7 Ways to Run a Distance Learning Classroom
Posted on June 25, 2020

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2020 will be remembered as a transformational year for education. The way classes are taught (how…when…where) will undergo a major transformation this fall. As an educator, you’re faced with the challenge of delivering the same quality of content in a completely new way.

Which means you now need a whole toolbox of new methods for teaching that can account for:

An Opportunity to Enrich Learning

It will be a challenge to adapt your program to new schedules and standards. But with every challenge comes an opportunity. In this case, it’s an opportunity to reach your students in new and engaging ways that will enrich their learning experience.

It’s an opportunity to begin using interactive eLearning that engages more than a textbook, virtual simulations that are familiar to a student who grew up around technology, one-on-one instructor time via video, smaller group projects that give each student a higher level of engagement, and curriculum plans customized to each student depending on their learning level and speed.

The more of these tools you add to your toolbox, the more prepared you’ll be for any outcome. And the better your students’ learning experience will be.

The 7 Elements of Distance Learning

We’ve compiled a list of the 7 elements every instructor should add to their course structure this fall. These elements consider distance learning and in-person learning. The ideal course would use a blend of these methods, preferably in the order we’ve demonstrated below. It creates a great progression from introducing a concept to the student owning the skills learned.

(BONUS: We’ve put together a video demonstrating how each of these would play out in a live classroom setting. You can watch it here.)

1. Live Lecture

The lecture will always be a standard tool for teaching. You may get to continue this in your classroom this fall – though perhaps with desks more spaced apart. You also may need to deliver these remotely. In that case, popular platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype and Webex work great for sharing presentations with a large number of students at once. Just be sure to get to know the platform’s functions and features well before school starts.

Best practice tip: When live streaming, make sure you have a distraction-free background with good lighting. Bonus tip: Cordless headphones are a great way to ensure your students can hear you no matter how you turn or move around, and it’ll keep you in hearing range of them as well.

2. eLearning

While most schools used eLearning minimally in the past, the majority will have to transfer to eLearning this fall. Far more engaging than a standard textbook, eLearning provides more interactive learning that can be customized to each student. The best quality eLearning includes dynamic visuals and regular interactions, knowledge checks, quizzes, and imbedded simulations.

Best practice tip: Go for quality. We know you’re being inundated with eLearning product offers, but don’t let your students’ learning suffer due to low-quality software. eLearning is here to stay, so invest in curriculum that aligns to your program’s goals for the long-term. We offer the highest-quality eLearning: Check it out here.

3. Instructor Demonstration

This is already common practice if you’re in a lab with students: Once you’ve gone through the theory of a topic, you’ll demonstrate these principles on lab equipment before sending students off to their lab assignments.

In a distance learning environment, you can do the same thing with a little help from your webinar platform and some simple camera work. We suggest investing in a portable camera and tripod. Most will come with a USB connection so you can run everything from your computer with ease. A tripod will help your video frame look professional no matter where you need to set up.

Best practice tip: For an even better student experience, go for a dual-camera setup. A wide angle shot of the instructor and full equipment provides a frame of reference. And adding a second camera for a close-up on the area of focus will allow students to see all the details they need.

4. Virtual Skill Development

Access to physical lab space and equipment may be more restricted this year, so virtual trainers and simulators are a must-have. This is especially important for kinesthetic learners who retain knowledge by doing. When looking into virtual trainers, ask questions like: Does this have curriculum tied to it? Does it incorporate authentic industrial components from brands seen in the workplace? It is open-ended so students can explore further?

We’ve out together a list of virtual simulators we’d recommend. Check out the Top 10 Virtual Trainers for Industrial Skills.

Best practice tip: Pair virtual skill development with hands-on skills whenever possible. A progression from eLearning to virtual skills to hands-on skills targets different learning centers in the brain and will help the knowledge stick for the long-term.

5. Instructor-Student Interactive Skills

As an instructor, you want to be sure your students truly grasp the knowledge they’ve learned in an applicable way. This element is ideal for a distance learning situation where a student can’t be in a physical lab. Thanks to technologies like Zoom, you can virtually connect with your students, set up a camera to show the equipment, and have the students coach you through the steps to complete skills.

Best practice tip: Ideally, these would be one-on-one interactions between the instructor and student. Wherever possible, minimize the number of participants in these groups so you’re getting high-quality interaction with your students. It will also allow you to better gauge how well each individual has mastered the topic.

6. Hands-On Skill Development

While virtual training and eLearning are necessary new tools in a distance learning environment, nothing can replace physical lab time for developing hands-on skills. Each school should develop its own standard policies for social distancing and regular sanitization of lab space and equipment. Students are already taught to wear necessary PPE in the lab, so additional safety practices should flow naturally into your lab procedures.

Best practice tip: Socially-distanced labs will have less students per group working on equipment that is more spaced out. You may need to invest in more equipment to meet these new requirements. Portable training systems are a great option for this: they’re space-saving, affordable, and mobile.

7. Portable Rotational At-Home Skills

Speaking of portable training systems, these are disrupting the way we teach technical education in multiple ways, and a rotational at-home model is one of them. Students can “check out” a piece of equipment the way they would borrow a library book. The student completes assigned hands-on skills at home, then returns the equipment to school. It is then sanitized by school faculty and assigned to another student to be taken home.

The student can video conference with you to demonstrate their skills, record themselves performing the skills, or even go through the skill live in a full-class meeting. There are many ways to ensure your students are learning at home, so focus on what works best for you!

Best practice tip: Be sure the portable trainers you invest in can withstand this frequent exchange. Is it made with durable material? Are there many small, loose pieces that could get lost? Does it come with handle and wheels for portability? Is there a custom case that can be made for it?

Custom Support for Your Program

It’s not easy to implement so many changes into your program in such a short amount of time. New technologies and practices can be daunting. For support on any of these methods, pricing on eLearning and virtual trainers, and product offerings for hands-on equipment, we’re your experts. Fill out the form below and we’ll be glad to help!