Delivering distance learning for an extended period of time is a new concept for most schools. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), in the wake of the potential spread of COVID-19, is calling public schools and charters to plan for up to seven weeks of distance learning.

Distance learning is not the same as e-Learning.

MDE  released new guidelines Sunday morning. See guidelines from MDE.

Those guidelines have since been updated: View latest guidelines. (Updated March 16, 2020)

MDE defines distance learning as:  Students engaging in distance learning have access to appropriate educational materials and receive daily interaction with their licensed teacher(s).

When effectively delivering this, schools create an inside-out model to serve students. Keep an open mind. Roles of teachers and other staff members will change. Bus drivers, for example, may be delivering learning materials and meals and collecting homework rather than picking up students.

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Creating a Plan

Here are some key steps to take and questions to consider to jumpstart planning in your school district:

1. Group Students by Learning Pathways

How you facilitate distant learning with younger students will be different than for older students. Students, starting in grades 4, 5 or 6, and the related curriculum are adaptable to distance learning. PreK through grades 3 or 4 have different needs and parent engagement levels.

  • At which grade does it make the most sense of your district to make split?
  • What are the key learning tools needed for each?

2. Technology

Technology will play a key role in effectively delivering distance learning. First assess access to technology for all of your students.

  • Who has a device to use for learning at home?
  • Who has Internet access to use for learning at home?
  • How will you provide devices to students in need of them?
  • How will you provide Internet access to students in need of it? (ie: Hot spots)
  • Which online learning tools will students need access to? (ie: Google classrooms)

3. Learning Materials & Teacher Interaction

  • How will you distribute learning materials to students online?
  • How will you distribute and collect learning materials to students in person? (ie: Bus Routes)
  • How will teachers interact with students each day?
  • How can lesson plans continue to facilitate students to work together in small groups? (ie: Create a Google presentation remotely together on a specific topic).
  • What content needs to be created to deliver this flipped model? What resources are already available?

4. Student Clusters

Informal clustering naturally happens within families, friend groups and neighborhoods with a school closure.

  • What role does your school want to play in facilitating clusters to facilitate learning?
  • Are there key groups that are higher priority to organize clusters?

5. Nutrition

  • How could your school continue to provide meals to students in need? (ie: Grab & Go, Drive-Thru, Bus Deliveries)
  • How could this be coordinated with learning activities?

6. Additional Support

  • What are key groups that need additional support or attention? (FRE, Special Ed, Lack Technology, PreK-3, certain subjects)
  • How will you support them?

7. Blended Approach

*This approach is NOT expected to be an option during the potential extended closure for COVID-19, due to current developing guidelines. In the event of a longer-term closure, it is best to count on no in-person interaction between students and staff. However, a blended approach is a model for school districts to consider when planning for a variety of future scenarios.

There are always different phases in an emergency response (green, yellow, red). Consider to what degree your school may be closed and consider blending at-school with small groups and at-home education.

This could mean bringing smaller groups of students in on different days, and some students could be at school every day due to special needs or absence of at-home supervision. With fewer students in school, social distancing is possible. Students will do work at home on the days they are not in school.  Custodians (bus drivers and other staff) could disinfect school every evening so it is safe for next day’s students. Learn more about the guidelines. 

8. Training

Delivering education services remotely for an extended period of time requires a different roles and skills for students, teachers and parents. Consider how you will equip each before distance learning is needed while school is in session as well as in the event of a sudden school closure.

What training will each of these groups need for your district to employ distant learning over an extended period of time?

  • Students
  • Teachers & Staff
  • Parents of younger students
  • Parents of middle and high school students

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Looking for Ideas?

Check out Key Instructional Contacts for posts of Distance Learning plans and ideas.

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