Over the past few months, teachers and students have been adjusting their daily routines, schedules, and mindsets in order to make the most of remote education. Remote education is also commonly referred to as remote learning, distance education, or distance learning. It refers to teaching and learning accomplished when the teacher and student are physically separated. This manner of teaching relies heavily on an adapted curriculum, technologies, and increased communication between teachers, students, and families to be effective. This shift to remote education is difficult but essential as we continue to ensure the safety of our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yup's Learning Team spoke to teachers and administrators across the country to hear what has been especially helpful during this time. We also checked in with Yup students and their families to get their perspective on remote education and what they’d like to see more of from schools.
These conversations, bolstered with research on best practices and the latest news on remote education, inspired this list of actionable tips for both educators and students as they continue to settle in for the near future. It is our hope that these recommendations can make everyday life and learning more manageable for everyone as we work to get back on track.
First up, here are some suggestions sourced from our Learning Team and educational advisors for teachers adjusting to a virtual classroom. As a quick disclaimer, we know that all schools and districts have differing requirements for technology security, so please speak with your administration before adapting your teaching with a new app or piece of software.
Making Remote Teaching Engaging and Interactive
- Before beginning a lesson, present clear objectives so that students know exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect to learn in a given class or unit.
- If students are submitting work online and the submission platform has a commenting feature, ask students to leave comments to explain their thinking or how they’ve incorporated your feedback.
- Keep a consistent presence with your students by making use of videos, photos, and real-time collaboration tools. Google Jamboard and even Google Slides allow you and your students to work on the same problem at the same time.
- Make a simple note-taking page for every student so that you can quickly record and share important information with them. This page should be a 2-way street! Encourage your students to leave their notes and observations there, too.
Supporting Students With 1:1 Attention and Resources
- Schedule virtual office hours during non-class time. If possible, ask students to submit their questions ahead of time so you can batch responses beforehand. Google Forms and Slido are simple, free tools for gathering questions!
- Set a standard agenda for checking in with students. Start check-ins with addressing any burning questions, whether they were submitted ahead of time or shared in real-time.
- Consider your individual students’ needs when building schedules. For example, maybe meet earlier with students who benefit from support getting started and schedule afternoon check-ins with students who can get going independently.
- Be aware of student social and emotional needs during this time. An idea is to ask each student to share one positive thing and one challenge during check-ins. This can give you a good window into how students are feeling, which directly impacts their learning!
Balancing Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
- Work directly with students to build a daily schedule for synchronous learning (when the teacher and student are working together in real-time) and asynchronous learning (when students are working on their own). Create a sample schedule that students can modify to make their own and reference when they need a reminder to stay on track.
- Before students begin working on their own, remind them to summarize what they know in writing and show as much work as possible. Synthesizing what they know helps them hold on to key concepts, and demonstrates to you what students know and don’t know.
- Supplement student learning with videos, interactive lesson modules, or assigned reading with thought starter prompts. PlayPosit is a handy resource for sharing explanatory videos.
- When students have to work on their own outside of a classroom setting, distractions abound! Help them name where they focus best (at a table or desk versus the couch?) and when they feel the most fresh and motivated (morning or afternoon versus night?)
Next, here are tips for students and their families to get the most from the new virtual classroom!
Increasing Your Engagement With Virtual Lessons
Do your best to find a setting where you can focus uninterrupted, like at a desk or table in a quiet area. Ask your family if they can work with your class and homework schedule and try to give you space while working.
Make sure to turn off or mute all other apps and notifications on your computer and phone! Even if you’re good about not checking your phone often, notifications can still unintentionally derail focus time.
Block out a schedule for learning. Breaking up your day into blocks for certain activities is a great way to sharpen focus while avoiding fatigue. Try the Pomodoro technique or a similar routine to make work time more manageable.
Manage your schedule to match your energy. Try tackling the most challenging problems or concepts when your brain is feeling freshest, which is typically in the morning or midday rather than late at night when cramming becomes more likely.
Asking for Help When You Need It
Remember that your teachers are here for you even when outside of the virtual classroom setting. Ask your teacher if you can set up ongoing check-ins or office hours if that’s not already being offered.
Try and practice kindness and patience with yourself! This is not a normal time, but it could be a great time to set routines for self-compassion like mindfulness or journaling.
If you’re typically shy or less prone to raise your hand in an in-person classroom, remote education presents an opportunity to ask more questions in a safe way. Make consistent use of whatever portal your teacher uses for gathering student questions (we suggest Google Forms and Slido as easy-to-use solutions).
During times when your teacher is unavailable to answer questions, turn to vetted online resources for everything from the basics on a topic to deep dives into specific problems. Khan Academy has supplementary videos on just about every subject!
Before we wrap things up, we want to acknowledge the reality yet again: this is an unprecedented and tough time for our teachers, students, and their families. Regardless of your role, we hope that this post leaves you with some ideas to take with you to the virtual classroom and home workspace.
In the spirit of looking towards the positives, we do want to call out some of the skills that are uniquely encouraged by remote education. Asynchronous learning empowers students to learn at their own pace, without the pressure of finishing work in the confines of a 50 minute in-person class period. The virtual medium may also push students to ask questions freely and be more vocal when they don’t know things. Remote education pushes students to develop the skills of independence and self-learning that are necessary later in life, especially in college. Students learning time management, balancing a personal schedule, and how to utilize office hours now will see a payoff in preparedness when it comes to college-style learning.
If you’re an educator interested in how Yup for Schools can help empower your teaching in the time of remote education, get in touch here! If you’re a student and your school could benefit from Yup, you can send your teacher this blog post or our schools page!