Focus on the pedagogy, not the medium. 

You are great no matter your environment.

-Harvard University

Our goal at Vartek is to support teachers in any way we can, and we know the transition to virtual classrooms was a challenge that many of you took on quickly! Now that you’ve had some practice, we want to share some research-based best practices for virtual lessons.

  • Engage and be YOU! You were a super teacher before virtual classrooms, and you are still the same great teacher now. We encourage conversations like morning greetings, occasional small chat to catch up, and the same inquisitive nature you modeled to them face-to-face. Don’t let the camera make you feel too “in the spotlight.” Engage your learners with assessing questions; no need to turn on all those mics. Ask for a thumbs up or thumbs down to get a check for understanding, or ask students to stand up or stay seated for a simple response that gets them moving too.
  • Set expectations early. Just as in face-to-face instruction, expectations are equally important in the virtual classroom. Sharethese with your students in conversation.  Create a list of “classroom rules” together that include staying safe on the internet, in the virtual classroom, and appropriate and kind language. Remember to discuss behavior and appropriate attire for online learning. One very important tool for a virtual classroom is a weekly or daily agenda. This agenda can be used digitally or printed and used as a checklist for daily or weekly activities and assignments. Find some free options here.
  • Combine synchronous and asynchronous learning. The short definition of synchronous learning means that it takes place in the same location – in a live setting, with direct guidance from a teacher; while asynchronous learning takes place in a separate location or more independently. It is the key to the virtual learning classroom. Harvard’s Teach Remotely blog encourages educators to determine in advance how best to use their available tools including video, supplemental education programs, and hands-on application of skills. 
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things! There’s very little risk in “breaking” something when exploring virtual learning. If you think it might work, try it! If it works, fantastic; more likely if it doesn’t work, you’ll know what to alter for next time.

Kudos to all our favorite educators out there who are creating and delivering quality and supportive instruction to their students. Transitioning from face-to-face to remote learning isn’t always a smooth, and it can be especially difficult when it happens as rapidly as we’ve experienced. Just as always you picked up your favorite clipboard, dragged out a chromebook and flew right into virtual teaching because teachers are superheroes! We hope these best practices will help you feel more confident and creative in educating your students. 

About the Author:

Misty leads the Vartek’s team of technology integration experts (the “iTeam”) as the Director – Technology Integration. With both a bachelor’s and master’s in education, Misty has 14 years of K-12 classroom experience in both brick and mortar and eSchools. She possesses a post-graduate certification in online and blended learning and has developed content for digital classrooms. Misty has led instructional design efforts at the university level, helping implement a new learning management system at the university. Her background in corporate training has prepared her to lead the design of engaging professional development for Vartek’s partner schools.