• Michael Greschler

4 Essentials for Distance Learning


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, schools across the country and around the world are turning to distance learning as a way to keep teachers and students connected.


Technology can be a double-edged sword; for every benefit there are unexpected glitches and headaches. Like most classroom teachers, you may have minimal experience teaching remotely, which makes distance learning seem daunting.


To all you teachers out there, you’ve got this. And we’re here to help! Here at SMARTS we’ll be hard at work to provide advice on best practices for distance learning, teaching resources, and tips from the student perspective.


Let’s kick things off with 4 essentials for successful distance learning.


1. Maintain Relationships

Trusting relationships between teachers and students are the bedrock of successful learning. One of the biggest risks of online learning is the loss of a sense of human connection. Motivating relationships, like friendships and peer support, are essential to supporting students’ executive function. Find ways to keep those relationships alive.


  • Use video chats to make sure students see your face, and the faces of their peers

  • Incorporate ice breakers and other engaging activators at the start of a lesson

  • Find ways for students to express and acknowledge the anxiety and fear of the unknown to keep your virtual classroom feeling relevant and important to your students


2. Keep Learning Active

Online learning can easily lend itself to more passive forms of learning like watching videos and listening to lectures. However, not only is passive learning less interesting, students will retain less information, and you, as their teacher, won’t be able to gauge student understanding. Find opportunities throughout your lesson to actively engage students.

  • Call on specific students to share their thoughts

  • Use a survey to test students’ understanding of a topicHave students share their notes with you


3. Use Tech Wisely

Technology should serve the learning outcomes. Identify what you want to achieve, then select the technology best suited to help students reach the outcomes. There are plethora of online learning apps, sites, and programs (here are some of our favorites). Before students begin, help them understand how or why they are using a given program.

  • Demonstrate how to use the technology successfully

  • Check that all students understand the directions


4. Reflect

Here at the SMARTS program, we are big fans of self-reflection and not just for the students. Take time to reflect on how your distance learning teaching is going and adjust accordingly.

  • Keep a journal and jot down notes at the end of each online session. What worked well? Any surprises? What might you do differently next time?

  • Schedule a meeting with a colleague to share ideas and brainstorm

  • Don’t forget your growth mindset. Expect mistakes, analyze them, and learn! The more you reflect, the more you will be able to accurately identify the parts that are going well and areas you can improve.


Thank you for checking out our 4 essential tips for distance learning. Stay tuned for more information and resources you can use.


Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

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