On the other side of online learning


What are students supposed to count on during times of uncertainty and change? Forced to suddenly move from a traditional face-to-face routine to a foreign landscape that doesn’t make sense, how will kids adjust?

The path to online learning doesn’t have to be confusing

Hundreds of articles, tools, and strategies were hurdled at teachers last year as they transitioned from traditional, face-to-face teaching to online teaching, leaving many to wonder, Where do I start?

See also: Key strategies for engaging students in virtual learning environments

With a desire to meet the needs of their students and figure out how to teach in this new environment, teachers researched. They participated in professional development, attended webinars and trainings, determined not to let their students down. 

While there are tons of tools, great strategies, and helpful articles published since the pandemic began, good old-fashioned teaching still holds true in online learning.

There are differences in pedagogy, primarily in the development and creation of online courses; however, educators don’t need magical powers to be good at online learning because good face-to-face teachers already possess everything they need. They just might need a little training to figure out how to apply these stellar qualities in an online environment.

A recipe for online learning

When you strip away the bells and whistles, it’s structure, consistency, and connection that lead to learning.


Even more so than during “normal” times, students crave structure. Being used to a daily bell schedule and knowing exactly where they belong each hour provides students a sense of clarity and certainty when so much of the world doesn’t make any sense. 

Marking holidays in calendar


Along with that structure comes a desire for consistency. Students benefit from knowing what to expect and what is expected of them. That does not mean that students must have daily virtual meetings every hour, but it does mean there are clear expectations every single day. For instance, if a face-to-face teacher ascribes to a pattern of daily or weekly schedules, maintaining something similar provides students some mental “safety” and a grounding function during otherwise chaotic periods. 


Finally, connection cannot be underestimated. New-to-online teachers are learning what veteran online teachers have known for a while: Some students actually come out of their shells and connect more than they did in a traditional classroom. 

While tools can be helpful to facilitate online relationships, simple forms of communication are the best way to start, such as phone calls, virtual meetings, emails, and text messages. In addition to regularly connecting with the teacher, students benefit from opportunities to communicate with their peers in pairs and small and large groups.

See also: All the things I wish I knew earlier about online teaching

Although online learning may not be the best model for all students, many educators have found that some students excel in this new environment. 

What does that mean for the future of education? What opportunities can schools provide to meet the learning needs now uncovered for our students? 

Now that educators have shown their ability to modify, adjust, and expand their skill set to meet their students’ needs, are there new opportunities for teachers?

Picture of Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith, Ph.D. is a dedicated educator who believes learning opportunities are found in every experience. As the director of Student Learning Services, she has the opportunity to utilize her knowledge and skills as a teacher, counselor and administrator. Shannon earned a doctorate in educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University and has over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. Aside from education, Shannon is an avid flower gardener, dystopia reader and loves spending time with her husband and dogs.

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