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Tips for effective distance learning

Adapt your communication skills.

  • If you and your student can connect live, do it! There are many free tools available for teachers to give live video lessons and record them for students to watch later.
  • Let students know you’re thinking of them. Send them a note via email, your learning management system, or classroom messaging app. Share with students what you’re missing about seeing them in person, and how excited you’ll be to see them again soon!
  • Please provide feedback! Qualitative feedback is essential to student growth, and oftentimes, it can be forgotten when teaching in a distance environment. Students are looking to you to let them know how they are doing and that their distance work has purpose.
  • Distance does not prohibit collaboration. There are tools like Google Docs and Slides which allow students to collaborate and communicate—in real time!—around shared problems and ideas.
  • Keep in touch with the community. It’s important to remember that parents and families are working virtually too and that we’re all stronger together. If possible, reach out to one—or more!—family per week to share something their student is doing well. Also, don’t hesitate to let parents/guardians know you appreciate them for supporting their child’s distance learning.
  • Reach out to other teachers and school staff. Other teachers—colleagues and friends—are going through this transition as well. Use some of the same tools you use with students to connect with other teachers.

Choose the best tools, and stay with them!

  • Keep using what works. Are there digital tools you’ve been using in class all year like Khan Academy? Great, keep using them!
  • For new tools, pick what fits you and your students best. Remember, just because something sounds great for someone else’s class, doesn’t make it the right fit for you. No one knows your class better than you, so use what works best for you and your students.
  • Stay consistent! Don’t switch to new tools every day or week. Adapting to distance learning is a challenge on many levels, and rotating tools frequently adds to the stress and confusion for everyone. Finding what works and sticking with it helps students remain focused on learning new concepts—not new tools.

Keep a schedule.

  • Keeping a schedule with distance teaching and learning is easier said than done. Stick to consistent times for working and connecting with students. Schedules are not just for students, they provide consistency for teachers as well. Determine specific times to lesson plan, connect with students, etc.
  • Looking for examples? We’ve got you covered.

Support independent learning.

  • Encourage students to master new skills. Students can use this time to fill gaps, move ahead, or learn something new. By using Khan Academy’s mastery system, you can help students set mastery goals below, on, or above grade level. Students can move at their own pace. Some teachers even encourage students to find courses that excite them outside their subject area. Learn more on how to use course mastery.

Motivate your students.

  • Set clear goals—and include students in the process! Keeping students motivated is hard, and doing it from a distance is even harder. Have students set individual or class goals for working in a distance environment, and then communicate these goals with students and families. Learn more about goal-setting on Khan Academy.
  • Recognize milestones. Try sharing a celebratory video, and offer to complete a challenge in return—one teacher recorded himself eating a ghost pepper!—or send a virtual certificate of achievement for students who have shown progress this week. You’ll find some Khan Academy certificates here.

Recognize the emotional impact.

  • Provide students an opportunity to reflect. It’s essential to remember that distance learning is about more than just the curriculum. Try switching out an assignment with an opportunity for students to write and reflect on their distance learning experience. Some teachers encourage using tools that allow for comments so students can share reflections and leave supportive notes for their peers.
  • Don’t forget to express gratitude. Use brief emails or classroom messaging tools to encourage yourself and your students to send messages of appreciation digitally.
  • Be honest—with students and yourself! Distance learning is a lot to take in all at once. Share your distance teaching and learning experience with students, and let them know it’s ok to struggle with a new tool or a new concept.

Cut yourself and your students a break!

  • Be realistic, don’t expect to cover everything you would in class. Choose key standards or concepts to focus on. Which skills are the most important for students to understand? Choose a handful—most teachers suggest 2-3/week—for students to work on. Provide a few—3-5/week—engaging assignments for students to work on aligned to the chosen skills. Learn more on how to create assignments using Khan Academy.
To see more tips for distance teaching and learning with Khan Academy, check out a full recording of our webinar here.

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