Moving Learning Online: Teaching in a Time of Crisis


Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D., Interim Chief Executive Officer, Online Learning Consortium

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As a parent, I have the opportunity to observe how educators at both the K-12 and university level handle this rapid move to remote learning. As someone whose work centers on the field of online learning, I confess I’ve had to shake my head more than a few times in recent weeks — not in judgment, but out of concern and compassion for anyone who finds themself suddenly thrown into the world of online learning without preparation. Everyone is doing the best they can. During the crisis, I want to take every opportunity I can to continue to offer tips, best practices, and other insights to help all educators provide the best learning environment they can.

One of the biggest needs I see right now is a greater understanding of how teachers can be most effective when teaching remotely. So, in addition to the resources and free webinars OLC is sharing with our community, here are a few tips for the teachers among us who are jumping into remote teaching, practically overnight.

  1. Don’t wait. Many school districts and state Boards of Education are working hard to get the information teachers need to prepare for remote teaching. We all thought we were prepared for whatever may come our way, but in reality, who among us saw a pandemic coming that could close down schools across the country and around the world for such a long period of time? Now is not the time to wait to see what resources or training will be recommended for teachers. Your students need you to be on your game now. Find the critical knowledge you need to help you continue to educate your students. The OLC team has been working hard to make it easier by compiling a lot of information all in one place.
  2. Engage your students in the learning. One piece of advice for anyone new to online learning is that it is critical that you find ways to engage students in the learning process. Relying only on your synchronous lectures using a web conferencing platform is not ideal. While you can do some learning in that way, make sure you supplement with other more engaging activities like discussions or take your students on a virtual field trip. Keep lectures short and make sure you record them for students to review later. And try to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers.
  3. Teachers need to be engaged in the learning environment as well. If you are providing content to your students using a learning management system, make sure you are regularly in your online classroom to answer questions, engage in discussion forums, and provide timely and relevant feedback on assignments. Students in an online classroom can easily feel isolated, so it is critical that you are regularly interacting in a variety of ways. This can help you create your virtual presence in the classroom. 
  4. Share resources. If you find great resources, you should definitely share them with your colleagues. Others may not know where to go and may be waiting for answers from district administration. In the meantime, students are not getting what they need to learn and grow.
  5. Include the parents. Since you don’t have your students in front of you, it is more important than ever to keep parents informed about expectations. They will help to keep the child on target with homework that needs to be done.

After the current pandemic has passed and we resume our normal lives — and yes, we will get there — I encourage educators to continue learning. This won’t be the last time we face such a challenge. But one thing we can be sure of — this experience will help us to better prepare for the next time.

For a full list of resources and initiatives visit the OLC Resources for K-12 Educators Teaching Remotely website.

Dr Jennifer Mathes

Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D
Interim Chief Executive Officer, Online Learning Consortium

Jennifer is responsible for the development of OLC’s long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies. She also provides leadership in researching and planning strategic initiatives, special projects and partnerships that align with OLC’s mission, vision and goals. Dr. Mathes has nearly 20 years of experience in both public and private higher education where she has served as a faculty member and an academic leader.

She holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she wrote her dissertation on “Predictors for Student Success in Online Education.” She also has earned a Master of Science degree in Business Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications from Illinois State University.

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