Why Online Learning?
Making learning resources available to your students online eliminates the need for cumbersome amounts of materials and the physical contact involved in passing resources back and forth. There are numerous online platforms available, and myriads of resources. Especially for older students, online learning allows for the possibility of ongoing feedback for students during the learning process. If possible, schools and teachers should consider the possibility of making learning available to their students during school closures.
Online Learning Cautions
Online learning is a valuable tool. You should keep in mind the fact that there may be students in your district without in-home online access. Consider alternative learning options to ensure that these students are not entirely left out of the learning process (such as providing a course syllabus and lesson plans beforehand, if possible). Additionally, in many more homes students may have to share their online access with siblings or parents. Learning assignments and tasks should have both online and offline components to accommodate those who need to share their computer.
Tips for Creating Online Learning Experiences
While you may be able to find a video online that is relevant to your topic of instruction, you may also want to record your own video lessons. If you do, here are a few tips:
- Keep it short and simple. Student attention spans will be considerably shorter than usual without your physical presence to engage them in the lesson.
- Use limited visuals. Choose visuals that are directly relevant to the lesson, and that are large and easy to see on camera.
- Choose your location carefully. Look for a plain, distraction-free backdrop. Avoid standing or sitting in front of a light source. Clear the space around you of everything that is not a part of your current lesson.
- Check the framing and volume of your recording before you begin. Be sure the camera is steady and is filming what you want seen.
For older students, you may want to utilize an online forum for collaboration and discussion. When setting it up,
- Make sure the space is password-protected and can only be utilized by students from your class.
- Clarify ground rules for online interaction in the given space, including what topics may be posted and how to treat each other respectfully.
- Monitor the space frequently.
- Establish set times when you will be online and available for real-time interaction regarding the students' online learning assignments. Stick to those times if at all possible, and if you have to change the times, provide as much notice as you can.
- Consider active learning experiences that use common household objects. The viability of this will vary depending on the age of your students, but now is the perfect time for them to experiment with scientific and mathematical principles related to things they can find in their everyday experiences.
- When assigning a project, clearly define the objective and allow students a range of choices regarding how to meet the objective. Motivation may be hard for students unaccustomed to home study, and the element of choice will make them more likely to complete their projects.
- Provide suggestions for online resources as well as guidelines for how to evaluate the validity of an online source.
Online learning provides a wealth of opportunities for student writing. Some motivating writing projects include:
- Online interview. Students identify and contact an individual to interview regarding their experiences, work, or area of expertise. Students can conduct the interview via email or Skype, then write about the interview. Interview questions and reporting format can be adjusted to the age and grade level of the students.
- Research report. Students formulate a research question, get it approved by the instructor, and utilize online resources to find information. Students write an age-appropriate research report.
- Persuasive essay. Students can write a persuasive essay off-line, or they can write a persuasive essay and post it online, then respond to the essays of others.
- Journal entries. Provide daily journal prompts and response guidelines. Journal entries can be private, or can be posted in a blog format where students are expected to respond to the entries of peers.
After the School Reopens
However you choose to conduct your online learning, try to stay on top of the assessment and grading process. Prepare a screening tool so that when school reopens, you can easily assess the students' understanding of topics covered during the distance-learning period. Prepare a number of tiered lessons in those topics so that students who struggle can catch up while students who mastered the topics can pursue additional learning.