While many teaching practices are universal, you will need to adjust your face-to-face practices, so they will work in a virtual environment.
Because you will not be readily available to answer questions, your lessons need to be clear and simple enough that they can stand on their own. Your students should be able to work through them independently, with little to no real-time guidance.
Be sure to include the following three components in your online lesson:
- Practice and Process
How will I communicate my lesson expectations and directions?
If students don’t know what to do, how can they be expected to complete it? You must develop a system to clearly communicate expectations to students. Design a system that works for you and your students, and then stick with it every day.
- Video Overview: Embed a video each day, where you explain the expectations for the day’s lesson, so students can see your face and hear your voice. Be sure to keep it short!
- Folders: Create one folder or page for each day and clearly label it. Keep the most recent date at the top.
- Slideshows and Calendars: Embed or link to a slideshow or calendar with the expectations for each day. Link directly to materials needed for the day’s lesson.
- Daily Posts: Post the daily directions in an LMS message board.
- If your LMS has the option for adding completion rules to folders, consider using it. This will require students to complete one item before having access to the next one. It often allows them to track their progress, as well.
How will my students learn the content?
Since you are not physically in front of your students, you will need to design ways for them to learn content independently. While there are many approaches, here are some of the most common and effective methods.
Watch a Video
- This is perhaps the most popular option, as many students learn effectively by watching videos. You can either find pre-made videos or create your own.
- If you create your own video, you will likely create a screencast. Screencasting is the process of recording your computer screen while simultaneously recording your voice.
Popular Sites to Find Videos
Note: You can find many more at Common Sense Media’s Top Video Resources.
Popular Screencasting Tools
Note: Loom and Screencastify work better when using Chromebooks. Screencast-O-Matic allows you to record a portion of the screen instead of a whole window.
- Online Textbooks
- Post links to your online textbook accounts.
- Be sure that students have access information.
- Upload or Link to Documents
- Post PDFs, Google Docs, etc., of content that you have created or written.
- Be aware of copyright considerations, and only post what you have permission to post.
- Link to content-rich websites.
- Be sure that students know what to read when they get there.
Interact With Software and Websites
- Link to subscriptions owned by your school.
- Link to websites with simulations and interactive learning experiences.
- Link to websites that offer self-paced learning.
- Provide students with research prompts and empower them to find the information.
- Consider posting links to state and school-sponsored research databases for high-quality materials.
How will my students practice and process the content?
If we want any new learning to become permanent and meaningful, we need to have students practice and/or process their learning. Here are some popular strategies for engaging your students in their online learning.
Typical LMS Options
If you have access to a learning management system (LMS), be sure to take advantage of the robust learning activities built into these platforms. They are typically full-featured, easy to create, and student-friendly.
- Online Assignments
- This option allows teachers to assign and collect student work digitally. Teachers post the assignment, and then students access it, complete it, and submit it online.
- This is a good format if you want sharing to be private between the teacher and student.
- Online Discussions
- In this online discussion forum, teachers typically post the initial prompt, and students engage in an online conversation by posting their own response and replying to others.
- Some online discussion tools allow teachers to choose if students see other posts before or after posting their own response.
- Use this option if you want the conversation to include multiple students or the whole class. If you want small-group discussions, create separate discussions and assign them to groups of students.
- Online Test/Quiz
- Question types vary by LMS, but most have the traditional test question types (including multiple-choice, true/false, essay, matching). Some offer enhanced question types, as well (such as drag-and-drop).
- Tests and quizzes may be used as summative or formative tasks. However, due to limited test security in an at-home setting, most distance-learning teachers use these more often as formative checks of understanding.
- Pro Tip: Allow students to take a quiz multiple times and automatically see their answers after each attempt. This becomes a learning activity as well as a progress check.
It is important to find ways for students to interact with each other in an online setting. This interaction keeps students connected and helps them develop a sense of community. Be sure to establish expectations for collaborative work when you provide access to shared workspaces. Here are just a few examples of collaborative tools that are available:
- Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Jamboard, where anyone with a link can edit.
- Microsoft Teams
- There are many more!
Sometimes, the online component is to learn something that must be practiced or performed offline (music, art, PE, etc.). When offline activities are assigned, students are often asked to submit evidence of their practice for teacher review. Some options of evidence may include the following:
- Photo of paperwork
- Video of student practice
- Audio recording
- Performance via live video class
- Submission of a log (reading log, practice times, etc.)
Links to Websites
Many websites offer guided practice activities with ongoing feedback. Some websites even offer teacher dashboards to track progress. Other times, a teacher may ask students to submit a screenshot of the work they have completed in these external websites as evidence of their progress.