5 Steps to Moving Your School Online
Sometimes starting a virtual program is an innovative approach to accommodate diverse student populations. Other times, online learning options are organized as a response to an immediate need, resulting from circumstances beyond our control and with limited resources.
The good news is that FLVS has 22 years of experience meeting the needs of students in both scenarios.
Follow these steps to ensure student learning can continue in a crisis.
Step 1: Stop. Think. Plan.
In times of crisis, it’s important to stop and just take a moment to evaluate the situation.
What processes and policies can be paused while you focus on the here and now? What efficiencies can be put in place to streamline and speed up the transition?
Make a list of priorities. Even jotting down your program’s priorities and what quality resources you have and don’t have can get you moving in the right direction. You don’t have to wait until your school district closes to create a plan to move to an online platform.
Here are a few things to think about as you map out your priorities and determine what kind of online platform makes sense for your continuity plans:
- Standards alignment of online content to state requirements
- Training available for administrators, teachers, and students
- Materials needed for remote access by administrators, teachers, and students
- Technology requirements and limitations
Step 2: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
In today’s age of the 24-hour news cycle, your parents and staff are most likely going to be suffering from information overload as they refresh their newsfeed. Students are going to be hearing stories through second and third-hand accounts (i.e., other students). It’s important that your communication with your stakeholders is relevant and can cut through the noise.
Important information can be communicated through various social media tools and simple implementation strategies. When communicating with parents, students, and staff, consider the four key principles of effective communication: transparency, honesty, accessibility, and flexibility.
Families want to know what’s going on quickly after it’s decided and not hear “rumblings” about school closures (transparency). They want to know when a staff member or volunteer tested positive (honesty). They want to be able to ask questions and get answers (accessibility) and you need to be prepared to communicate in a variety of ways (flexibility).
Step 3: Consider Course Content
When FLVS first opened in 1997, the only examples we had of online courseware were from post-secondary education. In addition, these examples were not courses, but syllabi and assignments. Since that time, online courses for our digital natives have evolved to be engaging learning experiences for students. We have a Curriculum Development team that is completely devoted to curriculum development. The team consists not only of curriculum experts, but quality assurance teams and instructional designers…skill sets that are all needed to develop a quality course.
In a time of crisis and uncertainty, how can you maintain your academic standards on an ever-changing timeline? If your school or district is looking to move to an online platform for a month or less, you may want to consider having teachers write and upload their own content. These can be short instructional videos followed by assessment items housed in a learning management system (such as Buzz or Canvas) or another platform (such as Google Classroom).
For longer breaks in learning, consider a content provider. For schools outside the state of Florida, FLVS Global licenses more than 140 courses for Kindergarten through 12th grade. Our course catalog includes core and elective, honors, Advanced Placement, and credit recovery courses. We pride ourselves on developing courses that have a high teacher touchpoint to ensure the students are learning and being assessed by a teacher. For more information specific to your state, reach out to your digital education consultant.
Here are some questions we suggest you ask any content provider:
Do the courses support literacy and growth?
- Is the content NCAA compliant?
- Which LMS will you use?
- What tech support does the provider offer?
- Are there interactive materials such as audio, video, interactive games, flashcards, etc?
- Do the exams include test banks?
Step 4: Support Your Teachers
The good news about switching to an online platform is that your great teachers will still be great teachers! The strategies that have made them effective teachers when they are face-to-face with their students will serve them well in the online environment as well. It just might look a little different!
The key to a successful transition (especially one that is unexpected and on a quick timeline) is going to be supporting your teachers so they can support your students.
Teachers need to know who their point of contact is and how to get in touch with that person. Maybe it is their grade or subject level administrator. Maybe it is the principal. Maybe you already have a lead teacher structure in place. Whatever your plan is, make sure that has been communicated with your instructors.
Be sure to set clear and measurable expectations. What hours are teachers expected to be available to their students? What is the expected turnaround time to return communication to students and parents? How long do teachers have to grade and provide feedback on work students submit? Setting standard operating procedures will ensure everyone is on the same page and clearly understands what is expected of them.
Lastly, provide opportunities for your teachers to meet virtually in professional learning communities (PLCs), content areas, or as a whole school. A quick change to an online environment may make some teachers feel isolated. You want to ensure that they have ample time to work and plan together to keep the sense of community among your instructional staff.
Step 5: Create a Learning Community
As a brick-and-mortar school or district, you have most likely invested a lot of time, energy, and money into creating a community made up of your students, teachers, non-instructional staff, parents, and community partners. As you transition into the online learning landscape, you will want to continue to keep those connections intact. This can be accomplished by having live “morning announcements” for your students via an online video meeting platform such as Zoom. You can host science and social studies fairs online where students can showcase their innovations. Community partners can host job fairs or trade shows for the students to attend. The possibilities are endless!
Connect with our team of online education experts.
We know that this can be an unsettling time for schools, students, teachers, and parents, but our team is here to help!
Join our LinkedIn group which provides a forum for educators to exchange useful information and share best practices in online education.