Jan 18, 2021

The transition to distance learning: the most effective techniques to win the competition

Distance learning is one substantial change that people have started to feel recently. Some time ago, a digital education was one's choice and an option provided by specific institutions. Today, you can witness how the transition to distance learning has become a new form of modern education that is likely to continue for a long time. 

Both administrations and families must learn some tips on how to accommodate new circumstances, schedules, and learning methods. We will first consider some learning strategies that can help tutors and teachers succeed in the virtual learning environment and then some practical strategies for managing distance learning.

Online learning techniques

Any teaching method requires a well-thought out strategy. Namely, a person should study every available technique that is likely to work for the subject and audience; it may combine several approaches depending on the level of difficulty and specifics of the topics, for instance. There are six specific strategies that suit the e-learning environment the best:

  • Interleaving — This strategy involves the blending of ideas. You may have remembered how an engaging topic can become somewhat dull if you learn it for too long. Allowing students to effectively jump from one topic to another can be very useful. Interleaving allows students to connect the facts, events and perceive the main topic as a part of a bigger idea. Moreover, this strategy can help you to better distinguish the differences between several ideas. As a result, a person develops critical thinking skills.
    The teachers who prefer interleaving to other strategies should be aware that it can cause misunderstanding and confusion in the beginning. However, give your students some time and you will soon see positive outcomes.
  • Spreading out — Another name for this strategy is 'spacing,' and it involves stretching learning material into small sessions with breaks in between. In other words, it is much more effective to divide two-hours’ worth of material into four shorter lessons, than to study all the material in one go. 
    This strategy is both practical and efficient. During virtual learning, it is essential that students have a regulated schedule that takes into account other learning activities and personal needs. Using the spacing strategy, it is easier to stretch the sessions so that every learner can review the material at his or her own pace.
    Please note that spacing should be supervised, as some students can be less organized and procrastinate, postponing the tasks until the last moment. It is the job of the teachers to assist in the creation of a schedule and its arrangement. Virtual classrooms are more about self-sufficiency, but some students will undoubtedly need help early on.
  • Elaboration — As the name suggests, this strategy means participants dig deeper into the topic, creating a detailed portrait of the problem, using questions such as 'why,' 'how,' and ‘for how long,' among others. Elaboration helps students examine the reasons and consequences of an event and then make conclusions.
    The best part of the strategy is that it is suitable for both individual coursework and group projects. When talking about the online learning process, it would work well for home-work assignments. Keep in mind that it is possible to combine elaboration with the previous two strategies for a more impressive effect. 
  • Retrieval — This strategy allows you to extract knowledge from past lessons. Often, the method involves well-known rehearsing practices such as tests, quizzes, and question-answer tasks. Yet, there are some more exercises for you to consider.
    Get students to take some time in the first minutes of a class to fill in a template with text from a previous class that misses some facts, names, or dates. Another way of repeating material is to get students, either individually or in groups, to write down anything critical they can recall from previous online lessons. By doing this, teachers can see exactly what the students have recalled and what may require further work.
    Note that many virtual classroom platforms give teachers the option to create their own quizzes. The feature can simplify the entire retrieval process, as a teacher can easily adjust the test depending on the subject. Using a proper course management system, such repetitive practices will be more organized and take less time.
  • Dual coding — Even though the name may seem complicated, the idea of dual coding is to unite visual and verbal material. In other words, teachers should accompany their words with photographs, diagrams and infographics.
    While conventional education institutions always try to diversify the ways children access information, the digital space allows you to go further and do things such as annotating video presentations. 
    So, why consider information represented through various means? In addition to a better memorable effect, dual coding allows learners to examine the topic from different perspectives. In addition, some students are better at retaining visual elements better than audio information. This strategy is effective, but teachers should still make sure any long videos are paused to allow students to process information and discuss any issues that arise.
  • Concrete examples — People like it when specific examples from real-life follow theory. One of the tips for virtual learning is to explain complicated theorems and ideas with situations that may happen to students, or use concepts that are well-known to learners.
    Diversity of concrete examples is vital for this successful strategy. Sure, you can apply one specific illustration to make a theory in physics more comprehensive. However, it is twice as good when you underpin the idea with examples from different spheres.

Every strategy presented here brings its benefits to the entire distance learning process. Before you pick your favorite, keep in mind that these different approaches can complement one another. The concrete examples, dual coding, elaboration, retrieval, spreading out, and interleaving strategies can be vital ingredients in your personal teaching and learning technique.

Useful hints on fully-fledged e-learning

Now that you know what strategies can be used by learners, their families and teachers, it is time to discover what else you can do to set an example for other teachers and institutions. 

Utilize proper digital support

Online distance learning presupposes the use of durable, certified, and functional software. As digital lessons became a must during the quarantine, schools and universities had to mull over the choice of learning platforms to meet the needs of all parties. Some programs are designed for teacher-student interaction, while others focus on organizational and administrative duties. 

You can imagine how hard it is to switch to a new type of education. Many people prefer distance study to conventional “on campus” classes, however, those students who face such  situations for the first time are likely to be confused or overwhelmed. The best way to cope with this issue is to introduce an intuitive and easy-to-use software.

Zoom can be an excellent way to start your remote studies. The platform has proven to be effective and convenient for business, private online sessions, and educational video conferencing. If talking about Microsoft Teams, this application provides a chat box so that the participants can maintain a conversation throughout a lesson.

Here are some features you should look for in a study tool:

  • Accessibility — The software should be comfortable and straightforward for all parties, including parents and students with disability.
  • Communicative option — Students must have an opportunity to communicate with teachers directly. Moreover, there must be a feature that allows learners to talk to their classmates and for parents to communicate with tutors.
  • Monitorability — It is beneficial to check the participants' previous activity and stay tuned on their progress.
  • Sustainability — Before you pay for software, you should be sure of its reliability and suitability for your needs. Make sure the time spent on technology familiarization corresponds to the amount of money spent on it.

Foresee connectivity issues

Home learning demands a stable Internet connection. It is essential that a student's family can provide their child with all necessary devices, including a laptop, a hands-free set, and a printer. Even though everyone has a PC and Internet provider, there are likely to be days when some parties fail to join a distance course due to some technical issue.

One way to deal with such incidents is to make sure that students receive class material before the beginning of the virtual lesson. Teachers should create folders with learning materials and store these online so that anyone can view these when needed. Foreseeing possible issues is part of any teaching process, meaning prevention and a Plan B is desirable.

Digital backup

A quality e-learning virtual classroom should include a feature that allows learners to store their e-books, worksheets, presentations, and home assignments. It is easy to lose paper copies and text-books, but not so easy for online material, where work can be kept in different topical folders. However, if there are too many items, your computer can soon become 'piled up.'

It’s smart to use some additional means to backup data. For instance, you may want to use Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive to keep everything in one place and ensure the safety of stored documents.

What else to do when studying from home

For some people, the new remote mode might be a real challenge. It means you will have to change your daily routine and even work out some rules with family members who are also working from home. It is normal to find your best schedule using a method of trial and error. With time, it will be easier for you to cope with your new classroom environment.

This year's situation demonstrates that it is vital for people to adapt to new circumstances as quickly as possible. While extracurricular activities such as sports, music, and dance classes are on hold, the school administration's task is to make sure that students have social and active pursuits that they can involve themselves in after the virtual lessons.

Teachers must continue to encourage participation in diverse tasks that have nothing to do with gadgets. Young people spend a lot of time on the web, meaning that having them do something completely different while improving their cognitive skills is vital. Setting a creative writing assignment on a free topic can be an excellent non-digital task.

Provide the opportunity for feedback

Working in a digital space, you may face a lack of communication at some point. You should try as hard as possible to replicate the benefits that students get when studying offline, such as providing the opportunity to ask questions regarding the last lesson or one's academic progress. The ability for interaction between different parties is still a really important part of the teaching and learning process. 

In addition to regular meetings, teachers should encourage children to leave feedback and reply to commentary. Luckily, there are enough educational applications that offer a feature named 'Annotation.' If you are using Google Docs for home tasks, you can select the 'Suggestions' options when reviewing a piece of work. This option is very helpful, as people can communicate in real-time using notes.

Keep in touch with parents

One of the benefits of the e-learning practice is that parent meetings can be more effective. Video-conferencing is a perfect way to reach out to parents who are otherwise too busy to come into school. You can flexibly run a meeting wherever you are: in the car, during your lunch break, or from the kitchen. 

Video-conferences allow a one-on-one with a specific person, or the arrangement of group meetings to discuss organizational methods and academic progress. Interaction with parents is essential at every stage of the transition to distance learning. School authorities should ensure that every parent knows what to expect and how to assist their children.

The transition to an online-based learning environment poses several challenges to everyone involved. Yet, such an education model offers various benefits, and it is the task of teachers and students to act with greater responsibility and look out for one another. Whether virtual learning will be a permanent practice or not, these practical techniques will help you get the most out of it.

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