. With this in mind you should consider developing a modified schedule. Just realize that the schedule will need to be far more flexible, especially for younger students and households with several children.

Based on the experience of teachers so far most are having more success with an asynchronous schedule that adapts to the needs of students rather than a strict synchronous schedule (i.e. live classes). For example if a household has two or more children, the parents will be focused on making sure all children are taken care of and preoccupied. If the synchronous schedule of siblings overlap this can cause issues like not having a device for each child to join their online class.

A possible asynchronous schedule is to use a flipped classroom approach of giving students a video lecture or other content to explore on their own time. Then provide a few office hours throughout the day and/or week to discuss the content. Also, you may consider arranging smaller group time slots for students to sign-up for ahead of time. 

 

Here are some blocks to consider for your schedule:

  • Lessons of 30 minutes to an hour

  • Self-directed learning time (depending on age)

  • Projects, challenges, creative building, art, etc.

  • Office hours for students to ask questions and get support

  • Social time when students share how they are feeling (group or individual)

  • Breaks for eating, stretching, socializing, restroom, etc.

  • ​Time for fun, games, challenges, etc

Section H: Common remote learning questions and further support

 

As mentioned at the start of this guide this is a new approach to learning for most of us. Do your best to keep all factors and people involved in mind. Also, track any feedback to modify and improve your remote learning approach. Chances are you will need to iterate and modify your remote learning a few times. 

 

If you need specific support contact Mario (hello@thrivesdg.com) to be one of 5 administrators/educators to get a free 30 minute consultation call. Any insights or ideas learned during this call will be added onto this guide to better support other schools exploring remote learning

 

Here are some common questions administrators and teachers have:

What’s the best way to contact teachers, students, and parents?

Try to use what most people use and try a few approaches. For teachers email would be a good start and afterwards setup text communication like Slack from Section C. When it comes to students the best is to call their parents and/or email them. If you don’t have their contact details ask the guidance counselor. Finally, you can try to find them via social media (i.e. LinkedIN). Also, be sure to add the most crucial information on your school’s website and social media and offer different ways for parents to reach out to you.

 

How to prevent cheating during online exams and assessment?

The reality is this will be tough and you’ll have to try different approaches. If possible try to create assessments that require students to write a response that must be unique. For multiple choice you’ll likely want to create a large question set and then use a tool that randomly shows a few of those questions to each student. Here is an article that provides a fes more options: www.schoology.com/blog/how-prevent-cheating-during-online-tests

 

How to support students with special needs, in an Individualized Education Program, or similar?

Before taking on this challenge try to assess the needs of all your students and all the support/resources available. Considering you have limited time to develop your remote learning you should be realistic on the priorities and what your school can offer. Also, you should contact your district to find out what they recommend or support they can offer. Here are a few tools to start with: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-special-education-apps-and-websites

 

In case you are looking for more resources check out these curated lists:

UNESCO - https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures/solutions

Katie McNamara - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N2E4Gr2Ke43-8PNSmDl8CJ-OeVk7kQGoPFlVqZ4Gekk/edit

Elizabeth Crawford (Elementary)- 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GqVdcxMQ0h7nnxduK3_uoPyPt_XIv9a_8BYTSU5oGRo/edit?usp=sharing

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