Curriculum & Leadership

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

Newsela Certified Educators drive school-wide innovation, especially when it comes to distance learning. Build your expertise in designing creative teaching applications with our instructional content 👉 https://t.co/odmsKMCbxP https://t.co/QpXHZ1SFS5
June 1, 2020, 2:22 PM
Ever wonder how slime would behave in the microgravity of the ISS? 🛰 Nickelodeon sent around two liters of its green goop into orbit to create an educational virtual field trip for teachers to use in class. The experiments were, well... messy! 🤪 https://t.co/Ju8u4eb45d https://t.co/BdDz6AdFY1
June 1, 2020, 12:19 AM
Do your students enjoy discussing climate change? If so, here's some good news to share! 🌍 The University of California announced that it has fully divested from all fossil fuels, no longer earning money by investing in industries such as gas and oil 👉 https://t.co/LxnVLbNg1R https://t.co/jem6wWO40d
May 31, 2020, 10:45 PM
Newsela + @Peardeck are being responsive to the #COVID19 crisis. Subscribe to their Deck Decks for new ways to share updates with your students every week. https://t.co/WIJGZrA70c
May 31, 2020, 7:15 PM
Engage students with an interesting discussion about aliens! 👽 The odds of getting a message from life beyond Earth are not easy to figure out. Even the experts don't have a number. New technologies and more data, though, are making it more likely 👉 https://t.co/yfsI6rl92E https://t.co/tPdiBlKXW9
May 31, 2020, 5:33 PM
⚽️ Gooooaaaallllll: The Sports Reading Club! 📚 Help students 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/kPNOdDCHjP
May 31, 2020, 3:58 PM
Planning for a successful start to the school year in September is on the minds of all educators. This Wednesday, our webinar on reopening schools can guide your #backtoschool plan, whether we return to virtual or face-to-face learning. RVSP to join us 👉 https://t.co/xSSrMIZCB8 https://t.co/ZsefDmHGAP
May 31, 2020, 1:42 PM
Here's a fun question to discuss with students: Who is the best basketball player of all time—Michael Jordan or LeBron James?? 🏀 🏆 The recent ESPN documentary "The Last Dance" about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls has restarted the debate 👉 https://t.co/UcogVRjaD6 https://t.co/GsbG7Z1CPB
May 30, 2020, 11:00 PM
How do we close an unconventional school year and plan for the uncertainty ahead? We brought this question to Alice Montgomery (@aliceannmontgo), Senior Professional Learning Manager at Newsela and former 4th-grade educator. Read Alice's reflections 👉 https://t.co/CD0CXvvX0u https://t.co/KwrpqlyQ2v
May 30, 2020, 9:00 PM
On this day in history—May 30, 1421—Joan of Arc, a national heroine of France, was burned at the stake in the marketplace in Rouen, before a crowd of about 10,000 people. She was only 19 years old. Read her legacy 👉 https://t.co/BK6hDEyJtN https://t.co/UCYjJcTcG0
May 30, 2020, 7:00 PM
What will happen to the environment after the pandemic? Though the pandemic is less than six months old, there is already evidence that the way we are reacting to it is affecting the world's environment 👉 https://t.co/edQLrCKmkX https://t.co/WxTMHKf4X6
May 30, 2020, 4:00 PM
Looking to level up your Newsela knowledge? Become a Newsela Certified Educator and validate your skills with our online course 👉 https://t.co/cDSdvYZUVY
May 30, 2020, 3:44 PM
Your students might be familiar with popular Korean pop groups like BTS and BLACKPINK. Yet 60 years before this "K-pop invasion" globally, the Kim Sisters, a Korean girl group, rocketed to stardom in the United States. #APAHM Here's their story 👉 https://t.co/K1tRYAJjYf https://t.co/5xUrBKw79z
May 30, 2020, 1:01 PM
Have your students complained about being confined in their homes and neighborhoods? In Spain, kids weren't even allowed to leave their homes for 43 days to contain the coronavirus! Give students some extra perspective using this story 👉 https://t.co/05z9FLrqCa https://t.co/6AkY84zTD2
May 29, 2020, 11:59 PM
We are constantly being warned to wash our hands as often as possible, but some Americans don't trust their water is safe enough to do so. Learn the dangers of being without safe water and what Americans are doing about it 👉 https://t.co/vFDI8Y7FRX https://t.co/oUQrcTyJQz
May 29, 2020, 10:39 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales