Distance Learning Strategies To Use In A Brick-and-Mortar Classroom

The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in the worldwide closure of schools.

More than 1.5 billion students are out of class, fortunately, not out of education. The on-going pandemic forced teachers to work harder, to adapt instructions in innovative ways to meet students' needs. Their shift to online teaching keeps most students onto their digital computers and smartphone screens for lectures, tutorials assignments, and assessments.  

This unprecedented sudden shift to e-learning posed varied challenges to both teachers and students vis-à-vis technology and access. It also brought the acceptance of the "new normal" which was lacking before. With schools planning to reopen, a new challenge is to retain these formidable and novel teaching techniques in the physical classroom; to not let them pass with the pandemic's passing. 

So here are a few distance learning strategies that will support any education institution in creating a better hybrid teaching model as in-classroom teaching resume alongside online. 

Flipped Learning

Flipped learning – "a  pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter" (The Flipped Learning Network, 2014.)  

Teachers use flipped learning massively in online classes. They provide new content to students through recorded mini-lessons, YouTube videos, or interactive education-based puzzles. Students watch the video on their own until they understand the concept, and during a live class or in small group "coaching" sessions, they get a chance to apply what they learned. Then, teachers provide additional support by answering questions, correcting misconceptions, etc.  

The same can be done in a traditional setting by giving students something to view or read for homework, like a video, podcast, or text. Back in class, students can be asked to work on tasks that make them apply their learnings. Hold individual conferences or groups discussion, for the same. Understand their points and check where to correct and guide them.  

Child-led Learning

Distance learning allows teachers to peep into the personal lives of their classes. Teachers get to see children's interests and abilities in a range of areas that aren't normally a feature of a school day.  

For instance, in home-schooling, budding scientists conduct pH experiments with vegetables in the fridge, artistic children create bedroom-wall galleries, and athletes do physical exercises.  

These activities help online instructors capture student's interest. The same could be brought into traditional settings and used to develop curriculums that develop children's inner talents and facilitate child-led learning. You could take help from your greatest resource – the children – to plan your learning. Ask what activity they like the most? Ask what their plans are? What resources do they need? How would they lead the work? 

Child-led learning is all about following a child's interests and their signs of readiness for academic skills and their curiosities. It has several added benefits

Goal Setting and Reflection

Goal setting and self-reflection strategies to aid students in thinking about their work to edit and make decisions about future steps in various processes. It is one of the most important learning strategies, for both online and offline.  

This learning strategy makes the student an independent learner, allows them to set their goals for learning, and regularly reflects on the process to check whether they work. Also, you can help weave goal-setting into the fabric of your class by having students periodically set learning goals based on their experience, survey data, research, and interest.  

Students usually create a goal for a day or week to check-in with the teacher in distance learning. You can use a fresh or on-going Google Doc or another tool to record their plan and progress. This helps you, the teacher, get a sense of what feels manageable to students given their unique circumstances at home.   

For the physical classroom, teachers can start with a SMART goal framework and explore models of high-quality goals. Set goals for a group first, then, shift to individual goals and determine the steps students would take to accomplish the goal. Track their goal-related activities, prepare a report, and reflect upon it. Allowing students to lead is a good option.  

Genius Hour

Google originated "Genius Hour" sparks intrinsic motivation in students to continue learning even if there's little or no access to technology or when work is not graded. Furthermore, this strategy helps them learn skills like research, note-taking, goal setting, and time management in projects that students are interested in.   

This massively used strategy can be practised during a leisure period in school whereby students learn about a topic chosen by them. They create a working plan on - What to research? How to lead the work? How to investigate, etc. By the end of the class, they share what they have learnt. This strategy motivates students to learn through thorough research and from their peers while exchanging ideas. Additional support from teachers can do wonders. You can help them learn about diverse topics by focusing on independent learner skills and connecting them with an expert project-mentor. 

Personalized Learning

In online "personalized learning," students often use a Google Doc choice board to complete various asynchronous activities every week and then log their activities in a journal. They can then review material to check if they are mastering a particular skill or understanding a concept exceptionally.   

Alike distance learning, assign customized homework to students catering to their requirements. Allow students to choose to work on pathways to help them support a standard they have not yet mastered. Students can use a pathway tracker to monitor their progress. (Read more about How personalized learning works?)  

Warm-up questions

Often, online classes start with "warm-up" questions about what students do a day before the class? What plans do they have after-school? What did they have for breakfast, etc.? This keeps students interested and also helps teachers check whether any students need more support and guidance. 

The traditional offline class setting where teachers are expected to start teaching immediately after stepping into the class can be replaced with this "warm-up question" session to make learners comfortable.  

Exit tickets as a formative assessment

Teachers use "exit tickets" in online learning classes to either ask students to summarize their progress on a project or write about any given topic. Exit tickets help teachers shape their understanding of their students and plan better for future classes.  

Incorporating exit tickets into traditional classrooms is essential. Some days it might be a simple Google Form; on others, it might be a chat window for students to talk about what they found interesting about a topic. Teachers can even, go the old-fashioned way and pass slips of paper to track anonymous feedback and sort ideas into categories.   

Feedback through e-mail

Ever since, this transition to remote teaching, teachers have become accustomed to sending quick two-liner e-mails for small assignments, circulate updates, assignment feedback, and other specifics. Retaining this feedback model won't be as painful as it seemed before. Not only does this save time for teachers, but students would also have more opportunities for clearing their queries. An e-mail also aids in giving confidential feedback which – earlier – would be announced class-wide, often making some students hesitant to be open about their mistakes. This will also bring a personal touch which is essential to a good education. It will help students know that their teachers know and notice them and help them appreciate their tutors. 

Do suggest a few more strategies that can be brought back to the traditional classrooms to provide a whole new learning experience.   

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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