Distance Learning Tips for Teachers
Few expected distance learning to stick around quite in the way that it has. Initially billed as the educational world’s responsive solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, the wealth of technologies and concepts that have emerged since have proven that distance learning is here to stay. Now it is more than simply group video calls on Zoom - teaching remotely has evolved and looks set to continue making education more engaging and inclusive.
To begin with, let’s explore five distance learning tips for teachers that you can begin researching and implementing immediately.
Tip One: Learn Your Tools & Tech
Technological competence varies massively from one person to another, and as the teacher, it may be a harsh reality that some of your students are more advanced than you! Realistically though, some students may be more familiar with their technology than others, so patience and understanding will be required all around. What’s most important is that you create a culture of collaboration, where you all start with the basics and lift each other up as you progress.
Here are some other ideas about tech that can be used to your advantage as a teacher:
- For video calls, try out all of the options. Zoom, Skype, and Google Classroom may be the most popular, but their rivals are effectively innovating to introduce newer and more attractive features for educators. Once you’ve chosen a platform, learn to use all the tools by practicing with other colleagues
- Put together a ‘how-to’ guide for each digital tool you’ll be using, giving your students the best chance possible on understanding how to consume your lessons and additional materials
- Teach students how to present material on the chosen software, so that classes are not entirely based on watching you. In fact, with some teaching platforms, you can hide your own camera so that students only see each other, which can be very useful when used correctly
Tip Two: Code of Conduct
One thing you can’t do when it comes to distance learning is ‘wing it’. You will have expectations of your students, the same as they have expectations of you, and so, from the very first lesson (or even before it), a code of conduct must be introduced. The code of conduct can be as rigid or dynamic as you need it to be, but it must be clearly explained and transparent. Here are some things you should definitely put on your code of conduct for teaching remotely:
- Punctuality - students and teachers must be on time
- Back up plan - when the technology fails, what happens next?
- Start the class promptly - no hanging around waiting for stragglers, instead, get the class underway immediately
- Record classes for review - some students may want to watch the class back and take additional notes
- Cameras and microphones - many teachers ask students to start the class with their cameras and microphones on, before turning microphones off so there is no noise interference
- Behavior - no alcohol, no smoking, and no TV in the background. No swearing, no rudeness, and no sleeping!
Remember that groups of different ages are likely to require different codes of conduct, so be sure to put together a separate one for each age level that you teach. A periodical reminder of the code of conduct can be done through a test, just to make sure nothing has been forgotten and so standards don’t slip.
Tip Three: Simulations
The whole distance learning experience is, in effect, a simulated learning experience, but what if we could go deeper and leverage simulation technologies to create a more advanced way of learning? Well, we can, and we do. We invite more teachers, educators, and professors to bring simulations into the digital classroom, providing students with an opportunity to test their theory through games and programs designed to challenge their thinking, teamwork skills, and critical analysis.
Here at StratX Simulations, we’ve built tools for progressive teachers such as yourself, who are willing to give simulated learning experiences a try. Distance and blended learning typically suffer from engagement problems, but you can eradicate this disinterest through innovative and challenging simulated setups.
Tip Four: Upgrade Your Hardware!
If the teacher is the one having laptop issues and connectivity problems, it doesn’t set a good example. If you aren’t in a financial position to upgrade your tech, you need to speak with your employer and see if it’s possible to borrow better equipment. Fortunately, tools like Zoom and Skype no longer require state-of-the-art devices, so you might actually be fine with your tablet or mobile phone, as long as the camera quality is high.
Since the teacher is the presenter, it also pays to have a top-quality microphone and headphones. Shop around online and you’ll quickly find specialist headphones with a built-in microphone that are designed specifically for video calls.
Tip Five: Always have a Plan B
When lesson planning, you have to accept the reality that some activities simply won’t translate over a video call and may fail to receive the same engagement that they would otherwise get in the classroom. If an activity is clearly boring or confusing your students, don’t be afraid to swap it for another activity. However, rather than moving straight on to the next material, instead have an alternative to substitute into your lesson plan to try and shake things up.
A Story of Success
Recently we put together a collection of success stories from our clients and partners in order to understand how they leveraged simulation technology in their digital classrooms. We invite you to take a look at these anecdotes and consider how similar results could be achieved at your end.
Ultimately, the best way to improve your distance learning performance as a teacher is to see what others are doing, take the best ideas, read actionable tips and tricks articles (such as this one), and spend more time getting to know your tech and tools.