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Online Learning in Seven Easy Steps

Beginning online learning?  Here are seven easy steps to guide you so that you can get started.

1. Check your own technology set up.  What can you access from your classroom?  What can you access from home?  What files do you need to save to the cloud?  What files will your students need to access? What help might you need to get started and where can you find it?  This article offers tips for teaching students with limited internet access

2. Select your communication channels.   How will you keep in contact with your students?  Determine your preferred communication channel, alert your students and their families and post this prominently in any folders or files you make available.  This may save you answering the same question repeatedly.  Remind your students to watch for and respond to messages from you as soon as possible. Be proactive in managing student expectations.  Remind your students that the transition will not happen right away.  Be a clear communicator and let them know the plan you are working on.  It is likely that your students see your class or play production as a family, so your communications may be an important part of helping students transition to online learning and changing circumstances that require it.  

3. Line up needed tools.  Determine what you will need to support online learning.  What tools do you have at your disposal?  What other tools will you need? As you take stock consider the basic needs for successful online teaching and learning.  Whatever you choose, you will need to find tools for communication and collaboration that will: 

  • allow you to create and disseminate assignments
  • provide a way to share handouts and resources
  • provide a method of collecting student work 
  • allow you to track student engagement and progress
  • allow you to measure student learning
  • allow you to track student grades

4. Check your students' access to technology. Do your students have access to the internet?  What kind of access do they have?  Do your students have cell phones?  What apps do they commonly use?  Will you need to prepare a paper packet to be mailed to a student?  How will you assure equity and access?  A thoughtful list of questions to ask your students may be found in the article "Teaching Theatre Online: A Shift n Pedagogy Amidst the Coronavirus Outbreak" by Dr. Daphnie Sicre from Loyola Marymount University. 

5. Have a plan for providing content and measuring student learning.  Don't be afraid to start simply - you can always build and improve as you go.  The following tips will help guide you:

First, students need access to content for learning.  Ideas for providing content include:

  • Readings or other resources from Dramatics or Dramatics.org
  • PowerPoint slides or PowerPoint slides with voice over. (Check out programs such as Screencastomatic to record your own narrated presentations) 
  • Short You Tube or other DIY videos
  • Curated open access resources (see lists of ideas on this page)
  • TE Pro student centered lessons at "Click to Teach"
  • Lessons centered around TE Pro Model Cornerstone Assessments or other resources

Next: students need activities to help them make sense of their learning.

  • Set up discussion boards or forums using online tools. (This might be as simple as a collaborative Google Doc)
  • Utilize learning activities such as Think, Pair, Share, online debates, reflection questions and more
  • Use interactive learning techniques such as Backchanneling

Next:  plan for formative assessment and feedback and measuring student learning and growth. 

  • Provide an online quiz using Google Forms
  • Utilize group discussion sites as a tool for measuring student understanding
  • Take advantage of free tools for educators to form group discussions and sharing
  • Utilize Dropbox or Google folders for students to upload and share projects and work for you to measure learning
  • Get creative with tools familiar to students such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, how can students use these to share their work with you?

6. Reach out.

Reach out and ask for help.  Use the power of your professional organization.  EdTA staff stands ready to help and are just a phone call away. Here at EdTA you will find scores of colleagues teaching the same or similar content and likely dealing with similar challenges when shifting to online learning.  Check out the Chapter websites for ideas or join the Community Forum, a vibrant and free community for open sharing.  Consider joining a Facebook group aimed at theatre educators.  Here is a list of some possibilities:

EdTA online community  

Theatre Education Distance Learning Facebook Group  

Theatre Teacher Lesson Lending Facebook Group   

Teaching Theatre Online: Covid-19  

Technical Theatre Educator’s Facebook Group   

High School Theatre Directors and Teachers Facebook Group


7. Keep students safe. Protect student privacy.

A word of caution, as you move into online learning please be aware of the importance of protecting student privacy. Whenever possible, avoid using aps or programs which require students to give their contact information.  You will note in our sample lesson plans and nuggets, we have tried to offer resources which have been chosen to be web based, not requiring log in or contact information.   

We recommend the following to protect your students:

-  Try whenever possible to use tools  and aps which offer student privacy agreements.  (check the National Database to be sure) -  Use web based programs whenever possible so that your students do not have to download anything onto their devices.  -  Check with your district for additional advice about policies or protections.   

Finally a note about access.  As we move into online learning it is important to strive to make sure that students of all abilities can access tools and materials needed.  Accessible Teaching in the Time of Covid-19 offers tips and advice and reminds us of the importance of thinking about access for all. 


TIPS and TECHNIQUES

Theaterish- comprehensive blog and website including some very valuable recommendations for tools for creating online learning along with links to possible content. 

Remote Teaching Resources - massive list of advice and resources culled from college websites and procedures across the country, compiled by  Daniel Stanford, DePaul University, Director of Faculty Development and Tech Innovation 

Videoconferencing Alternatives - Is bandwidth an issue for your students?  Not everything needs to involve high band width video instruction.  Check out Daniel Stanford's advice on how to use low bandwidth, easy to a access technology to create online learning

More Resources for Creating Online Learning

  • Tools to Use - lists of tools that meet your needs for communicating with students, collecting student work, tracking student progress and more
  • Lesson Plan Nuggets - ideas for lesson plans that come with a suggestion for how you might link that content to a standards based activity
  • Click to Teach/Click to Learn - specially designed lessons for student self paced learning right here on TE-Pro; these include everything you need to teach standards based content and measure learning