How to Prepare Students for Virtual Learning
Why Is It Important to Help Students Prepare for Virtual Learning?
Virtual learning is clearly here to stay for many reasons. Children with health issues or disabilities who can’t attend school regularly need access to materials. Children may need to stay home from school but don’t want to fall behind in class. Many students learn better virtually than they do in person.
Virtual learning doesn’t have to fully supplant in-person learning, but it can certainly complement and enhance its effectiveness in a lot of ways. This paradigm shift toward virtual learning allows students to learn at their own pace and creates more of a focus on collaborative learning rather than rigid lecture-style teaching.
Three Ways to Prepare Students for Virtual Learning
Ensure that your students have access to sufficient internet connection and learning technology in advance of starting virtual classes. Admittedly, a student’s home environment, including the security of their internet connection, the quietness of their learning space, and the type of technology they have access to is mostly outside of your control.
But whatever you can do to ensure that all students have access to the resources your school or institution provides is a big help. Make sure all of the students know how to turn on, adjust, and control their tablets/computers/microphones/headsets. Make instructional videos or memos giving them tutorials so they can refer to them if they need to troubleshoot. Give them the contact info for your IT support team (and have it handy yourself). And have patience with them–and yourself–in the virtual classroom, as it can be challenging for everyone involved.
Create a Space Where Students Can Interact
There are so many wonderful virtual platforms where students can interact and collaborate with each other. Here are just a few. Which you choose will depend on your subject matter, your students, and your personal preference.
Zoom or Google Meet Breakout Rooms: These are some of the most common ways that students interact with each other before/during/after a presentation by the teacher. They can have conversations and ask each other questions about the subject matter, then they can share what they’ve learned or discussed when the classroom reassembles in full in the main room. It can be hard for students to feel comfortable in these breakout rooms, the same way they might feel nervous in small groups in person. Giving them a nonacademic topic to discuss first (“What did you do this weekend?”) can help break the ice. Additionally, giving extremely clear instructions before breaking into small groups that students can access even when they have left the main room and giving students a way to communicate with you from the breakout room will make the groups easier to facilitate and will leave less room for fooling around and/or confusion about the assignment.
The Google Suite: Google is another very accessible and user-friendly way to engage students in a virtual learning environment. There are different applications for every type of learning. For example, students could use Google Docs to collaborate on a group paper. They could use Slide Decks to create a group presentation. They can use Drawings to create a poster or concept map, and they can use Sheets to create a mathematical table, a glossary, or a schedule.
Jamboard and Padlet: Jamboard and Padlet are virtual dashboards with visual and verbal elements that let students make comments, annotate texts, ask questions, and organize information asynchronously.
FlipGrid: FlipGrid is a virtual space perfect for sharing ideas asynchronously, allowing students to share their ideas in a video recording. For those who have trouble expressing themselves in writing or visually, this is an excellent place to make those learners feel at ease. You can do anything on FlipGrid from giving a presentation to asking a question about a text.
Advise Students to Be Present and Ask Questions
Something that helps in virtual learning environments is crystal clear communication–both for instructions and expectations. Before the lesson, let students know how you expect them to behave. Video on? Microphone off? Chat ok? Setting clear boundaries will help the lesson go smoothly. Additionally, let them know what they’ll be expected to know by the end of the lesson. “By the end of today, you should be able to follow the order of operations when solving an equation.”
This will help keep them on track. Have a time and place in the lecture for asking questions and let students know how to do that. Use the chat? Raise their hand? You can encourage further engagement by asking students to use the chat for a specific purpose, having them share their screen as they solve problems, or letting other students answer a student’s question if they know the answer.
How Haverford Can Help
Virtual learning can be a challenge for all involved, but it’s also here to stay. Haverford Systems is the best and most experienced AV installation company in the Philadelphia area. We can provide any technology solution or support you need. Book a meeting with us today to find out more.
If you’re interested in reading more about virtual learning, you can check out this blog post or this one, both about virtual learning in higher ed.