Coronavirus: Taking small steps into online learning

The huge amount of 'free' apps and online learning offers can feel overwhelming. Here are seven simple steps to follow

Louise Jones

Coronavirus: 'Taking small steps into online learning'

Online learning can be quite daunting if you’ve not done anything like this before. Social media is awash right now with "free" apps and offers. It can be overwhelming knowing what to choose – there are just so many springing up with the coronavirus crisis.

Firstly, please don’t feel like you’re alone. Many if not all of your colleagues will be in the same place. We’re lucky in Scotland to have the Glow network for educators, which now offers both Microsoft and Google tools. The Glow team and your local authority will have checked security credentials, too, so that's one fewer thing to worry about.

Here are some more tips:

  1. Start small with your first steps with collaboration. Simply share a Google or Microsoft doc with a small group adding in a table with rows so everyone knows which row is theirs to type in. Share with colleagues first, and help each other. 
  2. Try sharing a link to a video or an image at the top of the document and ask questions in the document, your students can then type in their answers. Use a collaborative slide deck in a similar way and work on a group presentation. 
  3. Create a shared folder in a drive for your resources, helping to understand the cloud and being accessible anywhere and anytime.
  4. Create a pop-up website with a Google Site or a Wordpress blog, designing a site to be for the context or topic and adding in links to other websites or docs.
  5. No need to purchase survey tools, you can use a simple form (either Google or Microsoft) in Glow for collating ideas, quick polls, quizzes. Use this data in a sheet to find trends in the data. 
  6. Being social is natural and online learning needs to have a social element, try a Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to keep moderated conversations flowing. 
  7. Lastly, share, share and share some more, your social presence is important too, connect with colleagues in your own staff Teams or Classroom.

Live streaming lessons is at the more ambitious end of distance learning, and not always the best way to ensure your learners are engaged. Most successful distance learning is a mix of things to do "live" such as smaller group tutorials, self-directed learning with collaboration built in – but, importantly, keeping students talking and contributing to discussions will help to keep everyone engaged.

Louise Jones is an independent learning consultant and strategist, based in Scotland. She tweets @scotlandlouise

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