Clear and consistent communication is always important, but it becomes even more critical in a remote-learning environment.
Students will not be in the same physical space as their teacher, so asking questions becomes more difficult. Families will likely need to assist younger students with the communication process, so be sure to include parents/guardians in the communication chain. Older students will need to know when and where to look for important messages and daily instructions. Be sure to provide them with the clear guidance they will need to do this on their own. With careful planning up front, you can help your students be successful and empower them to overcome unforeseen challenges.
When possible, meet with your students in person prior to remote learning. This will make it easier to explain your procedures and protocols, check for understanding, and allow students to ask questions. If you have time, it’s also a good idea to have students practice accessing class information, joining a lesson, and communicating digitally before they have to do this independently during remote learning.
If you do not have a chance to set this up in person, you will need to find a clear and effective way to reach all of your students and families. This communication is essential and will establish the foundation for how your remote classroom will operate. You may even need to provide the information in several ways to make sure everyone receives it. Do whatever you can to communicate with your students and families because establishing a clear and consistent communication system will be a major key to student success.
When teaching in a remote-learning environment, you may not always be immediately available to help your students or answer their questions. If you are teaching a live, synchronous class, you will be there to answer questions. This is very helpful, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for a strong communication system. Students will still need to know when and how to join your class and what to do if they cannot attend at the scheduled time. For self-paced, asynchronous learning, the challenge becomes even greater. The teacher and student may never be online at the same time. This means that students will need to assume a greater role in guiding their own learning experience.
No matter what form your classroom takes, plan ahead, anticipate what your students will need, and provide clear channels of communication. The three questions below are a good starting point.
Make sure that your students can answer three key questions:
- What am I supposed to do?
- Where do I find what I need?
- How will my teachers and I communicate?
Determine how you will communicate this information to your students and their families before remote learning begins. Also, establish and communicate any norms around your remote-learning expectations, so they can start the year with success. These expectations may vary depending upon the age of your students, as well as the total number of students in your class.
To reduce confusion, post daily lesson information as consistently as possible, using a common posting time, format, and location. Students should always know when and where to get the information they need. Just as importantly, make a plan for connecting with students who need individual support. When reaching out to younger students, teachers should include parents/guardians in the process.
Whole-Class Communication Platforms
- Learning management system (LMS)
- Class website
- Shared, online folders or calendars
- Mail or email
Individual-Student Communication Options
- Phone calls
- Digital messaging
- Video calls
Parents/guardians will likely want to know what is expected of their children, and they should be a part of your communication plan. Be sure to set up and share your communication process at the start of your remote-learning experience.
If there is a consistent district-wide communication system, that is best, but at the very least, you should establish a solid system at the classroom level. The younger the student, the more likely that parents/guardians will need to play a larger role in the process.
Possible ways to communicate with parents/guardians include:
- Send mass messages from a student information system (SIS).
- Send emails (be sure to put parent/guardian email addresses in the Bcc: field to protect privacy).
- Post to a class website.
- Post to a common location on a school website.
- Post to a learning management system (LMS) with parent/guardian access.
- Post to social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
- Share digital calendars.
- Use any other communication system in place in your district.
With any of these systems, the key is to keep things as simple, clear, and consistent as possible for your students and their families.