The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way schools are able to educate children across the nation. As more states recommend Safer-At-Home lifestyles to flatten the curve, educators are adapting to teaching and reviewing skills from home. As schools transition from classroom instruction to eLearning, there are numerous items an administrator must keep in mind to ensure success and equality in learning.
Follow State and Local Guidelines
First and foremost, administrators must adhere to state and local guidelines for switching to eLearning. This will mean doing a little research and staying abreast of changing trends as new information is produced. Everyone is trying to adjust to the new normal and make predications on what is to come in this time of uncertainty, so policies and suggestions are changing almost daily. Not knowing is not an excuse. In order to keep your staff and students informed, you must be vigilant in keeping up with current trends.
Provide Supplemental Instruction
How a school proceeds with providing instruction will depend on whether or not they had previous access to online learning previously established. Many high school students and some students in younger grades may have the advantage to having one-to-one access to computers. If this is the case, transitioning to eLearning will be fairly easy. Depending on what platform your school uses, you may have teachers present material and instruction that students can easily access with current log-in credentials. Students can then complete assignments and submit them for grading in their typical manner.
Likewise, many classes may already have access to online learning tools that will help students practice skills and progress through learning levels. Encourage teachers to assign a few hours of work each week, depending on the students’ developmental ability, so that they can continue to review skills and stay engaged.
For those schools lacking this already set-up access, teachers will need to be a little more creative. They may video a lesson and post it to a safe social media site that students can access. Administrators can also encourage teachers to have live, chat-based video sessions with their students. During these meetings, teachers might read a story, present new material, provide time for discussion, and check on students’ well-being.
It is extremely important for administrators to remind teachers that not all students have access to the internet or technology for accessing eLearning. For these students, accommodations will need to be made. Paper-packets may be available for pick-up at the child’s convenience from a centralized location or alternative activities might be offered such as a book study and report, but some students may even have trouble getting these materials based on family circumstances. It is imperative that students are not held at-fault due to a lack of the ability to access materials.
Provide Access to Technical Support
As students transition to eLearning, there are bound to be technical issues. Administrators will want to share tutorials or help desk information with staff so they will be able to assist when a login is lost or locked or a simple glitch occurs.
Be Cognizant of Modifications and Accommodations
Even though students are not in class learning, administrators will need to make sure accommodations and modifications for students with Individualized Learning Plans (IEP) are being met. Remind teachers to follow these IEPs and allow for extended time, modified assignments or grading, read aloud options, or other accommodations for each student. These students may require an extra phone call or video conference for support, but teachers must understand that this is essential for eLearning student success.
Grading assignments during this transition can be tricky at best. This is an area where administrators must stress to teachers that they need to be in contact with each child to determine what the child is able to complete. Questions teachers might ask include:
- Do you have access to the internet?
- Do you have a device with which you can complete assignments online?
- Do you need assistance with login information?
- Do you need additional help to understand this concept?
It is best to remind teachers that even if grades aren’t given, they can provide work that can be used for review and prevent the extended summer slump. In addition, if it is meaningful and engaging, it will help students to occupy their time and prevent boredom.
Final Words of Advice
- Be Flexible – As the school begins to transition to eLearning, it is best if everyone can remain flexible. Things will change, problems will occur, and challenges will arise. If teachers know they have the ability to change and modify assignments, they may feel more in control and able to make those adjustments as necessary.
- Be Supportive – Just as students will need support, teachers will as well. Administrators must continue their open-door policy even if it is through a phone call or video chat. Teachers will have questions and need guidance throughout this new phase of instruction.
- Be Consistent – If one teacher in a grade level or subject section plans to assign multiple activities and another decides to just have video chats, parents are going to be upset. It is important for teachers to continue to collaborate and provide similar assignments in order for eLearning to be successful.
- Be a Leader – Now is not the time to hand over all decisions to teachers. Make decisions based on the school vision and focused on student learning, and everything will fall into place.