How to build sustained and sustainable remote learning

3 Apr 2020, 5:00

As schools’ attention naturally shifts from crisis management to establishing new norms, Giancarlo Brotto offers some insights on how to build sustainably

The urgency of school closures meant that many children were sent home with a hard copy learning pack to keep them going for a short period. But when the activities in the packs are completed, what’s next? Emergency measures are now looking more long-term, so how can schools make remote learning more sustainable? Repurposing classroom technology for remote teaching can offer a solution, with the benefits of easy lesson delivery, instant communication – on some platforms – and no travel to collect materials or postage costs. If schools are interested in exploring this option, where should they start?

Audit your existing tools and training needs. What technology do you use already? How could it be reconfigured for remote learning? The more you can use the platforms that you are familiar with, the less stressful it will be. Your first port of call should be your Education Technology suppliers. Many software providers are offering free training on how to use classroom technology in a remote environment and will help you structure an effective lesson to deliver remotely. In fact, this will be a good test of whether your supplier can provide meaningful ongoing support.

Once you determine the right software and education technology tools available to you, you can build a plan for sustainable remote learning. You could follow the advice of one of the UK schools we work with. Plan your remote learning approach by following the three ‘C’s: Communication, Curriculum and Collaboration. Firstly, how will you use technology to communicate as a leadership team, and as a teaching team if the school is closed for several months? How will you communicate regularly with parents and with students?

The more familiar the platform, the less stressful it will be

For the school team, using a platform where everyone can attend an online meeting is ideal, for parents, social media is useful for one-to-many announcements, as is bulk texting. To ensure maximum accessibility, getting lessons to students is best done using a browser-based solution, which students can use on any connected device, including smartphones.

Secondly, think about planning your curriculum for digital delivery. This will involve exploring what will work for each age group. For instance, for young children, the reality is that they will need parental or guardian supervision to complete work online so the extent of remote teaching may be limited to the time that parents have available.

Thirdly, consider how you can foster collaboration. In university education using a MOOC model (massive open online course) is common, where a lecturer broadcasts a course to unlimited participants watching online. This doesn’t work as well for primary or secondary environments, where teachers need to track students’ progress and meaningfully assess their understanding. The best-case scenario would be to replicate the classroom environment as much as possible. In your technology audit look at solutions that foster learning via devices, that allow interaction between teacher and pupils and offer assessment functions.

This is a challenging time and schools will of course need to work within their limitations. Beyond its obvious IT issues, remote learning also raises issues of safeguarding and a digital divide which will need to be kept front of mind. For example, not every pupil will have access to a suitable device and loan schemes may need to be set up or extended.

Ultimately though, the benefits of providing regular contact, a curriculum, however streamlined, and some sense of normality, whether it’s delivered entirely digitally or through a mix of paper packs, emails to parents and/or a learning platform, remote education will be worth the learning curve. We believe schools will find remote teaching technology easier than they might expect, and that, whatever they are able to achieve, they will gain new insights into digital collaboration that can be applied to normal lessons when this is over.

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