4 steps for shifting from face-to-face learning

Report offers guidance in delivering high-quality, equitable instruction and creating community online
By: | August 10, 2020
In shifting plans back to online learnig, districts should set a consistent schedule that includes synchronous instruction and implement curriculum that connects to and affirms students’ racial and cultural identities. (GettyImages/valentinrussanov)In shifting plans back to online learnig, districts should set a consistent schedule that includes synchronous instruction and implement curriculum that connects to and affirms students’ racial and cultural identities. (GettyImages/valentinrussanov)

For school administrators who had planned for in-person or hybrid instruction, educators must support students “who have been most harmed by the pandemic and by racial injustice,” according to a new report from Columbia University.

The research, which is based on interviews with superintendents, principals, parents and other educators planning for the school year in Connecticut, has been shared in Google Docs so administrators can customize the recommendations to their districts.

“Districts across the country have realized it’s time to stop debating if remote learning is a reality and start determining how to make it happen,” said Elizabeth Chu, the executive director of The Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University. “The guidance and tools we created will help leaders quickly develop and implement a plan designed to meet the needs of all students.”

Districts must first ensure all students have internet access and computer devices says the report, which has been endorsed by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, among other organizations.


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“Coupled with our work to provide access to technology and connectivity for our most vulnerable populations, this guidance will allow us to be better prepared to support our students, educators, and families should infection rates demand we shift to an entirely remote model of instruction,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said.

The report focuses on four key steps in returning to fully remote learning:

  • To deliver high-quality, equitable instruction, districts must design a consistent schedule that includes synchronous instruction for K-12 students in all subjects. Accelerating learning will require district leaders to prioritize certain standards within a curriculum that connects to and affirms students’ racial and cultural identities.
  • Create a strong remote-learning community. Educators must create, communicate and deliver on high expectations for students by developing trusting relationships and supporting students’ social-emotional learning needs, particularly with students “who have been most harmed by the pandemic and by racial injustice.”
  • Make remote learning available regardless of a student’s home situation or educational and language needs. Schools leaders must build strong partnerships with families and provide regular synchronous support to parents. Districts must offer in-person learning to some students, such as those with high learning needs and those experiencing homelessness.
  • Observe and improve the quality of remote learning. Even districts experiencing success with fully remote learning can improve instruction. Administrators and teachers must collaborate and participate in professional development. There also need to be opporuntities for educators to provide feedback on approaches the are and aren’t working.

A model for remote learning

Columbia’s report also shares a model distancing learning plan that prioritizes in-person instruction for students with IEPs and the children of essential workers.


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It also envisions students participating in four to five hours of remote instruction each day, and provides sample schedules for students in different grade levels.

Among other steps, this model encourages educators to share with families a weekly learning plan for each student.

“The guidance in this report is well researched, extremely relevant, and practical to implement—all to the benefit of students, teachers, and parents who need this guidance now more than ever,” said Shannon Marimón, executive director of ReadyCT, which participated in the research. “Because the final report takes into account both aligned and competing interests, educators who leverage the report will be able to deliver high-quality remote learning and a robust educational experience despite the barriers to learning presented by COVID-19.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


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