Over the last year or so, remote learning has developed a reputation as a solution to education during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has become clear that this way of sharing knowledge is not just a convenient stopgap. It has a vital role in providing access to quality education on a more permanent basis.
Yet, while it is undoubtedly a positive shift in learning, it’s not without challenges. As an educator, you need to establish strategies that make certain the approach is right for every learner. The fact that each of your students will have their own needs and difficulties also means you have to strike a balance. You need methods that are tailored enough to provide the best experience while also not burning out by trying to be all things to everyone.
In this article, we’re going to look at a few tools and strategies you can use to approach remote education in a positive, inclusive way.
It cannot be overstated how vital communication is to ensure that remote learning is effective for all students. Maintaining a solid approach to communication ensures lessons are seamlessly passed on to your students while minimizing gaps in both advancement and engagement.
This certainly includes some attention to the communications platforms that you’re utilizing. While there are video and audio tools that help bridge the physical distance, your communications strategy needs to include cognizance of the digital divide and your students’ access to these tools.
Don’t forget that around 4 in 10 lower-income households in the U.S. don’t have a broadband connection and don’t own a laptop or computer. This means some of your students may only be connecting to your lessons through smartphones and data plans. As such, to avoid undue burden on these families, you need to use platforms that aren’t data-hogging or reliant on high definition. You should also rotate your communication methods between video calls, audio calls, and live messaging.
Good communication is also about creating an open dialogue. Yes, you must make it clear how students should act during lessons, but teachers must also establish protocols for ensuring students can get in touch outside of this time frame. Work with them to clarify how they are most comfortable discussing issues remotely, and set up a formal schedule to keep in regular contact with them.
Be flexible with your tools
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the range of tools that are available for remote learning today. However, either when establishing your own curriculum or advocating to school leadership, it’s important to consider what tools allow you to be most flexible. This tends to be the best approach to making certain each of your students can engage easily.
You can begin with the format in which you provide your exercises. There is a tendency in e-learning spaces today to provide slideshow-style storytelling activities and tests, taking learners through each section of the module and providing activities. However, this isn’t always practical for students, and some may be more responsive to slightly more traditional approaches.
Providing alternatives in PDF form can be useful here. You can create documents using the same text and used in other methods and make these aspects uneditable to ensure fidelity. There's also scope to translate educational e-books in this format and even provide information on projects parents and students need to sign off on. Alongside these benefits, it’s worth remembering PDFs are accessible on all types of systems, so your students with limited access to computers won’t be restricted here.
Flexibility with your tools also means allowing your students to have some input. Don’t introduce certain technological platforms as permanent solutions. Start small and seek your learners’ feedback on how they felt it helped or hindered them during lessons.
Indeed, don’t forget your students may also have insights into emerging platforms and services. Be open to trialing these and demonstrating that students have a certain amount of control over the direction and quality of their learning.
One of the elements that many students seem to miss in a remote environment is hands-on activities. Whatever individual learning styles your students favor, exercises that help take theoretical learning into practical areas bolster their understanding. This is as relevant in remote grade schools as it is in workplace training.
One approach that can be effective in remote settings is project-based learning. This is where you spend a period of time exploring a specific topic through practical activities. You discuss the theory a little together as a class, then individuals or groups are sent away to explore the practical applications of the theory. There are then follow-up readings and exercises before you return together to discuss outcomes and consider avenues for further exploration. It’s a more independent approach driven by the learner, giving them space to follow their curiosity and methodology.
Read more: 10 DOs and DON’Ts in Project-Based Learning
Alongside this, you also need to apply some attention to giving students the skills they need to learn independently. Chief among these is likely to be problem-solving, as they won’t always have the diverse perspectives of the class to collaborate with.
Introducing them to concepts like iterative innovation provides them with the skills to approach an issue from more than a single obsessive viewpoint. They become more agile in considering the issue from multiple angles. It also illustrates multiple solutions to a problem and how to refine critically to arrive at the most appropriate answer.
It’s also worth considering applying this approach to designing the curriculum itself and showing students how it is used to affect the quality of their learning.
Remote learning is likely to become a more prevalent part of the educational landscape. As such, as an educator, you need to consider how you can adjust your communication and teaching tools to meet the needs of all of your students. It is a new way of learning, but with some focus on making processes more practical and flexible, it can be a positive experience for everyone.