Easing the Transition to Distance Learning

Irene Tsahas March 17, 2020
Over the last few days, the COVID-19 outbreak has moved into a new phase, compelling officials to close schools and universities.  In an effort to limit the spread, there is a transition to e-learning, including digital and distance learning options. While colleges and universities already offer and teach courses that are either partially or entirely online, shifting K-12 instruction online is where the challenge lies ahead. It will take some practice, rethinking, and time before teachers and students will get used to the idea of online learning. In today’s digital age, most things done in person can be recreated online. Technology can be the answer to make sure that kids do not lose valuable time in the classroom, even if the learning is done outside of school. While the shift to online learning in a mere matter of days is disruptive, we have tips and trips to ease the transition from the traditional eight hour school day to indefinite e-learning.  For creating digital learning experiences outside of the physical classroom:
  • Teachers can use Zoom and Google Hangouts for live classroom instruction. 
  • Google Classroom and Canvas for mass communications, asking questions, collecting assignments and posting projects.
  • YouTube instructional videos in a wide range of content areas, including all levels of mathematics, English language arts, science, and history. 
  • Kahoot! and Quizizz for game-based formative assessment tools to review material that was just covered. 
  • MagicBox to deliver the learning products (like ebooks, video, simulations, Word/PowerPoint) and assessments online and on any of the devices for online and offline access.
  For educators taking their instruction live and online:
  • Ask questions, which promotes easy engagement and allows for discussion even among students.
  • Use polls, these are tools that students are comfortable using in communication and asking students to share their thoughts.
  • Encourage participation, allowing students to feel the familiarity of as if they are learning in the traditional classroom. 
  Unequal access to tech devices and internet connection:
  • Allow students to take out loan devices such as laptops and tablets from the school district along with WiFi hotspot devices to anyone who needs it.
  • The instruction material must be delivered on devices using apps that allow offline access to larger size ebooks, simulations, games, assessments, quizzes, etc.
  If the internet is a problem:
  • Have kids complete assignments in packets or workbooks and send in a picture of their completed assignments through email or text. 
  • Teachers can follow up through emails or phone calls because most homes have a smartphone even if they don’t have a computer or reliable internet connection.  
  • Provide downloadable content that can be printed or used offline on phones or tablets. 
  Getting started:
  • Set up a tech support phone bank to answer parent questions and help with problems getting their kids up and running.
  • Try to anticipate the common tech problems like connectivity issues and microphone issues. 
  • Share a list of the most common tech issues so that when these issues do come up, there is a solution for what the students are supposed to, what the parents are supposed to do, and what the teacher is supposed to do.
As an industry, we have made major advancements in the way students learn digitally, easing this transition process. There are still going to be mistakes, miscommunications, and things that might not work correctly when implementing the change to all online. Everyone is doing their best to make decisions that are in the best interest of students and their continued learning. This is the time for innovation, collaboration, and creativity among communities because the solutions to those challenges will require more than the school district to solve.  The reality is that most schools and IT administration know the answers – often it is a lack of budget, or available bandwidth/resources at hand to execute some of these simple tactics to improve digital adoption.     

Irene Tsahas

Irene is associated with Magic EdTech as a Marketing Research associate and has helped platforms, content services, and technology team at Magic cross-functionally to shape the account plans for its customers.