How to successfully implement online learning during coronavirus and beyond

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The coronavirus has created unparalleled disruption and changed K-12 and higher education practically overnight. The pandemic has forced at least 124,000 American public and private school closings and affected 55 million students.

Kansas became the first state to shut down K-12 schools for the remainder of the year. In the state of Florida, all testing for K-12 students has been canceled. Other states are weighing their options.

For some school districts, this challenge is more manageable. They have some sort of digital learning plan in place and have invested in e-learning resources. Other school districts aren’t so lucky.

Whether your school has already instituted online learning practices or you’re still forming the best course of action for your educators and students, here are steps to give you the best chance of success.

1. Create equitable access for all

You need to make sure every student has access to the tools and resources they need.

If you’re not providing school-owned devices for them to bring home, students need access to laptops or computers that will allow them to access all their coursework and assignments.

The New York City Department of Education, for example, issued 175,000 laptops, Chromebooks, and iPads to public schools students for remote learning during the shutdown. The School District of Philadelphia is also looking to provide laptops and broadband access to students who don’t have them.

In situations where students might not have access to adequate Wi-Fi, there are companies like Kajeet that offer schools districts affordable connectivity solutions.

You have a responsibility to all your students to provide equitable access to learning materials – even if that means printing out physical packets of work for those who can’t gain access remotely.

2. Pick a consistent platform

There are a lot of learning management systems (LMSs) out there, but at least initially, stick with what you know and already use.

Teaching outside the classroom is already going to be an adjustment. Using an LMS that students are already familiar with – Google Classroom and LMS365 (for Microsoft Teams) to name a couple – will increase the likelihood of a smoother transition.

If your needs expand beyond the LMS you already have, open a dialogue with administrators and discuss next steps. Everyone should be on the same page.

3. Choose resources and keep parents in mind

What’s the best way to communicate with your students? Given the plethora of available resources – many of which are free – selecting a platform can be a daunting task for educators. Adjusting to this new norm can also be taxing for students. So, don’t overwhelm them.

Tools like Google Meet, Google Hangouts, and Zoom are all available for video conferencing. Choose resources that your students are familiar with, but also be sure to keep their parents in mind. Parents need to be able to navigate the tools and resources their children are using so they can help them if need be.

4. Maintain an open dialogue

No one can do this alone. Not administrators. Not educators. So, use this as an opportunity to collaborate.

Find out what other teachers are using and how effective the tools are. Reach out to other educators through Facebook groups and various forms of social media and bounce ideas off each other.

Start discussions about common challenges and enlist the help of others to find solutions. Ask questions, offer advice, and form alliances with fellow administrators. You’re more likely to succeed when you work together.

An opportunity to add value to education

Coronavirus is placing unprecedented demands on our education system, and schools are being thrust into unchartered waters. At least 70% of American public and private schools are closed and many aren’t re-opening for the rest of the year.

This is going to be challenging for students and faculty alike, but it’s also demonstrating that you don’t have to be in a physical classroom to educate students.

We have so many tools and resources at our disposal that make online learning feasible. Use this as opportunity to explore new methods of teaching, experiment with online learning, and find ways to engage students that will pay dividends both in the present and future.