As technology and internet access have become widespread in recent years, remote learning has soared tremendously in popularity. But despite how popular and ubiquitous it has become, there’s still a learning curve for K–12 educators and students.
If you find yourself being thrust into academic cyberspace, don’t worry, we’re here to help. From online-class etiquette to the best technologies and even virtual office hours, there are specific conditions to remote learning that’ll help you and your students succeed.
To help educators transition to remote learning, we’re offering all K–12 schools RingCentral Office® for free. Educators will have access to two essential remote learning tools, both on a single application:
- Meetings: Host classes through our video conferencing tool that allows up to 100 participants per meeting. Students can also host meetings with fellow students (up to four participants) for group studies, assignments, and discussions.
- Messaging: Teachers and students can also engage with each other using group messaging. With a group messaging tool, teachers can form teams/groups so students can interact with members of their own group for group assignments.
Here’s a list of best practices for educators embarking on the remote-learning journey:
1. Be as present as possible through video.
Although remote learning seems like it’s a solo endeavor, students still need to trust and listen to their teachers. That’s why being as present as possible is essential—and the best way to do that is through frequent video connections.
- Spend as much time on each online video lesson as you would in the classroom.
- Keep lesson plans the same—dedicate time for instructions, assignments, readings, prep, and so on.
- Upload a profile picture.
- Aim for at least 480p 30FPS video quality, if not 720p 30FPS.
- Instruct students to keep their videos on.
- Hold virtual “office hours.”
2. Continue engaging students.
When broadcasting lessons, make sure to dedicate time for students to ask questions. Pause periodically to invite participation. Remember to also ask probing questions to the entire class, groups, and individual students throughout each lesson.
3. Make active learning a priority in the virtual classroom.
We all know how hard it can be to stay focused in a long, boring lecture. With online learning, you can bet it’s even harder. Take your normal classroom practices and incorporate them into your virtual classroom.
Make it a priority to:
- Coordinate with other teachers to ensure there are adequate breaks between sessions.
- Encourage discussions.
- Assign homework.
- Assign group work.
- Use videos as part of the lesson plan.
- Take breaks.
4. Communicate in writing which apps and tools your class will be using.
Send out an email with clear instructions on how students and parents can acquire the apps you’ll be using. Consider customizing this email for your own needs:
Moving forward, our class will be conducted via the [insert video platform] online meeting system. Classes will still continue as they normally would, and students are expected to attend. Everyone should have their webcams turned on and microphones muted. If you have a question, you can raise your hand or type a question in the chat.
Click here to download [insert video platform]. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email, and I will help you get set up.
5. Choose a communications solution that combines both video meetings and messaging.
It’s much simpler to have both video meeting and messaging capabilities on the same app than on two separate apps. Students and parents only have to download a single app, and communicating is also much easier.
For example, an entire class can be added to a single team in the app. When class begins, the teacher can select the right team and start a video call with just a click. When class is finished, students and teachers can keep the dialogue going by chatting through the team or messaging specific people directly, and even posting a recording of the class for those who missed it or want to revisit the content.
6. Teach with a wired headset.
Built-in microphones on laptops don’t offer the best sound quality, and when you’re teaching a class, you’ll want the audio to be crisp. At the same time, wireless headsets can run out of juice before the end of your day, leaving you with your low-quality laptop microphone.
Consider investing in a wired USB microphone or headset. There are tons of affordable ones (less than $30) on Amazon that’ll do the trick.
7. Use a wired internet connection.
Wi-Fi is handy and convenient, but we’ve all had disconnects at critical times before. To make sure your internet connection is as solid as possible, use a hardwired Ethernet connection from your PC to your modem/router.
8. Mute participants who get too noisy.
Just as teachers can silence their classrooms before a lesson, they can do the same in their virtual classrooms with just the click of a button. This can be useful if a student gets too loud or if they have unmanageable background noise. Of course, make sure you’re the host of each of your video sessions so you have full control over your class.
9. Record lessons for videos on demand.
One of the strongest advantages of online education is that lessons can be accessed by students whenever they need it. Subject moved too quickly? They can simply go back and rewatch the video to learn it at their own pace.
If your school has a group messaging app, recorded sessions can be posted into each class’s messaging group for easy access.
10. Have students drive their own research to share in class.
The flipped classroom approach goes hand-in-hand with online education, since much of the research is done online. Consider pointing students to the right resources (videos, websites, files) and allow them to be contributors to their own learning. This allows online class time to be more interactive and collaborative than instructional.
11. Post lesson materials online.
Some students might not absorb information as quickly as others, and if a presentation moves too quickly, they can get left behind. Materials posted online or in the related messaging group for download can give those students a chance to catch up at their own pace. It also removes the need for extensive note-taking during class so they can focus on the lesson instead.
12. Screen share PowerPoints, documents, videos, etc., during the lesson.
Just as in class, lessons should come with visual substance. Screen sharing is like having a projector in your virtual classroom, and every student tuned in can see the image, video, document, or website you’re sharing from your PC.
13. Use larger fonts and sizes when screen sharing.
Students’ abilities to see and hear you will depend entirely upon their own computers and internet connections. When you share screens with the class, make sure fonts and sizes are larger so they can be easily read no matter what latency issues they might have.
Remember to set your presentations to Present mode for the best viewing experience.
14. Make presentations more colorful than wordy.
As every educator knows, students get bored easily. Presentations should be as picturesque as possible, with the focus on students seeing images and diagrams while listening to you speak.
15. Break students into small, collaborative groups.
Even when students can’t be present at school, working together is crucial to their relationship and collaboration skills. Consider breaking students up into groups of 3 or 4 for group projects or even study groups to review and comment on each other’s work using your remote learning platform.
16. Post all assignments early, and be flexible with due dates.
Students learn at different paces, especially when they are going fully remote. Give students extra time to be prepared by posting assignments online early in the week.
Since learning from home can take some time to adjust to, give them some extra leeway for submitting assignments.
17. Encourage multimedia and creative assignments.
It can be convenient to simply assign students quizzes and essays, but students will be much more engaged when they have a chance to be creative. Consider incorporating multimedia, such as PowerPoints, videos, links, and presentations into assignments.
18. Assess students on a regular basis.
It’s difficult to gauge how well students are keeping up without seeing them in person. Teachers can assess how much students understand a topic by having them answer online surveys. Google Forms is an excellent and free surveying resource.
Additionally, you can spend five to 10 minutes on a separate call with each student to ensure they’re still engaged. You can create a Google doc or spreadsheet with each student’s name and the last time you spoke with them, and follow up with an email or direct message.
19. Prepare for technical difficulties.
With so many students packed into a single virtual classroom, chances are that a few of them will encounter technical difficulties from time to time. It’s recommended that you test your equipment beforehand and provide a checklist for students and parents to do the same.
If they have to disconnect from the class, make sure that all materials are posted online, and prepare to give them a rundown during office hours.
20. Dedicate some time off from lessons.
While the nature of online is that we’re connected 24/7, teachers have lives, too. By dedicating specific times for lessons, prep, office hours, and grading, you can make time for yourself and ensure that your students are afforded the same.
1. Have students share something special from their homes.
It can be anything, such as family photos, their pets, or a favorite collection. This helps students build camaraderie and a sense of community while learning from home.
2. Start off the day with a brain teaser.
YouTube is a great resource for logic puzzles, riddles, and brain games for all ages. And don’t worry, most of them come with answers.
3. Build a newsletter of accomplishments.
That way parents and faculty know how successful your class has been in adopting learning from home.
Originally published Mar 26, 2020, updated Nov 19, 2020