Remote learning: How to reset expectations

We may be well rehearsed at teaching online now but taking time to re-establish routines will pay off in the long run, says Laura Tsabet
7th January 2021, 3:00pm
Laura Tsabet


Remote learning: How to reset expectations
Coronavirus: The Neu Teaching Union Has Called For Secondary Schools To Keep Learning Online Until 18 January

In the final few weeks before the Christmas break, many of the students who were lucky enough to make it into school slumped into their classrooms, weary from all the uncertainty and ongoing debates about their education.

They were met by equally weary teachers, exhausted by long hours and unavoidable cover for absent colleagues, while also feeling downtrodden from the relentless vitriol blasted at them on social media and some news platforms.

Yet, after a period of much needed rest and recuperation - although perhaps a little blighted by increasing infection rates and tier restrictions - teachers and students have risen to the challenges thrown at them by this week's announcements and are preparing for the next six weeks of online learning.

As many teachers return again to live lessons, it is vital to reset standards and make the routines and expectations for this way of working crystal clear to students (particularly for those who may be struggling with motivation after recent exam announcements) once more.

Ready to reset 

If previously learned routines are no longer functioning as effectively as they were during the last period of remote teaching, it is advisable that teachers put aside a couple of lessons for a reset.

Regardless of whether you're a trainee, newly qualified teacher or veteran teacher, taking the time to reteach routines and reiterate your high expectations of students will ensure their success in the spring term and beyond.

So, how do you go about pressing the reset button and bringing order and structure back to your online classroom?

Take time

First, you must acknowledge that a reset takes time. If you need to take two or three lessons to practise start and end of live-lesson procedures, the electronic distribution and return of resources and classwork, and even appropriate behaviour with webcams and the chat function, then take the time to do it, and remind yourself that the time put aside to practise them now will pay dividends later on.

Start by performing a walk-through of the routine. Share your screen, pretending to be a student, and explicitly teach students each individual step of their routine again before asking them to practise it under your guidance. This means you can give instant feedback at each stage and provide students with concrete actions to close gaps in the routine with immediate effect.

Swift correction 

Lightening-quick correction of any off-task behaviour is essential, too. Correct it in the first instance that it occurs rather than waiting until multiple students are failing at the routine. This means that you need to have an eye on webcams and the chat box as much as possible.

Swift correction sends a message about the standard for engagement in the routine and means that the rest of the class have the opportunity to redirect themselves, too.

Once practised, these routines should continue to be monitored daily until they are consistent and considered normal in your online classroom.

Communicate the rationale

Finally, remember to explain to students your rationale for using lesson time to practise online routines and procedures. Students need to understand that time spent on these will help to maximise every minute of lesson time for the remainder of this period of online learning - something which shouldn't be underestimated.

Understanding the thinking behind the reset is more likely to make them respond positively to something that they may not initially see much value in.

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