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

Editors Features March 20 / March 30, 2020

 – Peter Santoro –

For weeks now, I’ve tried to remain cautiously optimistic about the coronavirus not having a significant impact in our communities; however, the stark reality is that it has arrived on our doorsteps. As a teacher, the prospect of closing school for an extended period is terrifying. Then, I received an email this week that the Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences (AALAS) put together a free program to guide administrators through the process of a Rapid Transition to Online Learning (RTOL). I forwarded this link to my principal, my superintendent, and the IT director for our school district. Two of them have filled out the form requesting access to the course.

Below I offer what is certainly not an all-inclusive list of things to consider as you transform your lessons to video lessons, but highlights that will set you on a successful path. Remember, we need to continue to teach our students, regardless of where the classroom is.

If you are not familiar with the process of flipping your classroom, it is not as daunting as you may think. I have found that spending a little more time in the planning phase makes for a better experience for both teachers and students. The quick-start manual included with the RTOL  course provides an excellent framework on how to approach transforming your lessons to an online format.  

Let’s start with the part of the lesson that will be delivered to the students at home. (The place where your students typically watch their lessons is called their individual space). Here are some things to consider:

What is the main idea/concept you want your students to understand after they have watched the lesson?

Make sure you write a script! Your script should contain everything you want to convey to your students in the video. You want to make sure you are direct and to the point. I have found that writing the script keeps my video lessons concise and flowing very smoothly. Reading your script also gives you some insight as to how your students will be receiving your message. Be clear and speak at a normal conversational pace when recording your lesson. Give a preview of what the class activity might be so your students can be prepared for what you have planned for “class time.” (The place where our students meet is typically our classrooms and this is called the group space. In this context, the group space is our virtual classrooms, and I offer further guidance for the group space in my other article).  

How will your students take notes?

Free-form? Guided note-taking sheets? Graphic organizer? Something else? Remind your students at various points in the lesson that they should pause and rewind the video to make sure they are following the content and taking good notes. Most of your students will not know how to watch and interact with a video lesson. See Jake Habegger’s article, How to Transfer Flipped Learning Basics to Teaching Online  on how to teach your students how to watch your video lessons.

How will you record your video lesson?

See Dan Jones’ article on screen capture  for the nuts and bolts of actually recording your lessons. Try to keep your lesson to no longer than 10 minutes, and younger children require even shorter videos. If you absolutely need more time, break your lesson into two shorter video lessons and assign them both (this is referred to as “chunking”). Remember, things do not have to be perfect, especially the first time you are preparing a video lesson on such short notice. Getting your lesson recorded for your students is more important than perfection. Your students need to see and hear you during this process to maintain that relationship, so consider having yourself in the video, as well as any possible additional visuals (e.g., writing on a whiteboard, images/slides, etc.). This will also give your students comfort in knowing that you are keeping the routines of school consistent by continuing to teach them.

Peter Santoro
Peter Santoro
I have been teaching High School Mathematics for 12 years. This is the fifth year I am “Flipping” and my third year with Flipped Mastery. In addition to two sections of Introductory Calculus, I also teach one section of Geometry and two sections of Mathematics Research Honors. In addition, I am the coach of the Garden City High School Math Team (Mathletes). I am a Founding Member of the FLGI International Faculty as well as an FLGI Master Teacher and a member of the FLGI Insanely Smart Panel on the innovative uses of class time.

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