How to Create Effective Remote Learning Day Plans
When community emergencies take place—like public health concerns, extreme weather, or transportation issues—the best decision may be to keep students out of school buildings. However, given the amount of content students and educators are expected to cover during the school year, missed days can quickly cut into student learning and state instructional hour requirements. Staying on pace with curriculum guides is critical to ensuring that students gain the knowledge and skills they need to meet state standards and achieve success in subsequent grades. So, what can educators do to fix this problem?
Online learning options are providing new alternatives to keep students learning even when they’re not able to be in the classroom physically. More and more states and local education agencies are embracing these possibilities by allowing schools and districts to hold “e-learning” or “digital learning” days as a productive alternative to overcome challenging circumstances in the community.
To help you keep your students on track, Edmentum created this Administrator's Guide for Creating a Virtual Learning Program. In this guide, we provide the top considerations when implementing a virtual learning program. In addition, we’ve gathered tips and resources for communicating with staff, students, and parents/families and for building and implementing a plan for virtual learning to extend options for student learning.
The intention of remote, e-learning, and digital learning days is to provide a similar instructional experience to what students receive in the classroom. Having a well-thought-out plan in place is key to ensuring that these days truly support seamless student learning (and most states with formalized programs require them!). To help you put together a high-quality e-learning day plan for next year, we’ve broken down eight of the most important elements to consider.
1. Survey Students to Understand At-Home Internet Connectivity
All students should receive a similar learning experience on remote learning days, regardless of their access to technology and the Internet.
It's important to make a plan for students without sufficient access. Best practices include:
- Giving students offline options (alternative printed or downloaded materials) that are on par in terms of subject matter, task difficulty, and interaction
- Not expecting these students to make up any e-learning day work at a later time
- Providing these students with other ways to access to their teacher throughout the e-learning day
2. Set Aside Dedicated Training Time for Staff Members
How can you expect students to know what to do if teachers are also asking questions about how remote or e-learning days are supposed to work?
Logistics are critical and each teacher should know what they are responsible for and how they are going to carry forth learning under the prescribed go forward plan. Do you want your teachers to have folders that are sent home with students with instructions and contact numbers? Whatever it is—make sure that your teachers are properly trained as they are the keys to your success for remote learning days.
3. Communicate Your Remote Learning Plan at the Beginning of the School Year
Rolling out a previously unfamiliar policy, particularly one that requires student ownership and parent involvement needs to include a clear “why” behind it, or the buy-in simply won’t be there. Make sure that students understand that remote days are not a day off and that they must complete all assigned work to stay caught up with their classes.
Provide parents and families with guidelines on how they can support their student on remote learning days. Remember that arranging childcare will be a concern for some families on these days, so it’s important to provide timely notification when a remote learning day is happening—at least two hours before the beginning of the school day is a good benchmark to aim for.
4. Create a Virtual Attendance Policy
Just because students are working remotely doesn't mean showing up is any less critical. For remote days to be effective, there needs to be a system in place to keep students accountable for attendance.
Teachers can expect students to be working online by a certain time so they can check usage reports as a form of “taking role”. Students can also respond to a question via the classroom's social media page as a “smart start” activity within a given time frame so teachers can see who's engaging. Whatever you choose, consider how technology can help support this practice.
5. Make Sure Students Know How to Access Online Assignments and Activities
In order to be productive during e-learning days, students need to be comfortable with the logistics. Programs used on remote learning days should be ones that students are familiar with so that they can dive right in to remote learning day assignments.
Send home student logins to all programs you expect them to use remotely. Make sure that information is communicated to parents and caregivers as well, and encourage families to make that information easily accessible at home.
6. Prioritize Student-Teacher Communication
The most effective remote learning days offer parity to standard classroom days, not only in terms of rigor but also in quality of instruction and interaction. Just as these days aren’t intended to be days off or “catch-up” days for students, neither are they intended to be such for teachers.
Teachers should be actively monitoring student progress and providing guidance throughout the e-learning day, and effective tools for communication between students and teachers need to be in place to support that process.
Ideally, multiple communication channels—including video conferencing, phoning, and emailing—should be available, and students should be trained on how to use all of them. Class Facebook pages, websites, or other online social platforms can also be great tools to make remote learning days more interactive.
7. Provide Accessible Instruction for Students with IEPs or 504 Plans
The goal in offering the option for remote learning days is to minimize disruptions to student learning, and this has to extend to all learners, including those with disabilities.
Thought should be given to the devices and programs that students with IEPs or 504 plans are already comfortable with using in the classroom and ways in which they can be incorporated in remote learning day plans.
It’s also important to consider what additional support these students will need in terms of access to and interaction with their instructors in order to have a productive learning experience.
8. Engage With Community Partners
You know your community best! Apply that knowledge to help enlist community partners who can provide services that are critical to the success of the remote learning day.
This will look a little different in every community, but the more involvement and buy-in, the better your remote learning days will become.
Learn how Edmentum programs can support high-quality remote learning day plans to make sure that learning doesn’t skip a beat when bad weather and other unexpected events keep students and teachers out of the classroom.
This post was originally published March 2019 and has been updated.