Build a Remote Learning Plan & Virtual Classroom in One Day
As a digital agency, our team at Blue Compass keeps a close eye on what people are searching for to find emerging trends. This helps us stay sharp in our field and allows us to better help our clients. In the past few days we’ve noticed a surge in people (likely teachers and school administration) looking for information about remote learning plans. As of yet, we haven’t found a great resource. So, we decided to create one.
As schools across the United States suspend classes, they’re announcing “remote learning plans” that keep students safe at home while allowing teachers to continue with their lesson plans. While colleges are well-equipped for digital learning, until now, many k-12 schools haven’t needed to consider how a virtual classroom would work.
A lot of schools have not implemented or had a need yet for online learning and many don’t know where to begin. We’ve created this resource to help schools in our community get a head start on how to take their classrooms digital.
What is a Remote Learning Plan?
A remote learning plan lays out the full strategy for how to move classes online. It will serve as the guide for your school staff and explains both the logistics of how to conduct classes online and how to communicate the plan. The plan should contain three sections, one for teachers, a second for students and a third for parents and guardians. Each section needs to provide details on what your school is using for online classes and how to access them.
How to Create a Virtual Classroom for Free
Moving an elementary school online or taking middle and high school classes digital can be accomplished with free or paid software - we recommend going the free route at this time. Opt to use Google’s suite of tools for the best free experience that we’ve found. Most teachers, students or parents/guardians should be familiar with Gmail and may even have a google account already set up. Google also has a product for all the elements you need for a virtual classroom. They’re currently offering free access to Google Hangouts Meet - through July 1, 2020 in response to COVID-19.
The remote learning plan below can be used for your school. Take it and adapt it for your needs, or use it as a starting place to guide your team as you build your own plan for a virtual classroom.
You’ll need to use the following Google products and have a few basics in place prior to creating a successful virtual classroom:
- GMail or Google account - All students will need to have a Google account or email address. This is how they will access the calendar invites, view documents and watch live classes through Google Hangout Meet.
- Google Drive - Store your recorded classes and materials in Drive. Use shareable links so students can view, edit or print documents.
- Google Calendar - Familiarize yourself with how to create events, invite individuals and add documents or links to the invite.
- Google Hangout/Meet - Stream lessons or record classes. Students can join the class live from a link and re-watch later if needed.
For Administrators: Gather or Create Email Addresses
First thing first, you’ll need to get a database of student emails. Here’s how to do it
- Go to drive.google.com and begin using Google Drive by logging in with your google account.
- In the platform, click “New” and create a Google Sheet. On the sheet, create a tab for each teacher.
- List out each teacher’s classes with the names of the students and a column for their email.
- Click “Share” in the upper right hand corner of the Google Sheet.
- Grant access for others to edit the document by adding your teachers to the document using their Gmail accounts.
- Let the group effort begin! Have all teachers help gather or create student email addresses and add them to the Google Sheet.
For Teachers: Scheduling Your Virtual Classes
Start by building a Google calendar with your classes. Add the dates, times and subject matter of each class in a unique event. If you have three classes each day, you’ll have three events on your calendar. When you create your event, designate it as hangout/meet and it will automatically set it up so students can access the live stream.
Head to Google Drive and put all the materials that your students will need into drive. You can create “shareable links” so that everyone who has the link can access the document. Copy the shareable link for the documents you need for your classes and add them into your calendar invites for the appropriate classes.
Include only your supervisor on the initial invite, allowing that individual to review and approve the classes. Once the classes are approved, invite your students with the Google email addresses you’ve gathered in the shared spreadsheet for each lesson that’s scheduled.
For Teachers: Streaming Your Digital Classroom
First, press record to capture your screen. Next, start the live stream of your class a few minutes before you plan to begin so students can have time to read your instructions. When starting the stream, have a shared document visible with instructions for students that reads:
- Mute your device by clicking your mute icon.
- Make sure you are in a quiet room so you can focus and without background noise.
- If you have questions, submit a comment by clicking the comment icon.
- Class/Instructor will be starting soon.
When you’re finished with the class, save it into Google Drive. You may want to send a follow-up email to students with the digital class recording and links to any materials they need or assignments they need to complete.
Communication For Students about their Virtual Classroom
We’ve outlined the basics of what you’ll need to communicate to your students for joining the virtual classroom. The actual communication and email should be written and included in your remote learning plan. That way teachers can have access to it if they need to re-send it to students or parents/guardians.
- Schedule will be set by your teacher via Google Calendar.
- Calendar invitations will have a link to join each Google Meet. Don’t worry about accepting the invite, just be sure to join the Google Meet at the appropriate time.
- Sessions will be recorded and added to Google Drive and/or sent via email.
- First class should focus on setting expectations for future digital classes. Give students an overview of how everything will work, provide them with technology support and rules.
Planning For Your First Digital Class
Consider scheduling the first digital class for one hour in advance of the actual class. Students with questions can join early and be dismissed when the teacher deems them trained on the system. Others will have a chance to remain in the Google Meet if they need more help. Also have a plan to address the issue if students can’t or don’t join digital classes. Not all students will have access to a smartphone, tablet, computer or internet. Talk through a plan for those individuals.
Communication For Parents and Guardians: About the Digital Classroom
Before sending students information, email instructions to all parents on accessing virtual classrooms for or with their child. Explain to them when their child can expect to receive the information and what to do if they don’t receive it.
- Include recording terms/conditions.
- Include rules and expectations - consider repercussions.
- Include a typical schedule example.
- Include typical school work expectations (i.e. lecture, lesson, questions, work, review, homework).
- How will homework be distributed and submitted?
- Include a link to a page on your website with an FAQ, support form, and screenshots of how to access the digital class if possible.
- K-5 students probably don’t have emails, so the school will need to email parents and guardians with instructions on how to create an email or allow the student access to another individual’s email for the purpose of the virtual classroom.
- All lectures will be recorded for later viewing.
- How will attendance be taken? If someone is sick, have the parents or guardians email the teachers before the first session of the day.
Finally, ensure parents and guardians are active in their student’s academics. The school will need to rely on parents/guardians to verify that students are checking emails and are comfortable running the technology. In some cases, parents will need to help younger kids setup and attend classes.
Blue Compass and the Educational Community
Our families attend schools in the Greater Des Moines area and some of the amazing schools in our community also happen to be our clients. We have experience in the education field and have a desire to contribute where we can. If you need further assistance with your digital classroom or are interested in hiring Blue Compass as a consultant to build a remote learning plan customized to your needs, please contact us using the form on this page.