What in the world just happened?!

We know. You've all been thinking it. So have we. My sister Jenn has a graduate degree in learning design & technology, with a graduate certificate in online learning & teaching. I've been teaching and tutoring online for 12 years. We have a combined 43 years in education. We've been blessed to learn from some of the best pioneers in the field. Even we are stunned by this sudden shift.

When we work with new online students and teachers, we always offer tips to getting started successfully. The benefit we have had in our positions is a fully developed curriculum already in place. We have policies and procedures developed over years of experience. None of you have that luxury right now.

So, as best we can, we’d like to offer a few tips, adapted for this crazy season we find ourselves in.

1. Give it time. Be patient with each other. Know that what teachers are being asked to do now is like learning to fly a plane during take off. Teachers, students, and parents alike need to give it several weeks (months?) to work out the bumps.

2. Communicate with lots of grace. Everyone is stressed and still trying to figure out how to do this. Acknowledge each other’s efforts. State the problem you’re having without accusation. Don’t assume students or parents are intentionally ignoring meetings or assignments. Spell out the details of where to find all aspects of the lessons. Look for solutions and suggest them, knowing that they may not ultimately be used. Be thankful for the suggestions you receive.

3. Put a calendar together. Whatever system your school uses, everything can be added to one paper or virtual calendar. Teachers, you can send electronic calendar invitations to students for live lessons, due dates, and office hours. Ultimately, doing so will save you a lot of time answering questions and chasing down kids who are missing lessons and assignments. Parents, you can help students compile a weekly calendar. Pulling everything into one place will help everyone manage their time more effectively and help alleviate stress.

4. Keep your frustrations in proper context. Realize that everyone is frustrated with the circumstances we’re under. Teachers having to build an online curriculum from scratch, plus many having their own kids at home and pulling double duty, and then some. Parents being home (or even harder, still working) plus having to help students with school. Possible financial strains. Students missing their routine, teachers, and classmates. Don’t let that mass frustration level with quarantine life be inadvertently focused at one area - education. It’s a huge part of all of this. And a potentially huge source of frustration. But it can get better. And it’s not the cause of every woe we have right now.

5. Have confidence that this process can help your student (and adults?) build resilience. The flexibility learned through this process can serve us well in the future. Most colleges now have students take online courses. Many careers have virtual meetings and offer the option to work remotely. Who knows? This whole crazy experiment might expand that option exponentially. (pun intended) We have loved being able to travel and still work when necessary. This generation will not be tied to an office unnecessarily.

6. Look for alternate ways to accomplish the same objectives and demonstrate proficiency. Can it be streamlined? Can students go outside? Can they read a book? Can they record a presentation? Can they teach a class? Can they illustrate the concept? Can they get away from the computer screen?

Do you have other road bumps not addressed here? Need help solving a glitch you can’t figure out? Give us a shout!