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8 Ways to Keep Your Online Curriculum on Track

August 18, 2020 / by Alyssa Abel

Whether you’re a seasoned online teacher or a newbie to the virtual world, with all the new research around distance learning, we can adopt some practices to help set us up for success this year. 

As you prepare for the unprecedented 2020-21 school year, you need the right resources and tools for distance learning. Even if your district plans to go with a traditional reopening, you know you need to remain flexible.

Here are eight online practices that can support a better student experience.

1. Incentivize Participation

You prepare a virtual lesson that entertains and educates your students, but then you worry whether they’ll put the same effort into learning. You might wonder, “How do I get kids to actually attend?”

One of the most important aspects of online teaching is the ability to incentivize class involvement. Explain each lesson’s purpose and establish clear guidelines for participation, such as participating in an online quiz or poll, or posting a response to a question to get points for attendance. When your learners must miss a live session, plan meaningful reflective activities as make-up assignments.

2. Cultivate a Classroom Community

Another top distance learning tip for teachers is to make students feel less isolated by creating a classroom community. Savvy instructors can organize group chats where students can share ideas and offer support to their classmates, who understand their experiences and struggles as online students.

Students can often offer meaningful study suggestions for each other, as well as constructive conversations on whatever lesson you’re teaching, which provides much-needed interaction and engagement. Encourage collaboration — and blowing off steam appropriately.

3. Include Resource Links in Your Syllabus

One benefit of online learning is that it teaches children problem-solving skills. However, that doesn’t exonerate you of your need to point them in the right direction like a quality coach.

Create both an online and print version of your class schedule with links to resource websites and related class materials for parents and students — like TurnItIn, where they can check their work before submitting it for grading.

4. Let Students Help Solve Tech Problems

When a student struggles to connect to a live lesson, they might ask you for help. Why not turn this event into a teachable moment that inspires participation and collaboration? All you have to do is ask your class, “Has anyone encountered a similar problem?" and "How did you solve it?”

This distance learning tip helps classmates resolve issues and builds problem-building skills.

5. Connect Students With Tutoring Options

Online learning does allow students more time to grasp challenging material. However, sometimes they need extra assistance that’s difficult to provide from a distance.

Fortunately, families don’t need to leave home or admit strangers during this time of social distancing. You can find ample online tutoring resources for reasonable fees. You could also coordinate with others in your district to create a campus tutoring program. Older students with good grades can earn elective credit by helping their younger peers.

6. Teach Organizational Skills

Because your students are now more independent when it comes to keeping up with their classwork — which could be a completely new experience for them, depending on the age group — it’s important to teach students how to use their planners. Ask yourself how much productive class time you lose when not everyone has done the reading for a discussion, or how much it can damage students’ overall grades when their assignments are overdue.

Kids might not be the best with innate time-management skills — if you want to be an effective online teacher, help your learners develop it.

7. Create an Online Lecture Library

You can create a classroom YouTube channel so that your students can review class information anytime. Doing so requires minimal additional work if you master how to record your live class lessons and upload them to your page. You could also record lectures and upload to any platform you use.

8. Keep Assignments Student-Driven

As an adult, you know you need to do your job regardless of whether you like the assigned task. However, think about how you react to micromanagers versus school leaders who give you more leeway in approaching your workday.

Kids tend to disengage from tasks they find “boring” without considering the long-term benefits of the activity. By allowing your students a choice in assignments, you enable them to explore their interests. This is a vital skill for future success in a highly specialized workplace.

Keep Your Online Curriculum on Point With These Distance Teaching Tips

When it comes to online instruction, teaching yourself is as important as teaching your students. Try to incorporate these resources and tips into your curriculum this year as distance learning becomes a part of the new normal.

Topics: Building Relationships, Online Learning, Back to School, Distance Learning

Alyssa Abel

Written by Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is an education writer who loves talking about growth mindset, emotional intelligence, emerging education strategies and how they can transform the classroom. Read more of her work on Syllabusy.

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