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What is Distance Learning?

Distance learning is exactly what it sounds like – learning a topic, concept, or lesson at a distance from the teacher. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to teach students remotely.

Teachers around the world have been forced to teach themselves how to use technology to connect with their students. Many teachers incorporated technology into their lessons even before the pandemic hit. Now every teacher needs to be up-to-speed on at least a few of the more common apps and websites that are available.

Parents have also been forced to learn apps and websites that they may never have used before. For example, most school districts now use some type of LMS, or learning management system. Some very common ones are Schoology or Google Classroom. Parents also need to be able to see the students’ online “classrooms.” Here’s a handy guide to Google Classroom for parents.

What Does Distance Learning Look Like?

In a perfect world, every student would have access to a computer or other device, fast and stable internet, and a time and place to complete their lessons.

Unfortunately, we all know that we are far from living in a perfect world. Not all students have any internet at all, or access to a computer. That means that teachers must find ways to get around these roadblocks and find ways to teach their students.

For these students, distance learning might look a lot like traditional learning except that they’re at home. Teachers put together printed packets of work for students, with instructions and other needed materials. The school district will then distribute those materials. Students then complete the work at home.

Many school districts distribute chrome books to the students that need them, and other companies provide free or reduced internet service. Schools try very hard to make online distance learning available for all students.

True distance learning takes place online. Teachers place assignments or activities online via their LMS. Students then have varied amounts of time to complete the tasks. There are many types of activities that can be completed online.

Types of Online Learning Activities

There really is no way to list all of the different types of lessons or activities that students can do online. Here’s a general list:

  1. Videos – these may consist of existing videos or ones that the teacher has created. They may be used as the whole lesson, with students watching and then doing an assignment based on it, or as part of a lesson.
  2. Webquests – longer activities in which students are provided with a problem or scenario. Teachers provide several websites to visit which students use to solve the problem or complete the scenario.
  3. Simulations – these are very often used for science classes but can also be used by other disciplines. There are hundreds of websites that provide realistic experiences where students actually perform a virtual lab or play an educational game.
  4. Virtual field trips – if you can think of a place to visit, chances are there’s a virtual field trip to take you there. Students can interact with astronauts in space, dive deep into the ocean, visit zoos and watch animals on live webcams. Or maybe they’d like to visit Yellowstone National Park, the Great Lakes, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Teachers can create exciting lessons based on a virtual field trip. Click here for some interesting virtual field trips.
  5. Zoom meetings – Zoom is a meeting app that teachers have embraced for online learning. Once students have downloaded it, teachers can “meet” with students individually or as a class. It’s a powerful way to maintain personal contact. Many teachers set up actual Zoom classes where they meet at the same time every day just like they would for a regular face to face class. If your students have never used Zoom before, they may have a bit of difficulty at first. Here’s a handy guide to help your students get started.

Some form of distance learning is likely here to stay even after the pandemic is over. If you have an app or website that has made distance learning easier for you please share in the comments.

Happy Teaching!

Hello! Welcome to my little slice of the Internet!

I’m Debbie … retired teacher, curriculum writer, nature-lover, and bibliophile. I love planners, both paper and digital … planning is my “me”time! I live in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State with my husband and our 3 furbabies. That’s me in the picture above with our two horses, Clifford and Shy … they are in addition to our other 3 pets.

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