Distance Learning: Reflecting on the Experience

Distance Learning: Reflecting on the Experience

With the challenges brought forth by COVID and uncertainties surrounding the next school year, educators are preparing for a Fall semester that might be composed of in-person instruction, distance learning, or both. During the past few months and looking forward to Fall 2020, teachers have been creative with building an online learning environment that mimics their physical classroom, a space for physical interaction where all students have equal access to resources and all students are fully engaged.

We spoke to a lot of teachers and school admins about their experience with distance learning during the past three months and we found that the three seemingly most important elements of effective online teaching were:

  1. Lesson planning & distance instructional materials
  2. Motivating and engaging students to attend class and pay attention
  3. Assessing students’ learning and providing feedback

Does this sound familiar to you? These priorities are not that much different than in-person classroom teaching, but tech is more involved.

Lesson planning:

Attention spans are a lot shorter when physical human interaction is absent. Ready-made lesson plans and slides like the ones available on ChalkTalk help a lot in planning 20-minute synchronous lessons which can be administered live and then recorded and shared with students.  

Agreeing with students on structured synchronous learning meeting times has also shown to be very helpful. A fully-asynchronous teaching experience with distance learning has shown to not be as effective as combining synchronous and asynchronous learning. If possible, letting students know what they need to do in advance makes them come to class fully prepared.

Motivating and engaging students:

Brain breaks are essential in student engagement when learning remotely. You can simply break instruction or create a game around it. For example, you can break long classes with a rhythm game where one student creates a clapping rhythm and then the entire class repeats it. The next student repeats the exact rhythm and adds one more beat to it; then the entire class repeats it. This sequence can be repeated as many times as you see necessary. Don’t forget to have the mics on for this activity.

Assessing student learning and providing feedback

Teachers have been using online assessments even when they were in the same room as their students. The ability to assign personalized practice sessions and grade tests with a few clicks has helped take a lot of burden off teachers.

In distance learning, teachers would monitor the class practice activity and remotely assign additional practice to students who need it. Scheduling 1:1 meetings or holding office hours where teachers give feedback and answer questions individually is also very helpful to students if you can find the time.

Additional Information

Check out ChalkTalk’s 10 tips for effective classroom management. If you have a tip that should be there, drop us an email, we’d love to hear from you!


Author: Zaina Mismar, Training and Implementation Manager at ChalkTalk