Around the world, primary and secondary schools are starting to shut facilities in response to COVID-19. While many of your higher education counterparts have at least some experience in online classes to fall back on, most K-12 schools find themselves completely unprepared to move their student body to a virtual classroom. But as many regions lock down, in-person classes may simply not be an option, possibly for the rest of the semester. How will your school get everyone online and save the rest of the academic year in the face of the Coronavirus threat?
Fortunately, you actually have a lot of different options available. From VOD to live lecture capture to fully virtual classrooms, there are a lot of ways to get classes online fast. Here are some options, and some tips for each.
On Demand Classes
The easiest way to get materials to students is by recording sessions and providing them as on-demand resources.
- Lecture capture solutions exist, and can range from fancy hardware to laptop capture.
- However, many schools aren’t ready to go that formal (and potentially expensive). That’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with recording from home. Ideally, a simple video capture tool will let teachers capture both their webcam and their desktop or presentation.
- Ideally, a Learning Management System is the best way to organize information, including class materials, uploading homework, and gradebooks. Getting that up and running in the next month for districts that don’t already having something in place may be challenging, though.
- A video portal offers fewer specific options, but at least makes it easier to keep things organized. Schools can build a repository of classes.
When trying to replicate the classroom experience online, the gold standard is the virtual classroom. A virtual classroom does nearly everything an in-person experience does. The teacher shares video of themselves as well as any supplemental materials they want, including presentations, screen shares, videos, and even whiteboards. Students also share their cameras, and can chat, ask questions, raise their hands, and be called on by the instructor to talk. More sophisticated platforms also allow classes to be divided up into breakout sessions for small group discussions before reconvening with the main class, collaboratively draw on the whiteboard, share group notes, and more.
- The easiest solution is to use a platform actually designed to be a virtual classroom. Teachers can easily set up their own virtual room, just like they would set up their classroom. Students come back to the same space every day, so they can pick up where they left off. Normal classroom behavior, like going up to the board or being called on to speak, works very similarly to the way it does in a physical environment. It’s simple to look around at the faces of the class, and to pull an attendance list at the end of the session.
- While it’s tempting to just use a video conference service like Zoom or Skype, keep in mind that these were originally designed for business and do not support a lot of the features that a solution designed with education in mind can offer.
- If you do use video conferencing, make sure you have a plan for how to manage your recordings. Can you attach them to courses? If students miss a class, how can they find the recording?
- A service that uses persistent rooms is the most convenient for educators; it allows teachers to set up the virtual classroom once for. There’s no need to get everyone the correct link every time for today’s class—there’s just one link that can be easily sent to students and parents, and used every day. Then every time students log in, they find themselves automatically in a customized room for that class, including the recordings and notes from the previous sessions.
Advantages of Video and Virtual Classrooms
Today’s students live and breathe video. For many, going to school via video will be more appealing than the in-person experience. If nothing else, the novelty factor will help get them over some of the resistance to a change in routine. Video can help keep their attention far better than just a pile of worksheets sent home.
Keeping their attention is a major reason to focus on live video, especially. Many households will be struggling with childcare. Whether parents are trying to work from home or supervision is delegated to grandparents and other non-professional teachers, most kids are not going to have someone trained on hand to facilitate learning throughout the day. Expecting small children to be responsible enough to pay attention to on-demand educational videos without HEAVY supervision is not very realistic.
With a virtual classroom, teachers can actually see students’ faces. This is particularly critical for primary and secondary educators, so they can tell if their students are paying attention. Or if they’re playing with their toys or have wandered away completely. It gives both teachers and working-from-home parents a little more leverage for keeping young learners focused on their schoolwork in the distraction-rich environment of their own homes.
To get kids really excited (and to encourage more active learning), ask them to create video assignments. A simple video capture tool can be helpful here for taking screencaptures and webcam footage, but all you really need is a repository where students can upload footage from their phone. Tiktok natives will be overjoyed to show their prowess; teachers may be impressed to see what their students can produce.
Other School Communications During the Coronavirus Crisis
Classes are obviously the most urgent need, but it’s not the only type of gathering or communication schools rely on. As school closures drag out for weeks or months, make sure to plan for alternate communications. Webcasting is a way for administrations to communicate quickly with faculty and staff at large. Video emails allow more personal communications, even when in-person meetings become impossible. And while no one wants to think about an entirely virtual graduation, the chances that live broadcast will be necessary at this point because of the travel restrictions surrounding Coronavirus are high. (See how one university handles livestreaming commencement.) Better to start planning now than to scramble at the last minute.
The time between now and the end of this academic year has never felt longer, or shorter. And Coronavirus news is changing daily. But it’s never been easier to get a campus online than it is now. We’ll get through this together. Stay healthy!
Ready to go virtual?