Monday, October 5, 2020

Do's and Don'ts of Distance Learning and the Components of Teaching


   For those that are new to Distance Learning, it's important to know what is expected. 

 A clear picture clarifies the work tasks, and makes the teaching and learning process much easier. In order to do this, an instructor must first implement the essential components of learning that they use in daily face-to-face instruction. 

This seems as simple common sense, but some of us have been tossed into a Distance Learning instruction world with little or no time to spare. It can take years of training and study to become proficient in this form of teaching.

So, why are the components of learning important to Distance Learning? 

The components of learning are commonly accepted methods of teaching. It is important to abide by them as there is less confusion. The subject matter is made easier for students to understand, thus a better instruction level is achieved.

What should teachers be addressing first in a Distance Learning class? 

The first thing that teachers should be doing is an assessment of what the student knows now in the specific subject matter. This can be done in many formats such as a general test, a mini pretest, an essay format, or asking verbal questions in online meetings using websites such as Zoom or gotomeetingThe teacher can then plan activities better for all of the students. If a student needs extra support in a certain area, then the child's needs can be addressed with additional activities or help and support from an assistant.

What's Next?

The very next thing that teachers should be explaining is how student grades will be calculated.

Create a rubric or syllabus for the semester and explain what is expected. This can be done in a brief 10 to 15 minute teacher video presentation.

Simply start instruction.

Introduction to Class

Have introductory activities that engage students. For example, if beginning a class in algebra, why not begin with learning about some math pioneers such as Diophantus of Alexandria, Aryabhata and Joseph Fourier.

Background Knowledge and Review

The next task is to level the playing field of learning. Some students may have more knowledge than others in a particular subject, as most learners remember the subjects that they enjoy or do well in. But, a good lesson plan helps all learners. Giving supplemental background knowledge of the subject leads to better understanding of the content.


Engage students in a brief formal review or fundamental steps needed for the content to be studied. 

 For example, it's high school and most of your 9th grade students did not fare too well on the grammar portion of the assessment. They've explained that grammar was not taught since elementary school. Give review mini lessons of the 8 parts of speech and later host a grammar game in online conferencing.


   Simply start instruction.

Activities to Build Knowledge

Teachers relay the content matter in various forms such as lectures, pages to read, videos or PowerPoints to watch, read-a-longs, sing-alongs, worksheets to fill in, Venn diagrams and web-quests.


Invite students to ask questions, parlay or debate in an online conferencing format.


Give assignments for students to read excessive pages and give vague instructions. 

   For example, "Read the first 50 pages of Treasure Island and take notes."

Student Practice

Before any evaluation is done on what the student knows, give an opportunity for students to show what they have learned.


Give feedback. Students can then improve upon the subject at a hand, rework the problem or study the needed terminology.


Give grades to student practice work, but rather give completion credits.


 Ask students to take snapshots of their work. The writing will almost always be fuzzy and unreadable. Instead use documents for students to fill in and send back in an email.



Give feedback and allow for questions. Give study guides on the topic of everything that will be covered on the quiz or test.


Start a new topic or discuss a new way to solve.


Formal Assessment

At this point, after students have practiced and studied the tasks, a graded quiz can be given. As in school or face to face learning, this can be done in a variety of formats such as student PowerPoints, projects, traditional tests, student videos, worksheet fill-ins and video conferencing.


 Give your students feedback. Students can then improve upon the subject at hand for the final test.


Simply end instruction.

Cumulative Assessment

A cumulative assessment is a test on the work done during the semester. 


Remember to give a review several days before this test to prepare students in their quest of achievement. Go over the cumulative test after they are graded for even more student feedback. 


Ask straight forward questions on your exams. Any questions poised that are very vague or rarely discussed often confuses students.

Distance Learning has been a university degree for at least the past twenty-five years. Students have been learning in this format for even hundred of years through the mail system. But, it takes training and study to become successful in this form of teaching.


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