As uncertainty continues to grow over what school will look like in the fall, it is becoming clear that school districts must develop longer-term plans. If online school is to become a norm, or a backup solution in the event of an outbreak of cases, a solution must be available to ensure learning continuity.
However, the online classroom is not new for all students and teachers. As the high school director for California Virtual Academies (CAVA), an online public school, I know what it takes to have a successful virtual education environment. By following these three tips, school districts can replicate a learning solution that works for students, families, and teachers.
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1. Provide online training to teachers
Think about when you visit a new city. You typically need a guide to help you navigate this new environment, right? The same can be said for teachers adjusting to online school. While they may use websites as an extension of their classroom, moving lessons entirely online is completely foreign at first.
That is why it is critical to provide them with training. At CAVA, teachers can join an extensive orientation that provides them with the tools they need to succeed. From logging in, to navigating their courses, it is essential that they are shown how to use the online tools the school provides.
Training teachers on the best strategies to conduct their lessons online is key. You can do just about anything online that you can do in a brick-and-mortar classroom, but how you do it obviously needs to be different. Teachers need to feel comfortable and confident using available online tools. After all, you cannot use what you do not realize exists.
2. Provide a support system for families
Not only do you have to train teachers on your online school platform, you need to help parents adjust as well. The key to this is accessibility and communication. Families need to know that help is available and how they can request it.
When families join CAVA, we host a series of orientations that provide families with important resources they need to know. They are also paired with a specialist who works with them through the orientation process and helps to answer any questions that come up.
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With the wealth of data available online, schools can monitor and intervene if issues arise – often before they escalate into larger issues. At CAVA, any signs of struggling, such as inconsistent log-ins, missing assignments, or missing attendance, will result in a specialist or school staff reaching out to provide guidance or support.
3. Create open and often communication opportunities
An important part of any quality program, regardless of platform, is to have clear expectations for everyone involved. From parents and students to teachers and school leaders, they all must know what is expected from them.
Communication must also be open to build a connection. Students and families need to feel connected to their school and school community. Teachers need to feel connected to their students. Building these relationships in an online environment is paramount to the connectedness everyone craves.
After all, this is what motivates students and drives engagement and success at school. Kids want to learn when they have a relationship with teachers. On the flip side, teachers enjoy teaching so much more when they have a connection with their student. Any learning model must use this concept as a foundation.
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