Teaching Online: Distance Learning Ideas for Educators
If you’re an educator navigating online or blended learning, we salute you for your hard work. Staying connected with students, as well as communicating remotely with parents and caregivers, requires a high level of creativity, adaptability, and persistence. As you shift your teaching strategy online, you’ll need to create a website that serves as a central hub for your learning community. This will help you foster an engaging educational environment, as well as share ideas with other teachers and offer support to remote students and their families.
To help you navigate this new territory and reinvent what learning looks like in your classroom, we’ve put together some ideas to make your transition to online teaching simple, interactive, and fun. Technology can help us change the way we teach and learn, and at the core of these practices is the principle that revolutionary education requires embracing innovation. As learning gets reinvented and reimagined with each passing year, distance learning may well become a standard practice.
With that in mind, take a look at these valuable ideas for teaching online.
Create a website for your classroom
A critical element of teaching online is having a class website. Essentially, a class website is an e-learning platform where you can post updates and assignments for students while keeping parents and caregivers in the loop. Think of it as the launchpad for your students’ education. It serves as a hub for providing lesson resources, hosting online courses and webinars, and sharing your students’ work.
You can build your custom site from scratch or use a class website template to get started. All templates are designed by professionals, and are fully customizable and free.
To create a class website that helps you communicate and connect with your students, keep in mind the following tips:
Start with a landing page. Your landing page can act as a virtual classroom - a single, centralized place on your site where your students can find all your online teaching materials and shared files. This will help you simplify your students’ workflow and make it easier for them to navigate the site. You can use a combination of different text, images, and buttons to keep it organized, as well as post your weekly activities directly to your landing page for easy access. These landing page examples can help guide you as you customize your design.
Create a flipped classroom. While live streaming is an invaluable tool for teaching online, real-time classroom sessions can be exhausting for teachers and students alike. Instead of back-to-back video meetings, opt for a hybrid or flipped classroom model. In this model, students can access lesson materials like videos and readings at their own pace, and then check in with you at designated times. Add videos or embed external sites like quizzes or puzzles to enrich your lessons. To encourage critical thinking, try writing reflection questions below the video for students to consider as they watch.
Schedule time for check-ins. A big part of being an educator is creating connections and providing the foundations for a lasting, supportive community. Keep students and parents in the loop by letting them know how and when they can reach out to you. Use Wix Bookings to schedule office hours a few times a week for students or parents who need extra support. You can also share your Google Calendar on your site to tell students and parents about online teaching times, video conferences, and one-on-one meetings.
Communicate regularly. In addition to holding meetings with students and their parents, make yourself available for regular and consistent communication online. Using Wix Groups, you can create individual discussion groups for each of your classrooms. This will allow you to post updates about homework, share valuable course materials, and hold meaningful discussions with students. In addition, it will encourage students to engage with one another throughout the day, giving them a platform to discuss their work, connect with their peers, and collaborate on group projects. As you create your Groups, keep in mind that you can make them private to protect student data.
Make your website interactive. Powerful learning happens when we are engaged as creators, rather than consumers. Your website is more than just a container of information for your students; it’s also a way for your students to post their feedback and progress. To gather your students’ ideas, use Google Drive to embed forms and surveys on your site.
Incorporate animations. Increase student engagement by adding animation effects and VideoBox effects to your site. Make different items on your site float, appear, bounce, and fade in, and add additional design tricks like hover and scrolling effects. Remember, this is a chance for you to flex your creative muscles and create an online multimedia environment that keeps your students’ attention focused on their virtual classroom.
Add an element of fun. Online teaching requires thinking outside the box. For example, try creating a webquest for your students where they work in teams to complete an online scavenger hunt. Or create a choose-your-adventure site, where different buttons lead to different parts of the site. You might even come up with daily challenges for students to make innovative things with household items, and use a countdown clock to keep track of the challenge time.
Test and iterate as you go. As you build your site, you can test things out, prototype ideas, and change things up to make your content work for your students. It’s all right to not have all the answers right away. Whatever you create, remember to make it your own; you know your students and their needs best. You can even co-design content with your students to make your site even more personally meaningful to them and you.
Build a school community website
If you work as a school administrator, you might consider creating an online platform that brings together your community and notifies people of school events.
Creating a website for your school will allow you to easily communicate school news, details about your mission and values for newcomers, and key information for parents. This is a helpful way to post urgent updates and share community resources with families. You can either build your website from scratch, or use a school website template to save time.
Another website idea you might want to pursue is promoting a specific initiative or virtual event. This includes upcoming graduation ceremonies, awards nights, parent-teacher conferences, and more. If your school participates in initiatives such as fundraisers and food drives, a nonprofit website will help you get the word out.
Start an education blog
Teachers all over the globe are finding ways to reinvent their practices, and educators can learn valuable strategies from their colleagues and peers.
One way to communicate your thoughts with other educators is by creating a blog. Having a blog will make it possible for you to connect with like-minded professionals and share online learning activities and ideas with other teachers.
If you wish to save time on writing, you can get creative with your content - for example, by featuring podcasts using the Wix Podcast Player. You might also add a Wix Forum to your site to encourage discussions and create an online learning community.
Create a graduation website
A website is also useful for celebrating important school events, such as graduations. Whether your students are learning remotely or simply want to loop in friends and family members from afar, creating a graduation website is a thoughtful way to congratulate them on their special day.
To get a beautiful website up and running in time for the event, you can use this graduation website template made by Wix Partner Lisa Erickson. Lisa saw how websites could successfully build a community around businesses, schools and her own family events. Using her web design experience, she built a free website template with Wix that could be personalized to celebrate each 2020 grad.
In addition to featuring information about the students’ academic and extracurricular achievements, the template includes a message board that allows friends and family to leave notes of congratulations. This helps your students celebrate the occasion, even outside a physical school environment, and feel proud of their accomplishments.
Stay safe and accessible*
As you create your education website or blog, it’s important to keep safety and accessibility practices in mind. By making your site safe and available to all members of your educational community, you can help your students get the most out of their learning experience.
When building a site that might contain information about your students, it’s important to take the necessary security steps. Be sure to distinguish between personal and private information. Personal information covers things your students might like or have made (such as skateboarding or science experiments), whereas private information is anything that might help identify those individual students, such as their full name, demographics, and even images of their faces.
Here are a few ways you can use Wix settings to make sure your students’ information stays safe:
Refrain from posting images and videos that depict students.
Avoid sharing passwords on your site. When providing login instructions, communicate these details verbally or through dedicated apps.
In addition, there are two more practices you should look into:
Consult this accessibility checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your accessibility bases.
If your community includes different language speakers, you might consider building a multilingual website so that people can access your content in the language they feel most comfortable with.
Blended and online learning offer a flexible and personalized educational experience, helping students stay engaged and involved.
By shifting toward digital instruction, educators can reimagine what learning looks like and tailor it to the ways people learn best. At the same time, students can connect with peers and teachers in innovative ways and become active participants in their own learning.
The future of education is deeply tied to technology and innovation. Now more than ever, we need modern learning environments that foster the 21st century skills of creativity, collaboration, and communication.
*Note: These are suggestions and ideas, and by no means is this blog article a close list of ideas that would provide security and/or legal compliance.
When setting up online services like this, it is always good to stay in-tune with local guidance of the supervising body (Ministry of Education, etc.) and for legal and compliance issues you should consult a local legal counsel.
Wix Education Programs Lead
Wix Blog Writer