Actionable advice for educators to move to online learning

move to online learning

At this point, you’ve probably mastered the intricacies of digital conferencing to communicate with your students. You’re getting comfortable with a new schedule, technology, and online grading. But, you still need a little help navigating the seas of e-learning.

So, here’s actionable advice that you can use as a compass as you create a productive system for online learning. We’ll explore the following:

  • Long-term e-learning vs emergency remote teaching
  • What’s on the horizon of remote education?
  • 5 tips to implement as you journey to a new world of e-learning

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s set sail!

The difference between an e-learning strategy and an emergency remote teaching plan

If you weren’t implementing e-learning before the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely had to respond to the crisis with emergency remote teaching (ERT) — a temporary change in instructional operations in response to a crisis. During this time, you shifted your lesson delivery to digital channels that students could access remotely. And, it probably wasn’t easy.

Read more: On challenges and opportunities: Emergency remote teaching

Now, if you were one of the fortunate educators whose institution had an existing modern learning management system (LMS), then you had an advantage because there was at least partial familiarity with distance teaching technologies and tactics. And, this would have made the transition easier than if you had not.

Still, a partial understanding isn’t what you need for long-term remote teaching success. An e-learning strategy is a complete remote teaching plan with focused goals, rubrics, and defined measurements for student achievement. It is the only way to ensure that learners get the most from your course materials.

As you’re getting comfortable with your shift from offline learning to ERT and you understand the future outlook of distance education, you’ll realize why a second transition from ERT to an e-learning strategy is crucial.

This is the future outlook of distance learning

So that you get an idea of why e-learning is key in your line of work, look at what’s been happening in education through 2019 in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

  • First, the number of students enrolled in distance learning is on a steady rise.
  • Next, about one in three students enrolled in some form of distance learning.
  • And, nearly one in seven students enrolled exclusively in distance learning.
US students enrolled in e-learning courses

Keep in mind that these statistics are from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers show that the current state of education (primarily ERT) is likely a catalyst for a new culture of e-learning rather than a temporary solution in a time of crisis.

Even if you plan to go back to offline teaching in the Fall, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the latest edtech and trends. We don’t know when another crisis will strike. Plus, a permanent transition to at least partial e-learning is no longer a matter of if, but when.

Read more: E-learning in times of crisis: The CARE2 Framework

Here’s what you can do to get a head start with e-learning

The advice below will help you weather the storm as you move from ERT to e-learning. Whether you’re planning to implement distance teaching full or part-time, optimize the experience for your students.

  1. Get in on technology where it is today

    You no longer need to use outdated systems to power your courses. And, you’re in a position to learn the latest technology without migrating your entire teaching system. So, find out what new and updated software is available instead of diving into a technology that you learned 10+ years ago. The right LMS will have an intuitive design, be user friendly, and have powerful features.

  2. Don’t limit yourself to plug-n-play tools

    In addition to your central LMS, you may need communication, design, and content creation tools. Modern technology makes it simple to integrate most tools with your main system as add-ons or apps.

    But, if you’re not getting everything you need from the tools you use, research APIs that can give you complete customization over your operations. For example, you can use a messaging platform to create your own, powerful fully-customized group messaging app. If you know how to code, you’ll have an upper-hand here. If not, partner with a colleague in the tech department to make your vision reality.

  3. Optimize the onboarding process

    A key determinant in student success is onboarding. Many of your future e-learners will come to you with experience studying remotely. But this doesn’t mean that you can take for granted that they’ll know how to use every tool you put in front of them. So, spell it out and make sure your students know exactly what to expect when taking your course.

    Read more: Digital literacy vs. Computer literacy: Students need to develop both

    Here’s a quick checklist to make sure your students have what they need right away:

    • Add every user to your system immediately
    • Send out an introduction email with a course outline and links to all required resources and relevant tutorials — tell students to save the email
    • Include a list of the same resources and tutorials in the course dashboard
    • Be open to questions from students and optimize your lessons over time

    It’s also a good idea to send out surveys asking students about their onboarding challenges so you can apply their pain points to enhance the process.

  4. Use gamification to keep students engaged

    Gamification is the use of gaming elements in non-game contexts; adding fun and interactive elements to your dashboard. In e-learning, points systems, leaderboards, and interactive grading have been shown to improve the online learning experience and make students more likely to attend courses. So, these elements serve more purpose than simple entertainment.

    Read more: 5 Tips on how to gamify your classroom

  5. Give attention to all learning preferences

    Just as you give students in physical classrooms access to multiple course materials to appeal to each, you need to do the same in the e-learning environment. In practical terms, this means you should create multi-media course materials: image, video, article, hands-on, and more.

    So, explore various content creation tools and offer lessons in multiple formats. Furthermore, some of your students will be social while others solitary learners. This means that you will need to evenly disperse group/partner and solo projects as well.

    Read more: 5 Reasons e-learning is perfect for introverted students

Final thoughts

E-learning is more than an emergency response to a crisis. Rather, it is a solution that a majority of educators need to consider as a long-term method for teaching, at least some of the time. Use the advice above to create an optimized learning environment for your students.

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