Learning & Development Blog

How To Support Families During the Transition to Distance Learning

During this transition to distance learning, we know educators are working hard to provide the best, most immediate instructional, interventional, and logistical support to their students. They are planning for weeks or months of lessons delivered to all students, including those with IEPs and 504 Plans, those learning English as a new language, those who are experiencing homelessness, and those who need mental health support.

Educators are working around the clock to retrofit their lesson plans for a distance learning environment. Based on our experience supporting our corporate clients’ remote and blended learning, we’ve put together some tips for educators to help students and families transition to this new learning model.

Schedule virtual office hours

Educators may need more time to make the transition to “web classes,” or facilitating instruction using a virtual classroom platform. Until then, a manageable near-term solution is to establish virtual ‘office hours’ for teachers during the regular school day. During those time frames, students can go online to complete and submit work, and teachers are available to respond to questions.

Tips for educators making the transition:

  • During virtual office hours, continually monitor communication channels for student postings and messages.
  • Respond within 5- to 10-minutes when students submit homework or ask a question.
  • If students ask for support outside of office hours, try to respond within 15-30 minutes so they don’t lose momentum.

Virtual Office Hours

Establish homework helplines

Educators cannot guarantee students will log in during a particular teacher’s office hours to complete work. To mitigate those situations, consider establishing a homework helpline for students to get help from a teacher in a particular subject area. This simply means scheduling teachers to be available in shifts throughout the school day who can respond to any student’s questions about assignments.

For example, a homework helpline could be staffed like this:

  • English Teachers 9:00 AM - 12:00 AM
  • Math Teachers 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Social Studies Teachers 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
  • Science Teachers 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
  • Specialist Teachers 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
  • EL Teachers, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Special Education Teachers 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Expand the boundaries of your school day

While in theory, the above plan seems manageable, the reality is that it may not meet your learning community’s needs for two important reasons.

  1. Educators responsible for maintaining an online presence may also be overseeing their own school-age children’s instruction. Just like many others practicing social distancing, they will be adjusting to a work-from-home environment that they are sharing with other adults, children and pets.
  2. Similarly, parents and guardians who are now accountable for their student’s learning may be working full-time jobs during the school day. There’s a good chance they have more than one school-aged child at home, who potentially attend different schools with different remote learning expectations and schedules.

For those folks, it may be practical to establish virtual office hours during evenings and weekends, or by appointment. The same goes for homework helpline hours.

Working From Home With Kids

As you make the transition to distance learning, be realistic about:

  • What teachers can manage when working from home.
  • What parents and guardians can manage when working full-time and overseeing one or more children’s learning.
  • Shifting the boundaries of the traditional school day.

Preparing For Distance Learning Checklist

Already implementing a distance learning plan in your school or district? We’d love to hear what approach you’re taking. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts with us.