When working on their online courses, students use a block of dedicated computers in our school’s media center, or they can also use iPads. When I proctor exams (not all are proctored), I get a loaner laptop and the students sit in my office and take the exam on that laptop.
3. Set early expectations. When we approve students to take an online class, they receive a registration email and an instructional video. We accept 35 new students into the program every year; everyone else is placed on a waiting list due to demand. I keep a few spots open to accommodate the roughly 80-100 students who transfer to our school every fall. Right out of the gate, I explain to them exactly how the online classes work so they fully understand the course structure before they apply, get accepted, and start the program. I remind them all again in the fall, and we kick off the online program one week after we start school. During the first two weeks of class, I meet with the kids and review everything again, make sure that they’ve done the online student orientation and ensure that everyone can log in. Then, I go over it again, just to make sure that 1) there are no surprises, and 2) students are set up for success.
4. Follow up and follow through. I especially like the automated weekly emails students receive from our online learning partner, letting them know where they are in terms of grades and progress. I use those emails to follow up with students and will send out “Excellent job, keep it up” messages to those who are doing well and request that those with grades of 75 or lower meet with me for an in-person check-in. It’s a good way for me to follow up and tap in to remind them that I’m still here, even if they’re doing well in the course.
Every so often a student will approach me for help with a course like AP Economics and I encourage them to work with their online teacher first. This is important because it teaches students how to advocate for themselves. I may also offer up helpful website links and/or post about the student’s question in the online learning program’s learning management system in case any other students who are taking the course have similar questions. Then if they’re still stuck, I can step in to help them figure it out and come up with a solution.
Schools or districts that are starting new online programs or that want to refine their existing initiatives can use these tips to increase the impact and successful outcome and fully leverage the power of virtual learning.
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