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E-Learning Tips for Learning at Home

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.

As school districts and postsecondary institutions across the P-20 Network, throughout Illinois, and around the United States and the world have had to rush to implement e-learning days in an effort to promote public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, teachers and faculty members are having to quickly grapple with days, weeks, or months of teaching online when they were previously planning to be working face-to-face with students in a more traditional learning setting. With the main goal of improving learning for all learners and supporting educators in that work, the P-20 Network will continue to seek to collect and share resources to make online learning as productive and efficient as possible for both students and their teachers. Initially, we’ve collected some tips and resources that may be helpful.


Engage students in impacting what & how they are learning online

As Thornton Fractional School District 215 Superintendent Teresa Lance demonstrates in the above tweet, it is critical that, from the start, teachers are transparent with students about this being a learning process for everyone. Doing so can serve to build community despite not being physically in the same location, an important social and emotional prerequisite for learning, and it can allow students to brainstorm and develop ideas that will actually improve instruction. Teachers can and should ask about:

  • Which online learning tools are most and least effective and why
  • Which activities are most engaging and why
  • How students have successfully created an environment at home in which they can learn (and where they are struggling with this)

Whether in-person or online, teachers should also create as much opportunity as possible for students to explore what deeply interests them about their curriculum, to read both fiction and non-fiction that is most relevant to their lives and appropriately challenging for them, and to create products that have real audiences and purposes. Education Pathway students at Buffalo Grove High School created this e-learning guide for teachers as part of their classwork, and it was widely shared via Twitter to help educators worldwide.


Connect with teachers worldwide

From early childhood educators through university professors, when teachers collaborate with other educators, they experience higher levels of self-efficacy, have greater job satisfaction, and most importantly, they are most likely to have a long-term and significant positive impact on student learning. For teachers who have not previously been on Twitter or for those who engaged in a professional development workshop regarding Twitter eight or nine years ago and who have not been back, now is the time to jump in.

Resources regarding how to provide instruction online have been shared widely as schools in other countries closed their classrooms weeks and months prior to schools in the United States. Additionally, there are already countless experienced teachers of online and blended learning courses who are active on Twitter and can help support teachers. In the example below, Adrienne Michetti, a Canadian who teaches in Singapore, and who has been an active educator on Twitter for over a decade demonstrates the profound power of being willing to ask for help from others in her professional, personal learning network.

Responses included the following resources:

Finally, even if you are new to Twitter and to teaching students online, don’t be afraid to share and ask questions!


Be realistic about students’ learning environments

Empty Primary ClassroomWhile Comcast has announced free Internet for low income families through their Internet Essentials program for 60 days, this service is not available in all areas–particularly rural areas. Even in areas where it is available, in many apartments, cables need to be run and modems deployed and set-up. In other words, many students will not even have Internet access. Even if 90% of your students have Internet access at home – 2-3 students per class on-average will not have Internet access.

For families and students using mobile devices to do their work, they face the additional change of costly data caps, and many do not have or cannot afford to use that device as a hotspot. (They are very limited in how many YouTube videos they will be able to watch to complete assignments over the weeks that schools and colleges/universities are closed. And, could you imagine typing a long-form writing piece on the small, glass keyboard on your phone.)

To help with this, survey your students using a private Google Form or Microsoft Form to learn about where in their home they will be working, what kind of Internet access they have, what distractions they will face trying to learn at home, and what other responsibilities they will have in their families at home during the “school” day. In addition to giving you actionable information, this will also allow students to reflect on these points and start to develop plans and solutions where possible.

Nevertheless, it is critical that teachers adjust expectations in accordance with these realities. To think that students will be able to do their normal 8.30 AM to 3.30 PM school day at home in the same way that they do it school creates an unrealistic foundation for trying to successfully “do” learning online.


Expect yourself to learn – and give yourself permission to do so

The greatest teachers are always learning, and everyone one of us will definitely learn when moving to online teaching. Even experienced online educators speak openly about how challenging it can be do effectively, and teachers who are new to it with little time for preparation need to be gentle with themselves regarding this reality. Understanding your students’ needs and current situations, taking instructional risks, and being transparent and open with students (and consistently gathering feedback from them!) throughout the online learning experience will go far in creating the best possible learning experience for students and upon which further improvements to future online learning can be made by teachers.


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