Making Sense of 12 Distance Learning Rules for Students and Teachers

We all know that the world has changed drastically in the last twenty months. And nowhere is that change more obvious than in the fact that children are going to school online. Gone are the elementary students tumbling into the classroom each morning, laughing and jostling their way to their seats.

Making Sense of 12 Distance Learning Rules for Students and Teachers

Instead, students find a corner of their own homes, turn on the computer, and end up sitting in front of a screen all day to complete their school work. Instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic in a typical classroom setting, children as young as 5 are sitting down in front of computers each morning to begin a day of Zoom school.

It seems that distance learning will stay with us for a long time…

As a teacher and mother myself, I analyzed resources to find out what worked for students and teachers during the pandemic. Specifically, we looked at the following:

  • The best way for students to stay engaged in online classes
  • The most effective ways that teachers could help students flourish at home
  • What the experts in the education field are saying about distance learning rules
  • The tools necessary for teachers to make the most of learning time

Read on to learn the tried and true tips for mastering distance learning. These are the suggestions I made to my own students when we were forced into online learning, and they have proven greatly beneficial in the months that followed.

6 Distance Learning Rules for Students

Since online learning is a must for many districts in order to squelch the variants of the coronavirus, there are some helpful hints for students to get the most from their Zoom time classroom setting, which will set the students up to learn as much as possible even in these difficult times.

These general rules are helpful for students and teachers alike, and following the tips in this video will certainly create success in your online classroom.

1. Create Your Space

Even if you are at home for your “school day,” your school hours will take up a big chunk of your time, so it is important that you create a “classroom space” that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

You don’t need to have a whole room set aside for your learning space, but make sure to have a dedicated desk or table to use for your learning time. Put all the materials you will need for school within arm’s reach.

This includes pens, paper, notebooks, and any textbooks needed

According to experts at Edsurge “If possible, students should find a place that can be dedicated to schoolwork and that provides ideal learning conditions. This means removing distractions like mobile devices and unrelated browser windows and soliciting the help of friends and family to honor their space.”

As the experts suggest, avoid distractions like phones, toys, or pets so that you can make the most of the learning experience. A dedicated classroom space away from the rest of the family is a must.

2. Be on Time and Dressed

Just like on a regular day of school, punctuality matters.  And trust me, I know it can be even more difficult to get motivated and ready to learn when you are just rolling out of bed to your computer screen. This video shows the importance of being on time and prepared each day.

Because of the technical nature of online learning, timeliness is even more important in this case, and being on time actually means being a little early so that you can set up your space, log on to your class, and make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Your teacher will want to check in with all the students before class starts, and this is why being early is so beneficial. That way, the class will still be able to start on time and you will ensure all the learning time you need.

If your school has a dress code, you will still most likely need to follow it, and if they do not, you need to use your best judgment. Trust me, my own kids have tried to roll out of bed right to the Zoom screen, rumpled hair and pajamas and all, but I have been able to help them realize that their appearance says a lot about their interest in learning.

3. Follow Zoom Etiquette

Even though distance learning has been around for much longer than any of us have wanted it to be, some people still do not understand the importance of following Zoom etiquette. There are several tricks to the trade that will make your life much easier as a distance learner.

First, please make sure that your microphone is muted at all times. There is nothing worse than a loud cacophony of noises caused by the feedback from a whole set of people with their mikes on.
The next important rule to follow is that you need to have your camera on. This is highly debated, and although I don’t think you have to have your camera straight on your face, the teacher needs to have at least some sense that there is a human at the other end of the camera.

Teachers and classmates need to know that you are there to interact with them, so this is a critical step

When your teacher sends you into Zoom breakout rooms, odds are that you will feel more comfortable being seen in a small group, and this is another time the camera will come into play.

4. Do Not Eat or Drink

Although it should go without saying, class time is not a free-for-all, and students need to still follow typical classroom rules. One important rule is that students should not eat and drink during class. Watch this video to help you avoid the pitfalls of eating and drinking during class.

Because class time needs to be spent on learning the material covered and there are distinctive jobs to do in each block of time, there is no time for random snacking during class. Plus, if you spill your food or drink on your computer, you could be out of commission as a student for a long time, and that will not be good for anybody!

5. Communicate

Communication should go without saying because it is the heart of teaching both in and outside of the classroom.

According to Edutopia, “Communication was the key to the success of learners during the pandemic, whether students were in person, virtual, or some combination of the two. Creating a connection with students and parents with consistent communication helped decrease anxiety over what was happening in the classroom.”

Communication is the key to success with distance learning

Students and parents need to keep the lines of communication open by responding during class time, and emailing the teacher when they are overwhelmed or confused by the material being covered.

6. Participate Appropriately

Although it might be strange to do so online, students still need to participate in class. There are several ways they can do this that will make them feel like they are in a “real” classroom.

First, students can type into the chat bar to ask or answer a question. They can also raise their (virtual) hand, or give a thumbs up.

In these ways, students will be able to engage with other students and the teacher

On the other hand, it is important that students do not participate inappropriately during class. Side conversations, typing inappropriate things into the chatbox, and other distracting participation are not tolerated.

6 Techniques for Teachers to Assist Online Learners

For teachers, as well as for students, there is an etiquette of video communication. These 6 tips will help you conduct online lessons at the highest level!

1. Create Community

One of the most important things teachers need to do, especially in an online classroom, is to build community. Learning Hypothesis advised that teachers should “really focus on creating a community in your classroom so that everyone wants to follow any expectations that are created.”

With a sense that you are all in this together, students will be more likely to complete assignments and to ask for help when they need it. Engaging your learners with empathy, activities, and feedback will draw your learners closer to the community.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Without the in-person give and take of a typical classroom, it is even more important than ever to set clear boundaries and expectations for your students. Create a syllabus that explains weekly and daily routines.

Students should know just what to expect

Anytime you can assign work on a regular basis and create a routine, you are setting your students up for success. If a math story problem is due each Tuesday, for instance, students will get used to the routine and be more likely to follow through with their assignments.

3. Communicate

Communication is key, and when you can’t stand near your students and get in-person feedback, you will need to get creative. The Advocate explains, “While getting quick feedback from students can be done easily and efficiently in a physical classroom, it often proves difficult in a virtual one. Whether students feel uncomfortable speaking up about a problem they’re having or teachers neglect to create a time and place for student feedback, lack of opinion can cause issues with the flow of communication. Distance learners are much more likely to disengage if they feel unsatisfied. Online polling tools such as PollEverywhere allow teachers to create opportunities for instant feedback in a variety of formats.”

These online polling tools can make learning fun for students and also keep them engaged

No matter what, students need to keep the lines of communication open with their parents, classmates, and teachers.

4. Use an Interactive Whiteboard

Both in and out of the classroom, a whiteboard is invaluable for both students and teachers. Peruse this article to find the whiteboard which is best for your situation.

Using the interactive whiteboard, teachers can show images, presentations and videos to the whole class at the same time

When you can’t maintain an in-person classroom, the whiteboard is an invaluable resource for a variety of techniques to keep your students engaged.

5. Find the Best Camera

Using a powerful document camera like the ones here will help your students to clearly understand the concepts you are trying to teach.

A webcam is an optional tool for students but it's mandatory if you are a teacher

Another way that you can use a camera as a teacher in a distance learning environment is to tape your lectures. Read this article in order to find the best one that suits your needs.

6. Offer Scaffolding

Even more so than in a traditional classroom, students do not all learn at the same pace or have the same capacity to learn online. Teachers will need to go out of their way to meet students where they are, and provide extra help or scaffolding where needed.

The right scaffolding gives the right learning experience

Scaffolding “can include indexes, glossaries, formula sheets, templates, scoring rubrics,  samples for projects and papers, and short videos to supplement background knowledge. One common way that instructors can provide scaffolding is through having multiple drafts of an assignment due, allowing for feedback throughout the process.”

Useful Resources

Wrapping it Up

After much research and life experience as both a parent and a teacher, I can tell you that the above tips work well in the realm of online learning.

With Covid-19 creating new variants, online learning will be part of the foreseeable future, and distance learning rules for students definitely will be a part of the learning process in the coming months. By following the ten rules above you and your students will have a happier, healthier experience, and your students will be likely to learn more as well.

Simona Johnes

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