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

In a changing world, materials can easily get outdated. With up to 10 new texts added every day, teachers can make connections to important current events using Newsela. https://t.co/w51xpxxl5Y https://t.co/nHg7QD5xRU
April 15, 2021, 7:42 PM
Microplastic pollution is everywhere. It's in the ocean. It's in our food. And now it's on Mount Everest. Discuss microplastics and the ecological threat they pose, using this article: https://t.co/Ze7xHOGhzA https://t.co/KkhOTet1mD
April 15, 2021, 4:16 PM
Myanmar's military used force to overthrow the government on February 1. More than two months later, the country is still in crisis. This article can help students understand the military coup and the ongoing protests: https://t.co/SFWY5GqLAN https://t.co/HwBeBJSzFE
April 15, 2021, 1:02 PM
As slow as they are, sloths may be quick to adapt to the changing world around them. Students can learn about sloth behavior through scientists' new findings, using this article: https://t.co/CCTk1Hv3bk https://t.co/KG1QH2V6A0
April 14, 2021, 7:24 PM
In response to widespread hunger during the pandemic, communities have set up community fridges in public areas where anyone can take or donate food. Students can examine how communities have rallied together during COVID-19, using this article: https://t.co/n687G9orvA https://t.co/oVqHAIEJoE
April 14, 2021, 2:04 PM
Sometimes the hardest part of learning a new tool is integrating it into your daily schedule. The Educator Center can help you seamlessly implement Newsela into your routine. ➡️ https://t.co/XkF9zQwAIz https://t.co/2ONhIOP7Xj
April 14, 2021, 1:02 PM
When it comes to teaching literacy, content matters. We believe the best reader is an engaged reader, and content makes all the difference. Bring context and relevance to any ELA curriculum with Newsela ELA. https://t.co/zmuFt9Q0sU https://t.co/Z9Ce8elTsL
April 13, 2021, 7:00 PM
Our world is changing every day. While some of these changes are natural, many can be traced back to humans. In this Text Set, students will explore ways humans have affected the environment and what can be done to preserve Earth's resources. https://t.co/aQ3fIDHSeg https://t.co/y4VhHFiZdT
April 13, 2021, 5:06 PM
Bridge the gap between educator and student experiences to ensure active anti-racist instruction. Join us for more best practices and considerations in moving beyond "diversity" in the classroom. Register now ➡️ https://t.co/IRRlO0hSqf https://t.co/yMCsc4Tyok
April 13, 2021, 1:30 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales