This Is How You Set Up Virtual Classes for Distance Learning

June 9, 2020 2 min read

Putting educational resources online isn’t a new concept, but going full-on virtual essentially overnight is a huge move for educators and organization heads (not to mention parents and kids, too). While everyone agrees that educational and recreational activities are important and so needed right now -- it doesn’t necessarily make the abrupt shift to remote any easier.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’ve arrived at the right place. You’ll find an overview for building your tech-stack, setting up virtual classes, and creating value for students in new ways. We’ll also share a few links to some interesting resources we found during our research.

Meet Distance Learning, eLearning, Virtual Learning (whatever you want to call it!)

Tech tools for a full-fledged online class setup

If your organization is still working the kinks out of bringing your programs online, we’ve got you covered. Here are some tools (free or affordable) that can help you continue to run the show!

Chat: Online chat is a convenient way to keep a sense of community going, which we need now more than ever! Slack or Microsoft Teams are both great options to stay in touch with students. This can be in a one-to-one conversation setting, in large groups, or smaller sub-groups -- to align with the way have created your classes by subject, age group, etc.

Group/channel ideas:

  • Internal comms between staff members
  • Teacher “office hours”
  • Splitting students up for group projects
  • Frivolous unrelated topics to blow off steam! (We have quite a few ourselves, like #cuteanimals)

Video: It’s hard to match the tactile experience of being face-to-face, but video is a great avenue to supplement that interaction. Zoom, WebEx, or Google Hangouts-type tools are the cornerstone of getting online classes up and running. It’s hard to match the tactile experience of being face-to-face, but video is a great avenue to supplement that interaction.

Many video conferencing/meeting providers have ample experience working with educational organizations and are already well-armed with the tools needed to hold online classes. These are the core features you should look for in a video provider:

  • Screen sharing, whiteboarding, content sharing
  • Recording and transcription
  • Clear labeling of classes or meetings
  • Fun, engaging “extras” like student reactions, annotations, virtual backgrounds, and animations

Registration: Online registration software like Amilia was built with the participant experience in mind -- that means that your students (or their parents!) can easily navigate your programs and register as needed.

More than ever before, people are scouring for online alternatives for their regular day-to-day activities. So, you’ll want to make sure your organization is front and center with a smooth experience -- whether you’re looking at selling individual courses, memberships, or merch.

Recommended reading: The Parent & Guardian “Customer” Journey

Operations: It can be a difficult task to sift through all the tech solutions out there to find what works for you. But here are a few other functionalities you can consider; these are some things that have come in handy for Amilia clients:

  • One-on-one sessions with your participants can be frustrating to book, for them and you! A private lesson scheduling feature can be a lifesaver, especially in times like these where it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks.
  • What kind of arrangement will there be in place for payments from participants? It’s ideal to make sure you have flexible options in place (perhaps even more so now in these unpredictable times).
  • Communicating with guardians/participants has always been an important consideration, even more so now! Ensure you’re providing up-to-date information and resources when you can, but in a way that doesn’t deplete you -- a mass emailing tool is a quick solve for this (like Constant Contact). Bonus points for mass SMS, too: you can reach your audience where they are with tools like Activity Messenger.
communication for virtual classes

Continuing to add value remotely - Course planning & beyond

Adapting your curriculum/program to an online format can be easier for some more than others depending on the subject matter. Lectures and demonstrations can be relatively straightforward because all you’ll need is a video conference tool -- and your knowledge on the topic!

There are 3 things to keep in mind here:

course planning distance learning

  • This format is new for everyone, so check in with participants/students often to see if they’ve got questions. It can be tough without social cues to know when to take a pause, but doing so will help them engage. Close-ended questions are best for kids that don’t have a great handle on expressing themselves yet!
  • Take the time to map out your learning objectives and evaluation methods. Most likely, they’ll be similar, if not identical, to your original goals. However, this is a tricky time for everyone, so it might be ideal to tone down your expectations of yourself and your students.

Beyond these basics, it’s a good idea to look at extras you can add to your routine to keep participants entertained and learning! Consider things like new worksheets, fun add-ons that are complementary to your topic, or at-home activities. These will be dictated by the subject matter of your program and the age group you’re working with. That said, here are a few options to think about:

  • Coloring sheets that can be printed out
  • Educational scavenger hunts
  • Closed Facebook groups on the topic
  • Tactile activities like crafts or cooking
  • Virtual museum tours (example)

Resources for educators and families

There is tons of online content swirling around on these topics right now, which can make it difficult to find helpful information that relates to you.

As such, we wanted to share some of the useful resources we’ve stumbled across in our research so far. Some are geared towards educators and program managers and others can be relayed to students and families that you work with.

No one can say for sure how long this situation will last, but we do know that the after-effects will be felt for a while. This may sound a bit gloomy, but there are lots of positives that will come out from this time of adaptation, too!

A few silver linings: shifting some or all of your organization’s programs to a convenient online space, honing your org’s ability to adapt quickly, and coming up with new and creative ways to engage participants. We will all persevere.

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