eLearning has been gaining popularity in recent years. As more districts consider this alternative to the traditional make-up day, many administrators have questions about how to ensure a successful eLearning day for students, teachers, and the community. Here are eight common questions district leaders need to consider.
1. Why do you want to use eLearning?
If your go-to answer is “so we don’t have to make up snow days,” you may want to rethink your purpose. In order to gain teacher and community buy-in, you will need a more meaningful reason for using eLearning. Many districts use eLearning to ensure students have continuity of learning despite inclement weather and to avoid the “lost days” tacked to the end of the school year. They also want to show students that learning can happen any time, anywhere. Furthermore, teachers enjoy the ability to offer learning opportunities not possible in a traditional classroom.
2. What’s right for your district?
Not all eLearning needs to look the same. Not all of your grades may be 1:1 yet, and that’s okay. Leverage as much of the lesson online as possible and provide alternative plans for students with no device. Remember, not all learning needs to (or should!) happen online. Provide structure for your district and teachers but allow them the flexibility they have in their classrooms to provide instruction that works for their students.
3. How will you gain community and teacher buy-in and support?
By gathering data from the community and teachers, you can create an eLearning plan that best fits your district. How many students have access to Wi-Fi at home? Are there public areas in the community that offer free Wi-Fi and are easily accessible?
How will you ensure teachers can create engaging and high quality lessons? Delivering lessons digitally is a new process for many K-12 teachers. What will your professional development for teachers look like? Do you have an eCoach or school leaders who can help? By addressing community and teacher concerns you will be able to gain buy-in and support.
4. What are your expectations for students, teachers, and staff?
Create and communicate clear expectations with all stake-holders. How long do students have to complete work? When are teachers available for help? What do non-certified staff do on an eLearning day? Having prepared responses to anticipated questions will make your learning community feel more supported and at ease.
5. Where will students access their lessons? What will they look like? What if they have multiple teachers?
Consistency is key to ensuring students can easily access lessons. Imagine you have three children, two who attend an elementary school and one who is in middle school. Now imagine each child’s teacher has a completely different way to access eLearning lessons. Not only would you get frustrated as a parent trying to find the lessons, but your middle school student could really be in for a treasure hunt with several different teachers’ lessons to find. You don’t want parents and students to be frustrated about eLearning days. You could lose community buy-in. Even worse, students may not complete the work if they cannot find it, which would mean all of the preparation would be for naught. One of the keys to making eLearning run smoothly is being consistent in how students will access their lessons. Consider a district-wide lesson plan template such as this one for all teachers to share their lessons. Create a landing place for all lessons. You could use your LMS or even Google Drive folders for each building with each teacher having a folder with their name. Whatever you choose, be sure it is a platform used regularly. If your elementary students don’t normally use an LMS, putting eLearning lessons in one could make access difficult or confusing.
6. Where will parents and students access eLearning related information?
Create a resource hub for easy access to information such as planned eLearning dates, troubleshooting tips, and local Wi-Fi accessibility. Consider creating a special hotline or email address for tech specific help. Encourage teachers to remind parents of how they can be contacted for assistance regarding lesson content.
7. How can you ensure students and teachers are ready?
Practice, Practice, Practice! Encourage teachers to regularly use the tools in their classroom that they will use for eLearning. Have a district-wide practice day where everyone wears pajamas to school and pretends it’s an eLearning day. Students can access their work as they would from home, and if they need assistance, they can email their teacher. This also gives teachers a chance to see if their lessons are ready for a real eLearning day. Did they plan too little or too much? Are their instructions clear?
8. How will you assess how the the eLearning day went and what can be done to improve, refine, and grow?
Follow-through and feedback are crucial to ensure you are on the right track. Reach out to parents and students and see what worked well and what didn’t. Provide feedback to teachers about their lessons; a simple rubric such as this one can help teachers know if they are developing high quality eLearning lessons.
As with any new initiative, planning to implement eLearning in your district creates a lot of questions. Asking the right questions will ensure that you create a plan that is best for your district and community.
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