Successful onboarding and upskilling of teachers during COVID-19

By Yamanda Boukmakh, Head of Partnerships and eLearning Designer at CanopyLAB

 


 

The current state
With most educational institutions switching to remote teaching, teachers and professors have had to transition to digital teaching in a very short period of time. Education ministries across the globe are struggling to balance their budgets while buying subscriptions for learning platforms, streaming services, data storage, and collaboration tools, but one of the overlooked areas to allocated funding is the upskilling of teachers, to ensure they too have the needed skills to deliver great learning experiences online.

 

What is happening now as a result of Covid-19 is that almost overnight, teachers are expected to create a remote learning space for their students almost from scratch. 

 

First step: Redefining the learning space
As an educated teacher myself, I know there is an immense amount of work put in at the start of every year to ensure you have your semester goals, curriculum, lesson plans and even classroom set up for the first day of school. What is happening now as a result of Covid-19 is that almost overnight, teachers are expected to create a remote learning space for their students almost from scratch.

 

I am currently personally supporting over 15 educational institutions running from kindergartens to public high schools and non-profit afterschool programs from many different countries. The very first question I ask in our 1:1 learning success sessions is, what are your goals of using an online learning platform? This really helps them take a step back and focus on the most important learning outcomes for their students, thus beginning to redesign their learning community. 

 

By defining long-term goals of their online learning program, teachers have a better overview of what online courses they need to create, the kinds materials and resources they want to include, and different ways of examining students’ progress.

 

By defining long-term goals of their online learning program, teachers have a better overview of what online courses they need to create, the kinds materials and resources they want to include, and different ways of examining students’ progress. I encourage teachers to put themselves in their learner’s shoes… how will your students be learning from home? What digital tools do they have access to? What are the best ways to ensure that they remain connected to their teachers and peers?

 

Second step: Recycling content and lesson plans
The next step is zooming into creating a particular online course. This begins with conceptualizing the course: Establishing concrete and realistic learning goals for the course and defining what competencies students need to practice and what content they need to know.

 

I want to stress that reskilling teachers does not mean that we are completely stripping them away from their years of experience and learning philosophies. Quite the contrary, we are elevating the teaching experience to include digital tools that strengthen the teacher-student relationship of remote learning.

 

When it comes to reskilling teachers, the key is supporting them in understanding how various platform features work and how they can use them to create online courses. I want to stress that reskilling teachers does not mean that we are completely stripping them away from their years of experience and learning philosophies. Quite the contrary, we are elevating the teaching experience to include digital tools that strengthen the teacher-student relationship of remote learning.

 

Once the teacher is comfortable using the learning platform and understands what kind of interactions are possible, then they are ready to review the content and materials they have planned for the semester. The materials they select encompass multimedia, from videos and online articles to worksheets and presentations created by the teachers. This ensures that students have the right amount of resources they need to understand concepts or complete specific tasks from their homes.

 

I always like using the following scenario to get their creative juices flowing

 

I always like using the following scenario to get their creative juices flowing: Think back to your very first day as a teacher. You had to find your way to your classroom, rearrange the desks, connect to the internet, or look for a projector, read through students’ files to create a seating chart… and many other steps. Transitioning to online learning should be thought of as the same thing: here are a set of features in a digital platform that will be the canvas of my virtual learning space.

 

Don’t underestimate the power of a 60-second welcome video. This is one of the most effective tools to ensure students feel engaged when beginning an online course. Teachers take a minute to record themselves, whether it is video or audio, and bid their students welcome to their online learning community, guide them through the materials and establish expectations and tips on how to best work online!

 

Third step: Redesigning exercises and examinations
Ah, the million-dollar question: How do I know what my students are learning? This is an integral part of the learning process and through CanopyLAB’s learning platform, we use the exercise tag feature to ensure that students are producing work, reflecting on their learning and showing their progress. This feature allows the teacher to define a certain task that is related to the learning objectives and materials within the course units. This allows teachers to gather evidence of student learning, which can take the form of a classic written assignment, multiple choice quiz, debate facilitation on the course forum, or perhaps a presentation in the form of a video or audio recording.

 

CanopyLAB’s social features, interactive exercises, and intuitive architecture allow for the perfect balance between structure and flexibility that all teachers need to ensure that the remote learning during COVID-19 is effective, successful, and able to mirror the learning community they have established in the physical classroom.

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