Opinion
School Climate & Safety Opinion

This Is Emergency Remote Teaching, Not Just Online Teaching

There’s a difference
By Natalie B. Milman — March 30, 2020 3 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE

I have taught online for nearly 20 years. As an online professor at George Washington University, my courses continued through the 9/11 terrorist attacks, beltway snipers, Hurricane Isabel, the H1N1 virus, and “Snowmaggedon.” Even when I lost power and was stranded in my home, I charged my phone in my car and provided updates on our learning-management system from my smartphone.

During these emergencies, however, the content was already developed and lectures scheduled to launch for the entire semester. Clearly, disruption of our daily lives is not unusual, and preparedness is important, but what we are all experiencing because of COVID-19 is unprecedented.

These are not normal teaching and learning conditions. What we are experiencing now is emergency remote teaching and learning—or as some have called it, “pandemic pedagogy.”

It takes a lot of time and effort to design and develop effective, engaging online education. There are already many naysayers noting how inferior online education is, but the truth is that it is not the medium that matters but the design of the learning experiences, the quality of the content, and the engagement of learners.

Well-designed online education can be just as effective as face-to-face instruction. Educators suddenly thrust into emergency remote teaching do not have ideal conditions to offer well-planned, quality instruction.

On top of that, we are all living through a pandemic with a great deal of uncertainty. Everyone is likely experiencing some levels of stress about the unknown (How long will this last? How will this work? Who will get sick/survive/die? How will this affect employment? Will the virus come back in waves?).

So, how can schools across the country help bring high-quality remote education to all students during this pandemic?

First and foremost, school leaders and teachers need to be clear that we are functioning in an emergency. There is no playbook for how to lead and teach remotely at this scale, but here are my suggestions for leaders and educators struggling to adjust:

1. Communicate frequently and honestly: Frequent, straightforward, and honest communication is essential. Not only does it address questions students and families might have, but it also gives assurance that you have a plan–even if it is evolving. Also, ensure everyone knows when and how to access communications. Be sure to touch base with colleagues and students on a regular basis. Document any concerns and those with whom you need to loop back.

2. Prioritize needs: Establish short- and long-term priorities and steps to address them. There is a lot to be accomplished. It’s critical to determine what needs to be done and by when.

3. Be flexible: We are functioning in uncharted territory. Many policies and practices that work in brick-and-mortar settings and even regular online classes may not apply. School leaders and teachers will need to be flexible and, in some cases, very creative.

4. Keep it simple: Although numerous companies are offering free subscriptions to a lot of content and technology tools, this is not the time to roll out new tools–unless there is no other option.

5. Establish routines and schedules: When a school’s staff and students are distributed across many miles, it is important to establish schedules for virtual conferences, meetings, and communications.

6. Collaborate: School leaders should work with faculty and staff, as well as other school leaders. This is a unique opportunity to learn from and with one another, and not just within one’s district or state. Many online communities have emerged on social media and in professional organizations.

7. Engage the whole school community in decisionmaking: When possible and relevant, include a diverse range of voices in decisionmaking; this will not only recognize their roles as part of the learning community but also foster buy-in.

8. Develop contingency plans: Leaders, teachers, staff, students, and their family members will get sick and be unable to meet their responsibilities—and not only because of COVID-19. Technology will fail. Things will not always work as planned. Be sure to have contingency plans in place.

9. Practice, model, and promote well-being: School leaders and teachers’ well-being (and not just emotional and physical but also social and intellectual) are important. Practice, model, and promote overall well-being.

10. Pause, listen, reflect, and learn: We all have a great deal to learn from this pandemic. However, it is easy to blaze ahead without pausing or reflecting on lessons learned. What approaches supported the transition to emergency remote teaching and learning? What policies changed? How did stakeholders adapt?

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says 'High-Surveillance' Schools Lead to More Suspensions, Lower Achievement
Cameras, drug sweeps, and other surveillance increase exclusionary discipline, regardless of actual student misbehavior, new research finds.
5 min read
New research suggests such surveillance systems may increase discipline disparities.
Motortion/iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center Rising Numbers of Educators Say Pandemic Is Now Blown Out of Proportion, Survey Shows
An EdWeek Research Center survey shows that nearly 3 of every 10 educators believe the pandemic is no longer a real threat to schools.
4 min read
A sign that reads "SOCIAL DISTANCE MAINTAIN 6 FT" was posted on a student locker at a school in Baldwin, N.Y., at the beginning of the school year. But a new survey shows educators' concerns about the pandemic are declining.
A sign that reads "SOCIAL DISTANCE MAINTAIN 6 FT" was posted on a student locker at a school in Baldwin, N.Y., at the beginning of the school year. But a new survey shows educators' concerns about the pandemic are declining.<br/>
Mark Lennihan/AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Sponsor
Putting safety first: COVID-19 testing in schools
Are schools ready to offer a post-pandemic place to learn?
Content provided by BD
School Climate & Safety How Biden's New Actions on Guns Could Affect Students and Schools
President Joe Biden announced steps to prevent gun violence through executive action and a push for state and federal legislation.
5 min read
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
High school students rally at the U.S. Capitol in February 2018, three days after a former student shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP