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[Teacher Tips] School Best Practices for the Virtual Classroom

[Teacher Tips] School Best Practices for the Virtual Classroom

Creating the best learning environment for students is likely on many teachers’ minds, but what does that mean for fully virtual classrooms? For those new to online learning, a virtual environment may seem overwhelming and getting started may take some time. Here are some tips and tricks from one of our very own EdOptions Academy Teacher of the Year and math instructor, Ashleigh O’Neill, to help you plan a successful virtual classroom for the new school year.

In your role as a virtual teacher, what is one thing you do at the beginning of the school year that you would recommend all teachers do?

“Starting out my virtual school year, I like to begin by organizing my physical and digital workspace. I arrange my office to work for me, I archive old files and make new folders, and I update the previous year’s email templates to reflect the current information. This makes sure that I am mentally prepared for the transition to the new year.”

We agree! Keeping a well-structured schedule and staying organized are crucial to success in school, especially when it comes to virtual learning. We put together a variety of free printable and digital calendars and planning guides.

How do you set clear expectations with students and parents?

“Communicating clear expectations for students on how you expect them to conduct themselves as your online student is very important. I communicate my expectations to both students and their guardians early in the course. My first message to the families lets them know how to reach me and how to access their course. The second communication from me outlines expectations regarding work completion, communication, and academic integrity. I find it most helpful to communicate the expectations in writing so you can refer back to that document or communication frequently.”

Parental support certainly does amplify success. Here's a guide that explains eight challenges parents might face during virtual learning and describes what works best to make learning successful. Educators will also benefit from this guide since it provides an overview of expectations for parents.

What is the process that you use to prepare for virtual classes?

“The process leading up to the beginning of class will vary based on the access that you are able to have to the courses you will be teaching. If you know what you will teach, you can begin to familiarize yourself with the setup of the course, create rubrics, and begin planning presentations for lessons you will teach live. If you don’t have access to the courses early, you can still prepare! Begin by creating your welcome email templates and making a plan for how you will communicate expectations and procedures to your students.

Check out this blog post, Four Tips for Educators to Build Effective Online Teaching Routines + Downloadable Daily Schedule Template!

What are the biggest challenges that you try to get ahead of before students join the virtual classroom for the first time?

“The first challenge I expect to encounter is students who do not know how to access their course. I attempt to get ahead of that by creating a document that outlines clearly how to log in and what they will see at each step. I also encourage students to join me in my online classroom prior to the first live sessions so we can make sure they know how to navigate the platform for live sessions and have working sound.”

What is the first day of virtual school like compared to a traditional school setting?

“I often find that the first days of school in an online setting are focused on a lot of troubleshooting. Some of this can be mitigated by preparing in advance, but there will always be students who need individual assistance. Be prepared for many phone conversations walking students through the login process, and be patient with yourself and others when you inevitably encounter a few hiccups along the way.”

What's the best way to motivate students once classes start?

“After classes begin, I reach out to each student to get to know them individually. I find out where they are from, what they enjoy doing in their time away from school, what they are passionate about, and how they feel they learn best. By checking in with them and getting to know them at the beginning of the course, it is easier to motivate them using that information. A student who has stalled in their progress will often respond more quickly to a question like: ‘Have you had any hockey games this week?’ before they respond to: ‘Can I help you get caught up on your math work?’”

We love this advice! Check out our free 30-Day Back-to-School Challenge and About Me Templates to implement Ashleigh’s tip!

What do you like to do to get yourself motivated for the start of the school year?

“Motivating myself for the school year includes new, fun office supplies and time spent on my own professional development. I read articles and watch Ted Talks or other videos that remind me of the important role I play as an educator. I look at the information for the students I will be teaching and remind myself that they are not names on a screen—but rather, they are young people who have talents and strengths that I can help them cultivate so they can make society a better place in the future.”

We’ve compiled a list of great TED Talks about online education that we hope will give you some inspiration and motivation as you prepare for the new school year!

With even more virtual learning strategies, you can take your instructional approach to the next level! If you’d like to develop your virtual teaching skills, our Virtual Teacher Mentoring Program allows teachers to adapt their skills through expert coaching by master virtual teachers with years of experience in online instruction.

debbie.crawford's picture
Debbie Crawford

Debbie Crawford joined the Edmentum team in 2019. With ten years of experience in marketing and fundraising, she has established a reputation as a creative problem-solver with an upbeat "let's get it done" attitude. She grew up in a rural Texas town and was the first in her family to attend college, which ignited her passion for education and for educators who do everything possible to inspire students to keep learning.