Tips for online learning from a distance educator

The transition to online learning can be complex, and almost everyone who moves to home schooling will face challenges. There will be technical issues at both ends, unrealistic expectations, and a steep learning curve.

Teachers who have never taught online before face multiple challenges, from learning how to use the multiple software solutions provided for them, right through to simple connectivity issues.

Plus, teachers will often be the first point of contact for students and parents struggling with the system.

It’s a big ask, so we’ve spoken to an experienced distance educator – Emma Hopkirk from the School of the Air – to get her tips for surviving the transition:

  1. Relationships are important to help develop motivation
    Be available for students, answer their questions and get in contact with them regularly just to check in. She uses weekly phone calls to build relationships with students and support their wellbeing.
  2. Double check your resources
    Check the resources you’re using adequately cover the content descriptors and achievement standards. Where possible source or create video content to replace text-heavy resources which may disadvantage students based on reading ability.
  3. Use video and screen recordings to engage students
    Keep videos short – mini videos are better than long ones as this helps keep students focused (5 mins max). Teachers should also record themselves on screen so students can see them. Screencast-o-Matic is a great free option.
  4. Give students written feedback
    Written feedback is often better than verbal/recorded feedback if you want students to edit or make changes to their work. Modelled responses for assessments are great to refer to throughout the whole unit. Students know what is expected straight away and all have a copy to support them in completing the assessment task at the end of the unit. And try to provide feedback as soon as possible.
  5. Create pdf help sheets for specific skills
    You will be able to keep these once made and use with all students. This could be developed into a bank of resources the school has to share so teachers don’t need to create help sheets for all skills.
  6. Split lessons into blocks and keep them short
    Try not to have a lesson go for a long time as students will lose focus and motivation at home.

“I would encourage everyone to have patience, give it time before expecting students to be completing 5 hours of school work each weekday. It often takes at least a term for our families with Distance Education to get into the routine of working from home. There can be a lot of stress on students, parents and teachers during this time of trying to ‘work it out’.”


Emma’s top resources for online learning:

  • ClickView is a great resource for educational videos
  • Quizziz is another great resource to develop quizzes for students. This helps with motivation and engagement.
  • Use an online Calendar to organise teacher time but also student time. Invite students to session times (if holding ‘live’ sessions), add due dates etc. This will help students know when important events and assessments are coming up. Outlook, Google, and Apple all offer online calendars, but you’ll need to find one that works with your school’s IT system and student laptops.
  • AdobeScan is a great app that allows quick scans of documents that can easily be emailed as a pdf and is great for students to return work via email.
  • Mark student work electronically using Adobe Reader (Comments Tool).
  • Zoom is free and a great resource for video conferencing – check out these tips for teachers

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