Implementing an online learning program in your English/Language Arts classroom can be a daunting task, but with careful planning and preparation, it can be a highly successful and rewarding experience for both you and your students. Here are some important steps to consider:
Establish clear goals and objectives:
Before you begin the adventurous and challenging work of implementing a new online learning plan in your classroom, you must ask yourself - what do I want to accomplish? What gaps am I trying to close or what value am I trying to add to my classroom? For example, “Am I trying to close a reading comprehension gap? If so, how does this program address or remediate certain learning skills?”
There are thousands of valuable online platforms you can choose from - and you can always create your own online programming by pulling from a variety of websites and resources - but knowing your goal from the beginning is a crucial first step for choosing new online programming.
Choose the right platform:
Once you have established your goals and objectives and have found potential solutions that will address those goals, the next things to consider are implementation time and user interface. Is there a particular platform that is easier to implement for both yourself and your students, and is there a program whose user experience fits the developmental level of your students?
Technology should make your life easier, not more challenging. You may have younger students who need an extremely simple and easy-to-use platform, or you may have advanced high school students who can adapt and learn a more rigorous and complex online program. Be sure to select the one that fits your needs and your students’ needs the best.
Create a pacing guide:
Once you have made your decision and found an easy-to-use online learning program to implement in your classroom, it’s time for the next step. Just like you would with a textbook curriculum or a collection of resources blending into a curriculum, it’s necessary to build out a pacing guide with calendared objectives, timelines, and goals.
Create and build in checkpoints along the way to make sure your students are finding success with the program, and don’t forget to set some of your own objectives to assess whether or not the resource is improving your life or assisting your teaching in a positive way. If it’s not, consider shifting to another program that will make a difference in your teaching.
Use a variety of resources:
Whether you’ll be using a comprehensive platform that provides all of the lessons and practice materials or pulling from different resources and combining them to create your own program, it’s important to vary your lessons and activities so as to keep students of all learning styles engaged.
Video lessons, articles, interactive exercises, and discussion forums are all ways to increase student engagement and ensure that a variety of learning modalities are placed into consideration. When students are using technology in a predetermined way that keeps them challenged, they should not be bored but rather engaged. The more interactive you can make your online curriculum, the better!
Foster communication and collaboration:
One particular way to increase student engagement is to provide plenty of opportunities for communication and collaboration among your students. Online programs and online content have so many benefits, yet when used exclusively, they can have particular drawbacks, namely student isolation.
Prevent student isolation by creating space and time for student collaboration and communication on a regular basis. Even though students may be online, they can still complete partner work, engage in group projects, and debate one another through messaging or video calls.
When you are creating your pacing guide, be sure to schedule moments for students to work together to avoid the feeling of isolation.
Provide timely feedback:
As classrooms move to online programming, it’s important that students are not completing work that is sent into the void without productive and consistent feedback from their teacher or from their peers. Feedback builds trust and investment, so when possible, students should receive feedback on a frequent and timely basis.
Many times, feedback can be provided more easily and more quickly via online tools, and feedback can come in many different forms in an online learning program. Direct messaging, discussion threads, and online video to name a few, all have their place in delivering timely feedback to students.
Evaluate and adjust:
Last but not least is the necessary step of pausing to evaluate, reflect, and adjust. There is no online program that will be perfect, and there is no transition to an online platform that will go without a few hiccups here and there.
It’s important to set aside some time in the first few weeks once you collect your first round of summative data. Evaluate that data and make the adjustments necessary to further align the program with the goals you clearly established in the beginning.
You may find that students need more time (or less time) on the platform, or you may find that you need to build in more opportunities for collaboration or feedback. Whatever it may be, let the data guide you in making the best of your new online program.
Implementing an online learning program in your English/Language Arts classroom requires careful planning, clear objectives, and the time to reflect and adjust. Finding the right tools and resources to create a structured and engaging course will bring not only benefits to your students’ learning experience, but also to your own teaching experience.
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