Whew… the past few weeks have been a whirlwind! With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, schools are closing everywhere, with little time to prepare. Many districts have decided to move to online learning, but most teachers have received little training on how to teach online courses effectively. If you are in this position, you may be feeling panicked and stressed. I have been working in online education for years and want to help alleviate some of that stress by sharing my top five online learning tips for teachers.
Online Learning Tip #1: Use Different Online Teaching Strategies
As teachers, we are great at adapting content in our classrooms to meet the needs of each student. But, many assume that “online learning” means 100% of teaching and learning must happen on the computer. In the same way that we address a variety of learning styles in a physical classroom, we must also ensure that we are addressing different learning styles in an online classroom. In my free guide about how to effectively use technology to teach, I share data that reveals the importance of using both tech activities and hands-on activities when teaching. So, don’t be afraid to give assignments that happen off the computer just because your district has made a shift to online learning.
Here are a few ways to incorporate a variety of online teaching strategies and methods.
- Instead of having students read content, have them watch the content using YouTube videos. Students can also review content using online learning games.
- Send students instructions for completing simple science experiments at home, using inexpensive materials.
- Project-based learning is great for teaching online courses. Rather than searching for content that will teach the students, have students research the content themselves and complete a project to show their findings.
- Have students read an article and show what they learned in several ways. They can complete a Google Form assessment about the article to test comprehension. Then, they can write a summary of what they learned using Google Docs. They can also write their summary on paper and turn it in at a later time.
- Provide students instructions so that they can create simple foldables at home to review information.
If you are looking for pre-made units to help you get started, be sure to check out my science, U.S. history, and Virginia Studies units. Each unit comes with both digital and PDF activities as well as links to videos that can be used to teach the content.
Online Learning Tip #2: Use Online Tools for Teaching
One of my most important online learning tips for teachers is don’t reinvent the wheel. Teachers usually panic when something new is introduced because new things usually create even more work for teachers. Many assume that moving to distance learning means that teachers have to create online videos and content. In reality, there are infinite online teaching sites that require very little prep time for teachers.
In my post about the best ELA resources for teachers, I share a list of free online teaching sites for ELA. Even though I originally created the post to help new teachers, the list of sites can be helpful to any teacher looking for digital learning resources. Many of the sites listed include free passages and comprehension questions as well as games to test comprehension.
I also have a post about the best math resources for teachers that lists free online teaching sites for math. Many of these sites provide math games. Some sites even take in student information and tailor the games to the students’ ability levels. For example, if the student is getting most of the questions correct, the questions will become more challenging.
In addition to the resources listed in the posts above, which are always free, several online learning sites are offering free memberships to teachers affected by the Coronavirus. A few of those sites include:
- Brainpop– Brainpop has a variety of teaching videos, games, and assessments. They are currently offering free, unlimited use to schools that are closed due to COVID-19.
- Scholastic– Scholastic has increased the number of free resources available to teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak. They even have daily lesson plans that make planning easy.
- Boom Cards– If you are unfamiliar, Boom Cards are digital task cards. The online learning site is currently offering free subscriptions through June 30 for schools closed due to COVID-19.
- Buncee– Buncee is an online learning site that allows teachers to create interactive content. The site says it is offering free memberships to schools closed due to COVID-19, but you must contact them directly.
Online Learning Tip #3: Effective Online Teaching is Consistent
As an educator, I have noticed that students thrive in an environment that is consistent. During a school day, there is a set schedule, so students know what to expect. In an online classroom, that schedule can vary and learning is expected to more independent. This can lead students to not completing their assignments. So, one of my biggest online learning tips for teachers is be consistent.
Even though you are not in a physical classroom, you can still ensure that students know what to expect each day. For example, they may have 20 minutes of spiral review, followed by 40 minutes of ELA, and end with 40 minutes of math. Be sure to check out one of my other online learning posts, where I explain more about creating a distance learning schdule and online activities.
Another key to being consistent is to make sure the work flows from day to day. It can be tempting to give an assignment one day and, then, give an entirely unrelated assignment the next day in an attempt to fill the time. Inconsistent work can be confusing for students who are working independently. This is another reason why project-based learning can be great for teaching online courses because it gives the students a consistent project to work on.
Online Learning Tip #4: Offer Incentives
One of the biggest challenges with online learning is making sure students complete the work. With most of the instruction being self-directed, it can be tempting for students to skip it and do something fun at home. When creating online courses and curriculum, we have found that offering incentives keeps students motivated. The incentives do not have to be big. Incentives can be something small such as unlocking a certificate or a fun video.
Online Learning Tip #5: Don’t Stress
Making a shift to online learning came about unexpectedly due to the Coronavirus. Administrators and parents know that you were not prepared for this situation and are doing the best you can in the circumstances. Still, as teachers, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we want our instruction to be great for the students. But, remember, it took you time to become a great classroom teacher and learn all the things that entails. It will also take you time to become a great virtual teacher and learn all the things that entails. You will likely make mistakes and things won’t be perfect, but that is okay.
I know the announcement that schools will be moving to online learning is overwhelming. By implementing these five online learning tips for teachers, you will alleviate some of the stress and be on the path to success in no time. So, take a deep breath. You are an amazing teacher and you got this!
Do you have any great online learning tips for teachers? Be sure to share them in the comments!
Other online learning posts: