RTOL | Making a Rapid Transition to Online Learning

Special / Top Feature March 20 / March 30, 2020

 – Errol St.Clair Smith –

Why? Why publish an edition of FLR when we’re all overwhelmed with articles, videos, and offers to help from every website we’ve visited since we discovered the Internet. Why not just scrap this issue? The short answer is that schools are still struggling to switch to distance learning overnight, and educators from K12 to higher education are taking a fresh look at the Flipped Learning framework. So this issue aims to provide additional support to those who want to know more about how to use Flipped Learning to teach online.

On March 3rd, 2020, The Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences published RTOL: A free 12-step emergency roadmap for making a rapid transition to online learning. This quick-start guide walks educators through a simplified step-by-step process to maintain the continuity of teaching and learning during forced school closures. The program was based on a simple question,

If an educator had just one hour to prepare to teach remotely, what are the most essential things she would need to know and do? “

RTOL was selected by several school districts and departments of education, including the largest school district in the United States. At the higher education level, it was adopted by universities from the US to the Middle East and South America. The short RTOL course offered exactly what many school leaders and educators needed at the moment. This issue of FLR covers the needs that come after you’ve made the daring leap into the deep end of online learning.


Peter Santoro was flipping his math classes in New York until COVID-19 drove him, and his school, online in March. In this issue, Peter takes us on a deeper dive into the craft of planning for the individual space and the group space and how shifting to online learning changes the game.

What Planning Is Required to Make A Rapid Transition to Online Learning?

Three Things to Consider When You Move Your Class Time Online


Jake Habegger is an 8th grade US History teacher in Franklin, Tennessee. Jake’s piece drills down on using Bloom’s Taxonomy to figure out what to assign students to do alone, and what to reserve for online class time with the teacher. More importantly, Jake explains why we just can’t give students a video to watch and explores ways to ensure students actively engage with your assignment in an online context

How to Transfer Flipped Learning Basics to Teaching Online

Group space

Dr. Thomas Mennella weighs in on the importance of looking beyond academics to meet the social-emotional needs of students easily lost in online learning.  Tom underscores why the starting point is confirming whether your classes will go online using a synchronous or asynchronous model. Tom covers ideas for making online class time engaging and fun.

Shifting to Teaching online? Make This Decision First

Tech tools

Dan Jones is a history teacher and an experienced Flipped Learning facilitator whose school has just moved to online learning in response to COVID-19. His piece focuses on the simplest and easiest ways to move your lesson online using tech tools.

Creating Your First Virtual Lessons? Start Here


Jon Bergmann is one of the early pioneers of Flipped Learning who is currently teaching at a high school in Houston Texas. Jon practices an advanced form of Flipped Learning where every student is expected to master the content. So how will mastery learning perform when the class is moved online? Jon shares what he’s learned so far.

Here’s What Happened When Flipped Mastery Met Distance Learning

Special needs

Jon Harper is an assistant principal who wonders if schools will be able to support students with special needs during a rapid transition to online learning.  He hosts a popular podcast and invited two special needs professionals and a parent of a child with special needs to discuss the challenges.

Special Needs and Online Learning: What Will Every Teacher Need to Rapidly Learn?

Ongoing support

Beyond the 12-step roadmap, the online teaching tutorial and the strategies shared in this issue, the most important thing you will likely need is ongoing support. We may move to online learning overnight, but developing competency will require time and lots of assistance. AALAS and FLGI created the Rapid Response Team to connect you to an international network of educators who have extensive experience managing the challenges you will face.

Social-emotional needs

Teaching was taxing before COVID-19, and making a rapid transition to online learning is driving the stress level through the roof. Educators are finding that talking about it helps. Jon Harper invited a team of teachers to talk about social-emotional needs. The FLR team started a weekly virtual hangout to reflect, share experiences, and identify the big lessons they are learning. You can listen in on their weekly virtual happy hour at the RTOL Bar and Grill.

12 Ways You Can Meet Students’ Social-Emotional Needs While Teaching Online

The 7 Social-Emotional Needs We Discovered in Week One of Teaching Online

The new normal

When this crisis has passed, what happens during this period will likely have a lasting impact on education. For those who care about moving from passive learning to active learning, the crisis represents a historic inflection point. It’s reasonable to speculate that massive numbers of educators around the world will either be turned on or turned off permanently by this forced transitioned to online learning. We should be laser-focused on supporting as many positive experiences as possible for educators, school leaders, and students.

So you wanted to change the education world?  Well here’s our chance to put a dent in the education universe.


Errol St.Clair Smith
I am the Director of Global Development at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. I joined the education community in 2005, working closely with national education organizations on community outreach and professional development. Over the last decade, I’ve led the development of community platforms for The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE); the Association of Curriculum Developers (ASCD); the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Associations for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA), and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO). I'm honored to have received four Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for public affairs programming. In 2017 I co-authored Flipped Learning 3.0 with Jon Bergmann. The book was updated based on the AALAS Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning in 2019.

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