Is it possible to end class on a Friday, wish your students a good weekend, then teach online on Monday due to a coronavirus closure?
The school day for a primary or secondary school student has been structured the same for decades. Students arrive in the morning, attend classes, and go home near the end.
However, the traditional classroom structure can change drastically in the coming months.
COVID-19 (commonly known as the coronavirus) has penetrated over 100 countries and has affected over 130,000 people. Additionally, coronavirus has completely upset the social structure in many of the affected countries. The World Health Organization has officially labelled the outbreak as a pandemic. Italy, one of the most affected countries, has put the country on lockdown. Many countries are preparing for the potential impact of what it can bring.
It is almost a guarantee that both public and private industries will be affected by the expansion of the outbreak. Anything not deemed a necessity could be closed to the public. Groceries and pharmacies could be affected by overcrowding and desperation.
But what is the outlook for the education system?
Can Education Continue in a Pandemic?
Although we are conditioned to teach and learn in a formal education setting, we also live in a time that allows us to be successful with other means.
Many schools have already started preparing to continue teaching their curriculum through online methods. But many teachers are not prepared to deliver their lessons online, assign and mark assessments, and provide assistance to students digitally.
This is typically something educators are not taught in their post-secondary studies. So how do teachers transition to an online-based education system quickly?
The number of students who take online courses has increased each year. However, this will be a hard transition for many students who only know a formal classroom setting. It will be a challenge for the teacher to keep them engaged and signing in every day. But if teachers approach online lessons in the right way and are pre-prepared to do so, the transition will become much easier.
What Resources are Available to Teach Online Due to Coronavirus Closures?
Although the coronavirus outbreak has been impactful, the educational community has come together to help support all teachers in need of online resources.
Although many teachers are unfamiliar with educating students online, it is likely they will find a resource with free premium features that they can learn and implement into their online teaching.
Joli Boucher has curated a master list of all educational technology companies offering free resources. The list is long, so I will let you read through it at your own leisure. However, here are some of my favourite educational technology tools that have generously offered their services for free:
Additionally, there are opportunities to shift learning to online games or simulations. One such approach is getting students to compete in a stock market simulation. Because our markets are so volatile, it will really challenge students to learn how to time their investments and choose the right companies.
EXTRA READING: Productivity Tips for Teachers and Students
Tips for Shifting Teaching Online due to a Coronavirus Closure
The transition from a formal classroom to an online one will be tough. However, there are opportunities for us to be able to ease that transition for ourselves and our students.
- Start preparation regardless of the decision. If you are unsure whether or not your school will close, it is best to start preparing for that. Having to prepare students for a shift to online learning in a short period of time will be difficult. Start implementing small online learning now, whether it is completing assignments using the Google suite or engaging in an online conversation.
- Start short. Develop short online learning lessons. It will be hard to keep students engaged in a long-form live or pre-recorded video.
- Go live and record. Not all students will be able to access your live stream. Don’t punish students for this. Record all streamed lessons and make them available for students to review. This will allow students to review information, or engage in the lesson when they are able to.
- Engage students in the lesson. Give students options to prove their learning while watching the lesson. Give them links to different formative assessment tools, such as an online poll or questionnaire. This will encourage them to prove that they are learning and following along at a time where it’ll be harder for the teacher to ensure students are progressing.
- Get students used to this method of learning for the long-term. The reality for most post-secondary learners is that they will do some form on online learning in the future. By getting students prepared for this now, they will be able to understand how to approach online learning in a way to allow them to learn. This can be a hard transition for most students. It is better to give them the chance to try it out now to reduce the chances of failure or frustration in their post-secondary studies.
How Will I Teach Online due to a Coronavirus Closure?
Delivering Assessments to Students
My school’s decision is to close the week before and after our spring break. Because students will be away for three weeks, I want to try to keep them engaged in the content and advancing through the outcomes from home.
Luckily, we have already started preparing for that.
I have been using Google Classroom heavily for the past three years. Our school division provides Google-based accounts to all students and the majority of instruction and assessment is done using the G Suite for Education.
I plan to adapt my assessments to allow them all to be completed using the G Suite for Education. However, I am going to encourage more assessments to be completed in groups. This will hopefully force students to remain in contact with each other and will build their collaboration skills in a different way. The G Suite for Education has built-in chat boxes for this, but I plan to utilize other methods to encourage collaboration even more.
Answering Questions and Encouraging Discussion
Although Google provides tools to allow students to communicate, I plan to go off-platform for this.
I am going to encourage all my students to direct questioning and discussion around relevant topics to Twitter.
This may seem a bit off, as we have put all focus on Google in our school. However, the thing I love about Twitter is the ability to open up conversations past the members of the classroom.
In a lot of my classes, students have questions that are above my head. I typically try my best to find a relevant answer for them. But what if there was a way to ask experts in that specific field directly? Twitter allows that to happen in real-time.
For example, I have many students currently developing side hustles. They are all trying to build a business in different niches that I don’t have a heavy knowledge of. I encourage them to turn to Twitter to ask industry experts how they should handle a situation.
Additionally, I plan to use Twitter as the tool to consistently check in with students. By doing this, I can encourage students to ask more questions or start a discussion. We can then work together to scaffold off the original topic and include people who can provide different perspectives on a topic.
And in reality, who wouldn’t want to help a student when they are forced into a less-than-ideal situation?
I plan to utilize the tips mentioned above to deliver all of my lessons through Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. However, I plan to keep the instruction short and to the point, and allowing more time for students to ask questions or provide examples to enforce learning.
Additionally, I plan to screen-record all of my lessons to provide them to students after the fact. It is very easy to embed a YouTube video on Google Classroom. Students will be able to review the lesson if they were present, or watch it later if they were unable to attend.
Once the lesson is complete, I will aim to turn the questions towards Twitter and encourage students to reply. This will help advance their learning by hopefully including more people in the discussion.
Although I am forced to teach online due to a Coronavirus closure, that should not prevent the students from learning!
Closing schools is not ideal, but it is an important choice. Our leaders want to flatten the curve on a Coronavirus outbreak, and closing schools is one measure to accomplish that.
Therefore, it is important for us as teachers to prepare now.
I hope to use my blog as a tool to educate business teachers on how they can successfully teach online. Luckily for us, there are many other teachers trying to do the same.
The approaches above are best for my students, but that may not be the case with yours. Use the resources available to you or your school. Ask questions of people who know more about online teaching than you do. Work together with teachers both locally and elsewhere in the world.
This is a time where the educational community will rally around each other. Together, we can accomplish great things in a tough situation.
And our students will be thankful for that.
I would love to hear your approaches to teach online due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Please share how you will be transitioning your classroom in the comments below. Additionally, please share any questions or feedback you may have.
Thanks for reading, and good luck!