In an effort to adapt to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, many school administrators are going virtual overnight and are, understandably, feeling slightly overwhelmed. Transitioning from a brick-and-mortar to a virtual school is no small task, and you may find yourself in uncharted territory.
So, where do you start?
Here are five questions you should ask about online learning to help get you started.
5 questions administrators need to ask about virtual learning
1. Do you want your curriculum to be real time, self-paced, or both?
What type of online learning do you want your students to experience? Do you want virtual classes to occur live with your teachers by using video conferencing apps like Skype and Zoom? Or do you want them to be self-paced with resources that include different tools like online discussions and apps, such as ABC Mouse, MobyMax, and Classcraft? Or, perhaps you’d like to implement a combination of the two options.
To decide which is right for you, consider meeting with your cohort and distributing surveys to your teachers and students. Also, be sure to note which tools and experiences your school already has in place that could help with virtual learning.
Considerations for virtual learning
The amount of online learning your faculty already offers. You might have online resources in place that you can use in your virtual school. Maybe you already integrate online platforms into your curriculum. If so, revisit those and consider keeping them in your virtual school transition.
Your available online subscriptions. You may already have subscriptions to online educational platforms like Classcraft, Spelling City, and Hooked on Phonics that could be retained with your virtual school transition. These familiar programs could come in handy for teachers and students alike.
Your demographic and philosophy. You’re the expert when it comes to your students. Perhaps your kids are tech savvy and have been using tablets since kindergarten, or maybe they take a more hands-off approach to tech.
Do your students have the available resources to make self studying a success? It’s important to consider everything from technology, software and computers to family support when you ask yourself this question.
Whatever the case, decide which virtual learning model would serve your students best.
- Are your teachers in a position to offer live classes?
- Do they have access to a quiet virtual teaching environment?
- What’s the foundation of your current curriculum?
- Do you emphasize child-led or teacher-led learning?
- Are courses designed with an ample amount of independent student work already in place, or are they more collaborative experiences?
2. What schedule will you follow?
In a brick and mortar school schedules are the norm, but in virtual settings other factors come into play. You’ll want to decide on a virtual school schedule that benefits your students and faculty.
- Fully transitioning to online learning while keeping your regular school schedule
- Stick with the coursework teachers have already planned for, but just shift it to an online environment
- Testing schedules, grading quarters, and daily class breaks, lunch, and recess will all remain the same, but just occur remotely
- A mix of live classes and self-study
- Can include gamification platforms, online reading, educational apps, and other activities students can complete asynchronously
- Primarily self study with live check-ins
- Students work at their own pace and work on their own schedule
- Teachers still check in for accountability and monitor grades and provide feedback on students’ progress
3. What are learning management systems (LMSes)?
As you know, you need a way to deliver your content. This is where learning management systems come into play.
Learning management systems (LMSes) are online platforms that allow teachers to:
- Organize their instructional content in one place
- Grade student assignment submissions and discussion posts
- Communicate with their students.
- Examples include Google Classroom, Moodle, Classcraft, and Canvas.
Many LMSes allow teachers to drag and drop their units into modules and efficiently personalize their virtual classrooms by publishing lessons they’ve selected and designed. These platforms also allow administrators to modify their curriculum, prepare reports, and add calendar reminders for teachers and students in one convenient location.
Note that some learning management systems can be costly to purchase, so you’ll want to check with your office to see if you have a budget set aside for subscriptions. They also take time to set up and train users and may lack proper customer service.
Classcraft has a number of affordable pricing plans, ranging from the free version to a tailored school & district plan.
4. How can you support your teachers?
During this trying time, you want to help your faculty adapt to the online shift. Here are a few ways you can help your teachers during the virtual classroom transition.
Provide your teachers with proper training
The good news is that many LMSes and e-learning platforms already have this part covered through videos, chat, and webinars. That said, your teachers may still have questions about how to use their learning management system. Be proactive: prepare a list of questions you anticipate will be asked, and discuss them with your teachers.
Show, don’t tell
Your instructors may find reading tutorials more difficult than seeing a live demo of your learning management system. Consider hosting a Zoom conference and sharing your screen to show them how it’s used. You can hold a short Q&A session at the end, too.
Conduct a trial run
Transitioning to a virtual learning environment can be stressful, especially if your teachers are doing so for the very first time. For this reason, it’s a good idea to set aside a day or two for some trial runs. After your system is in place, your teachers are trained, and your content is ready, give your teachers time to test drive a lesson so they’re prepared when they see their students for the first time online.
Make sure your teachers have the tools they need
These include up-to-date computers and tablets, educational software and subscriptions, and access to online platforms and educational websites.
5. How long do you plan to keep your school virtual?
With the uncertainty of COVID-19, this last question is tricky. It’s better to over-plan than to be caught off guard, so prepare for the rest of the school year just in case and then go from there.
But remember, classrooms will most likely not be virtual forever, so you do need to set a tentative end date for your virtual school and take things one day at a time.
Virtual education isn’t so bad!
Although this transition is a huge endeavor, try looking at the many positives a virtual education offers:
- Your students will continue to learn
- Your teachers will continue to teach
- Everyone will be able to practice social distancing
- You may find resources that you’ll be able to keep around when physical school is back in session.
And remember: With all things considered, you’re doing a tremendous job with going virtual overnight!
Photo: Google Edu