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[Administrator Tips] 8 Elements of Effective Remote Learning Day Plans

[Administrator Tips] 8 Elements of Effective Remote Learning Day Plans

When community emergencies take placelike public health concerns, extreme weather, or transportation issuesthe best decision may be to keep students out of school buildings. However, given the amount of content students and educators are expected to cover during the school year, missed days can quickly cut into student learning and state instructional hour requirements. Staying on pace with curriculum guides is critical to ensuring that students gain the knowledge and skills they need to meet state standards and achieve success in subsequent grades. So, what can educators do to fix this problem?

Online learning options are providing new alternatives to keep students learning even when they’re not able to be in the classroom physically. More and more states and local education agencies are embracing these possibilities by allowing schools and districts to hold “e-learning” or “digital learning” days as a productive alternative to overcome challenging circumstances in the community.

To help you keep your students on track, Edmentum created this Administrator's Checklist for Creating a Virtual Learning Program. In this checklist we provide the top considerations when implementing a virtual learning program. In addition, we’ve gathered tips and resources for communicating with staff, students, and parents/families and for building and implementing a plan for virtual learning to extend options for student learning.

The intention of remote, e-learning, and digital learning days is to provide a similar instructional experience to what students receive in the classroom. Having a well-thought-out plan in place is key to ensuring that these days truly support seamless student learning (and most states with formalized programs require them!). To help you put together a high-quality e-learning day plan for next year, we’ve broken down eight of the most important elements to consider.

1. Survey students to understand at-home Internet connectivity, and make a plan for students without sufficient access

All students should receive a similar learning experience on remote learning days, regardless of their access to technology and the Internet. Think about ways to give students without consistent Internet access offline options that are on par in terms of subject matter, task difficulty, and interaction, and avoid expecting these students to make up any e-learning day work at a later time. Be sure to consider not only how to provide alternative printed or downloaded materials but also how to provide these students with access to their teacher throughout the e-learning day.  

2. Set aside dedicated training time for staff members

How can you expect students to know what to do if teachers are asking questions about how remote or e-learning days are supposed to work? Logistics are critical and each teacher should know what they are responsible for and how they are going to carry forth learning under the prescribed go forward plan. Do you want your teachers to have folders that are sent home with students with instructions and contact numbers? Whatever it is—make sure that your teachers are properly trained as they are the keys to your success on days such as this.

3. Clearly communicate details of your remote learning plan to students and parents at the beginning of the school year, and provide timely notification when you decide to use an remote learning day

Rolling out a previously unfamiliar policy, particularly one that requires student ownership and parent involvement needs to include a clear “why” behind it, or the buy-in simply won’t be there. Make sure that students understand that remote days are not a day off and that they must complete all assigned work to stay caught up with their classes. Provide parents and families with guidelines on how they can support their student on remote learning days. Remember that arranging childcare will be a concern for some families on these days, so it’s important to give as much prior notice as possible—at least two hours before the beginning of the school day is a good benchmark to aim for. 

4. Create a virtual attendance policy

Just because students are working remotely doesn't mean showing up is any less critical. For remote days to be effective, there needs to be a system in place to keep students accountable for attendance. Do you expect everyone to be working online by a certain time so you can check your usage reports as a form of “taking role” or are students intended to respond to a question via your social media page as a “smart start” activity and participation within a given time frame tells the teacher that the student is engaged? Whatever you choose, consider how technology can help support this practice.

5. Make sure that students know how to access online assignments and activities

In order to be productive during e-learning days, students need to be comfortable with the logistics. Programs that are used should be ones that students are used to working on so that they can dive right in to remote learning day assignments when that day arrives. Send home student logins to all programs you expect students to use on a remote learning day, make sure that information has been communicated to parents and caregivers as well, and encourage families to make that information easily accessible at home.

6. Prioritize student-teacher communication

The most effective remote learning days offer parity to standard classroom days, not only in terms of rigor but also in quality of instruction and interaction. Just as these days aren’t intended to be days off or “catch-up” days for students, neither are they intended to be such for teachers. Teachers should be actively monitoring student progress and providing guidance throughout the e-learning day, and effective tools for communication between students and teachers need to be in place to support that process. Ideally, multiple communication channels—including video conferencing, phoning, and emailing—should be available, and students should be trained on how to use all of them. Class Facebook pages, websites, or other online social platforms can also be great tools to make  remote learning days more interactive.

7. Provide accessible digital instruction or alternatives for students with disabilities that meet the needs of each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)/504 plans

The goal in offering the option for remote learning days is to minimize disruptions to student learning, and this has to extend to all learners, including those with disabilities. Thought should be given to the devices and programs that students with IEPs or 504 plans are already comfortable with using in the classroom and ways in which they can be incorporated in remote learning day plans. It’s also important to consider what additional support these students will need in terms of access to and interaction with their instructors in order to have a productive learning experience.

8. Engage with community partners

You know your community best! Apply that knowledge to help enlist community partners who can provide services that are critical to the success of the remote learning day. This will likely look a little different in every community, but the more involvement and buy-in, the better your remote learning days will become.

Want to find out more about how Edmentum programs can support high-quality remote learning day plans? Check out these blog posts on leveraging Courseware, Exact Path, and Study Island to make sure that learning doesn’t skip a beat when bad weather and other unexpected events keep students and teachers out of the classroom!

This post was originally published March 2019 by Sarah Cornelius and has been updated.

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Beth Holine

Beth Holine joined Edmentum in 2011 as a Marketing Specialist. In her role, she works to provide teachers and educators with innovative, useful resources. Beth has a B.S. in Psychology from the Iowa State University.