Avoid These 5 Common Remote Learning Pitfalls

Avoid These 5 Common Remote Learning Pitfalls
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With in-classroom learning on hold for many schools throughout the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators, students, and parents have been adjusting to the often-referenced “new normal.”

In education, navigating the transition to remote learning has been a significant component of this adjustment—and because moving from the classroom to the cloud is by no means a one-size-fits-all process, instructors and administrators must take care to avoid common remote learning pitfalls as they develop effective approaches that work for them and their students. Here are five such pitfalls to keep in mind:

1. Not involving teachers from the get-go

Whether they're teaching remotely or standing at the front of a physical classroom, teachers are the ones on the frontlines. The more confident and enthusiastic they feel about the transition to remote learning, the better equipped they are to help students and parents through the process, so it is important to ask for their buy-in from the beginning. After all, teachers are both invested in their students' success and well positioned to identify learning methods that will and will not work for their individual classes, so it makes sense for them to be involved from early in the process. 


2. Overlooking students with barriers to at-home access

Even for students with access to electronic devices and reliable internet, moving from classroom learning to remote learning causes a measure of disruption—and students who are homeless, highly mobile, and/or come from lower-income families often face additional challenges in the form of connectivity issues that impede them from completing their work and having the same type of remote learning experience as their peers. Making remote learning immediately accessible to families of all incomes has proven to be much easier said than done for districts grappling with unexpected shutdowns, and different districts have approached the situation in different ways. For instance, to address the fact that “only about half” of its high-school students have a laptop or tablet and internet access at home, the Philadelphia School District initially prohibited online learning during physical school closures and has since made plans to purchase 50,000 Chromebooks. Meanwhile, other districts have expanded school Wi-Fi into parking lots and installed routers on buses that serve as mobile hotspots for students to download or submit coursework.

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3. Using an unresponsive platform

Although the process of rolling out an remote learning platform is understandably focused on content, other important factors—such as usability and optimization—should not be overlooked. For instance, ensuring that a platform works as expected on a desktop computer or laptop is a good first step, but what if a student only has at-home access to a tablet or another type of mobile device? Students shouldn’t have to struggle with technical difficulties, and that's where responsive design comes in. Simply put, a responsive platform “reacts” to variables such as screen size to ensure content is both accessible and functional. 


4. Leaving out learners with special needs

Ideally, all components of an remote learning course should meet accessibility standards, but if this isn't possible, an alternative learning format should be readily available for students who need it. With this in mind, the e-Learning Industry website presented learning experience optimization tips customized to meet the following common forms of special needs:

  • Vision loss: To accommodate learners with vision loss, visual remote learning elements should be accompanied by alternate text or audio. Other accommodations include incorporating zoom features to enhance readability and providing downloadable content for offline study.

  • Hearing loss: To ensure hearing-impaired learners can reap the full benefits of educational videos, provide an accompanying transcript or offer closed captioning. Did you know that the online video platform YouTube has an automatic closed captioning feature?

  • Cognitive or learning impairments: For students with cognitive or learning impairments, time restrictions can add considerable pressure and stress. Removing these restrictions allows students to proceed at their own pace without worrying about being timed out.  

5. Forgetting to consider work-life balance

Certainly, facilitating continuous learning is important, but so is finding and maintaining a tenable work-life balance in these unprecedented times. For parents working from home, juggling professional responsibilities with the educational needs of their remote learners can be a challenge, and parents still reporting to work outside the home must secure childcare. While efforts to keep to a schedule and minimize learning disruption are laudable, we must not forget the value of spending unstructured time with family, going on a walk around the neighborhood, and taking a break for some playtime in the yard.

For instructors and administrators shepherding students and families through a switch to remote learning under less than ideal circumstances, there are bound to be some bumps in the road, but those who avoid the pitfalls outlined above will be well on their way to a much smoother transition.

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