March 8, 2020

Best Practices for Remote Learning

Kevin Dorsey, Ed.D.
A blue rectangle with the words: Best Practices for Remote Learning

Best Practices for E-Learning

E-learning means many different things in today’s world. This learning experience can include activities as simple as self-directed learning packets, synchronous and asynchronous learning activities in various learning management systems, and interactive web services that are considered e-learning. Online education and distance learning also fit the e-learning definition. Students take advantage of online education using e-learning technology for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for an online university program, a single accredited course, or supplemental learning.

What is E-Learning?

If you’re an educator or work with educators, you may be searching for an e-learning definition. E-learning is defined as learning using electronic technologies to access educational curriculum beyond the walls of a traditional classroom. It’s also referred to as remote learning, distance education, online learning, internet learning, computerized electronic learning, and other terms. In some cases, students learn through online portals, which include an e-learning login. In other instances, lessons are conducted over email. A wide variety of age groups participate in e-learning—yes, there are even options for young learners.

As technology internet access has become more readily available in recent years, e-learning and tele-education have been gaining popularity and will continue to do so. Planning for remote lessons can be useful for a variety of unforeseen circumstances that prevent students from attending the traditional brick-and-mortar school in the event of a school closure. Among these situations are inclement weather, construction delay, threats, power outages, student health, and safety alerts.

The purpose of implementing an e-learning program during a school closing is to retain valuable instructional time and to reduce makeup days at the end of the school year. Some schools and districts already have the approval to use flexible instructional days in place of traditional school days during emergency situations that require distance learning.

Building an E-Learning System

As you build an e-learning education plan for possible emergency school closures, there are a few important steps to take:

1. Providing access to the internet.

Do the students have the resources to connect to the internet if they are expected to be e-learners? Connectivity to the internet needs to be taken into account to make sure all students have access to complete their assignments and contact their teachers. Schools may want to make sure all students have internet connection at home, and if not, support the families in setting up access so that the students can be properly homeschooled when schools are closed. E-learning for kids depends on a stable internet connection. Many internet providers are pledging to keep people connected by offering free internet service or removal of data caps during social distancing.

2. Providing devices or home devices for e-learning days.

Not all students have access to devices at home, and schools may be required to provide those students with devices to take home. While various companies work with schools to provide a hotspot for students, Kajeet, T-Mobile, and Verizon have been working with districts on providing students access to close the homework gap. Another factor to consider is whether the instructor is providing instructional packets to the students prior to heading home or the students are keeping packets at home in a just-in-case scenario. An unrealistic expectation is for the students to be able to print their own instructional packets at home, so the school may need to come up with alternative delivery options or convert all coursework into e-learning materials.

3. Making sure students can log into electronic sites.

One challenge every school may face is the students’ ability to log into the various websites. To prevent this, schools can ensure that students are logged in prior to leaving school for extended periods of time. Google Chrome is able to store passwords for students at almost all sites when logged into the Chrome browser. Additionally, there are other services, such as Clever and Classlink, that provide easy-to-use authentication and rostering methods to most curricular websites.

Module learning

When it comes to e-learning environments and incorporating best practices, module learning plays an important role. Learning modules provide the coursework or lesson plan in a logical order so that students can follow the course in the manner intended. Modules can be created for a day, a week, or even by the unit.

Setting expectations

Instructors need to decide what works best for them and communicate the expectations to both students and parents. To keep these expectations in check, instructors should make sure due dates and expectations are clearly expressed in writing. Communicating clear due dates with submission deadlines is extremely important to assist teachers and students in planning for their e-learning days.

Schools may also want to keep students on a regular school schedule, starting and ending periods at their usual time as students move from classroom to classroom online.

Creating engaging assignments

E-learning can be hard on students who may lack the discipline for self-motivated learning. An engaging internet-based curriculum could include videos, activities, and interactive assignments. There are two types of e-learning assignments:

  1. Asynchronous assignments – These assignments can be completed by students at any time anywhere, individually. Students do not need to work with other students for synchronous activities, so they’re able to complete all assignments alone.
  2. Synchronous activities – These assignments allow students to interact with each other in the digital world. Interactive learning can be done with something as simple as a Google Doc or an Office 365 document, but teachers can move into a higher level of interactivity with the use of videoconferencing opportunities.

There are plenty of EdTech companies offering free access to their products or support should a school need to sequester students to their homes. Among them are:

Safe communication between students and teachers

During a period of e-learning, students must be able to communicate with teachers and get the educational support that they need. District and school leaders also need to ensure that they have a communication channel with students and families if important information needs to be shared. Here are a few ways that communication will play a role:

  1. District-provided email and communication plans detailing policies and procedures. Administrations should provide clear expectations for instructors when students are engaged in a remote learning environment. It is recommended that the school sets up office hours for students, parents, and instructors via an online recorded communication system. This not only protects the instructors, but also the students and their families. Keeping communication plans transparent while keeping everyone safe is important for internet-based education. Districts should have a clear policy or procedure for student, parent, and teacher communication during remote learning sessions to offer support when a student is struggling.
  2. Two-way communication between students/teachers or parents/faculty during school hours. Just as school staff is available to students and their families during normal school hours on campus, schools need to ensure that staff is accessible online to their remote learners. In fact, the need for communication is amplified when students aren’t able to access teachers face-to-face. When a person can’t be seen, it’s important that they are heard. Teachers can make themselves available through email, chats, or group calls using remote meeting technology, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts.
  3. Communication for teachers and IT staff. Teachers may also need tech support and communication when they work remotely. An open line of communication between staff and the IT department and administrators is key to keeping the remote learning program running smoothly until the teachers and students can reconvene on campus.

Providing supports for students and guardians

E-learning requires internet accessibility, communication, and IT support to teachers and student communities. Making sure that parents and students feel supported throughout this process is essential for success and student achievement. In addition, keeping a student community engaged online can address the issue of isolation and loneliness among students. It may be challenging to choose a curriculum and a path study that can be done remotely, but technology can play an important role in this educational environment that has created and excelled remote learning opportunities.

Visit GoGuardian's Distance Learning hub for resources to support your schools during closures.

More resources:

How to Best Use GoGuardian Teacher for Remote Learning

Resources for School Technology Leaders

School Closure Resources

Distance Learning Readiness Kit

Navigating Uncertain Times: How Schools Can Cope with Coronavirus

Free Tools for Online Teaching and Learning During School Closures

EdTech Companies Step Up During Coronavirus Outbreak

Schools are prepping for coronavirus quarantines by leaning into remote learning

What Would a Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S. Mean for Schools?

4 Crucial Pieces of Guidance as Districts Prepare Coronavirus Response

5 Ways Teachers Can Use Online Learning to Spark Remote Engagement in Students