Back
The District

Four Key Drivers of Distance Learning

The Newsela Team
Apr 6, 2020

Last month, as the severity of COVID-19 in the U.S. set in, schools across the country were faced with a herculean task: switching from classroom to distance learning, and doing it in a matter of days. 

For teachers and administrators, the sudden change to interacting with students virtually raised a number of urgent and important questions. What is a typical day like when remote teaching? How long should teachers be meeting with students, and what technology is best to facilitate? How can instructional content ease the transition to remote teaching and distance learning?

We don’t have all the answers, but we do want to share what we consider four key drivers of distance learning that can help schools adapt to this new reality. Grouped under infrastructure and instructional considerations, these four elements can help provide school administrators with a roadmap for implementing distance learning successfully.

Reliable infrastructure and training that support remote learning

It’s no surprise that infrastructure is on everyone’s minds, especially as schools do their best to maintain the level of connection that’s taken for granted in the classroom. Delivery platforms and reliable internet are, of course, central to this discussion, and the options range from video conferencing apps like Zoom to learning management platforms like Canvas

When it comes to infrastructure, it’s important for school leaders to remember that they can leverage resources already available to them: for example, Google and Microsoft have virtual meeting apps built into their larger platforms. Using resources schools are already comfortable with can go far in enabling virtual classrooms to get up and running quickly, especially since sharing facetime, even if just for an hour or two each day, helps provide a much-needed sense of connection for teachers and students.

A second key infrastructure driver? Training and professional development for teachers. Addressing needs and filling knowledge gaps quickly is essential to a successful transition, and teachers—many of whom are in crisis mode themselves—need to feel as supported by their schools as possible. Many vendors and organizations are now routinely offering webinars and other tools, but how to sort through it all to find what works best for teachers? Consider the following instructional components.

Instructional content and community that is flexible and robust

When it comes to the instructional resources schools leverage in the new distance learning landscape, providing flexible instructional content that can transition seamlessly from classroom to remote teaching is more important than ever. Schools need a content platform that is flexible, accessible, and transparent, enabling teachers to have visibility into how students are engaging with it from afar. Platforms that are digital first (without being digital only) enable the versatility required of schools in this time, and equally important is the depth and breadth of the content, which needs to cover a wide range of subjects while engaging students with topics that are relevant and diverse. 

If content is the motor that drives distance learning success, then a strong and supportive community of school leaders and parents are the hands that guide the wheel. It’s essential for schools to engage families in these uncertain times, ensuring parental buy-in during each transition and providing frequent, supportive communication and guidance. 

Without a focus on the four drivers above, it will be even harder for schools to address the more complex challenges distance learning presents: ensuring equity for students with limited access to technology, and making sure Social-Emotional Learning is a priority to support student well-being through traumatic changes in learning and social routines. These considerations are at the forefront of the transition to distance learning, and finding solutions is a key part of the steps schools take to ensure that connection platforms, training, content, and community are flexible and robust.

The Latest from @Newsela

Although many of us might not have known George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, we are still grieving the loss of their lives. This group of articles seeks to empower students by giving them tools to process their grief. https://t.co/xzRLtdFHjL https://t.co/VkO88FFFZ6
July 31, 2020, 1:30 PM
Kids everywhere love the Slip 'N Slide every summer. In fact, kids sparked the idea for the accidental invention during the hot summer of 1960. Use this article to help students explore the fun and wacky history of the Slip 'N Slide over the years 👉 https://t.co/63YxvE6JlI https://t.co/DkEpoGj1yw
July 30, 2020, 8:25 PM
With high school around the corner, middle schools tend to make math, science and English classes the priority — but what about learning to manage emotions and stress? That's why we created our Social-Emotional Learning Collection for Middle School 👉 https://t.co/bCNoyAnqA5 https://t.co/dCsM5XeoQV
July 30, 2020, 7:31 PM
School’s out for the summer but learning never stops. Summer is a great time for students to review core concepts. Find out how young learners can use Newsela to drive background knowledge 👉 https://t.co/9w5ALsj1Gr https://t.co/4WkR17yzAy
July 30, 2020, 4:33 PM
Making distance learning more equitable, bulk printing gives districts the flexibility they need to plan for distance learning and provide all students with accessible at-home resources, with or without access to technology at home. https://t.co/QK6uEeL6Hy
July 30, 2020, 3:31 PM
A car is pulled over. If the person is being singled out on the basis of race, it might be an example of profiling. Or it might be discrimination. Separating the two can be hard. Deepen students' understanding of racial profiling with this overview: https://t.co/UuJViWxvh5 https://t.co/shX6Vc1qxy
July 30, 2020, 2:32 PM
How does the stock market work? The topic can be intimidating, but mastering it is key to understanding how money and the global economy works. This article can help teach students about stocks and the real nature of investment. https://t.co/20ls2mNjXR https://t.co/SOStp42uIS
July 29, 2020, 6:45 PM
Tomorrow! Join us for an interactive #backtoschooling chat with NC District Administrators to learn how to empower teachers with content that can differentiate at scale, seamlessly transition from physical to remote learning, and reach every NC student. https://t.co/R3w6WA40qU https://t.co/eleLfw3THb
July 29, 2020, 5:11 PM
⚽️ Gooooaaaallllll: The Sports Reading Club! 📚 Students can continue to grow their love of reading from home. Newsela Reading Clubs let students read daily about a topic that interests and challenges them 👉 https://t.co/Wj8Tco7sTw https://t.co/xjxuCTaJu1
July 29, 2020, 3:45 PM
Newsela + @Peardeck are being responsive to COVID-19 challenges by resourcing educators with ready-to-go assignments. Subscribe to the Deck Decks for new ways to share updates with your students every week. https://t.co/WIJGZrA70c
July 29, 2020, 2:24 PM
During COVID-19, more people are volunteering to transcribe historical documents. Read the story of Meghana Venkataswamy, a volunteer who channeled her "inner Sherlock Holmes" to transcribe astronaut Sally Ride's letters and more fascinating records. https://t.co/M2RzywOtuA https://t.co/cWGa4vOmkl
July 29, 2020, 1:14 PM
Becoming a Newsela Certified Educator helps you review the basics and work towards designing meaningful classroom applications with Newsela. Learn more about getting certified this summer (and earn 5 hours of PD) 👉 https://t.co/9f2QMfAYeF https://t.co/FBW09N3oa0
July 28, 2020, 9:27 PM
What if your students could curate the art displayed in museums? Several museums across the U.S. are giving teens this very opportunity. This article explores the ways this is inspiring new perspectives for museum professionals and visitors 👉 https://t.co/7oX8R4TplH https://t.co/bxjl426Chk
July 28, 2020, 7:08 PM
ICYMI - We extended our @C3Teachers collaboration with the new C3 Inquiries: High School collection! It includes 4 new Inquiries designed specifically for high-schoolers with topics spanning Ancient Civilizations, U.S. History and Government 👉 https://t.co/65L9Idbzx7 https://t.co/Wcul0qGYPo
July 28, 2020, 5:40 PM
Meet Jason Ward, a self-taught birdwatcher who turned his passion into a full-time career. In this article, Jason answers common questions about birdwatching (or birding, as some refer to it) and shares the story of pursuing his dream job. Let's explore: https://t.co/VFZLEvI6uo https://t.co/9wyco2nYvU
July 28, 2020, 12:26 PM
Doctors use algorithms as tools to help guide the medical care they give. But according to a new study, many of these algorithms include racial bias. A recent report outlines 13 examples—this Newsela article explains three of them 👉 https://t.co/rXZhobiOAb https://t.co/NXNTrQPD6E
July 27, 2020, 8:40 PM
How many people are in the workforce? Should everyone without a job be counted as unemployed? Let's explore the 4 types of unemployment — and better understand how economists use this data to measure the health of an economy and navigate change. https://t.co/CWjwWkDLcc https://t.co/39fvD8PlzM
July 27, 2020, 6:16 PM
This is a time of change for many right now, and with that comes various emotions, questions, and an urge to take action. Students and their families can explore content and activities for social distancing in the Newsela SEL Collection 👉 https://t.co/aZHnhm1eLD https://t.co/bLp1ZCuGDs
July 27, 2020, 5:11 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales