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Are Online Tools Only for Distance Learning?

Ahh online learning. A term that has become quite popular over these last few years…

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering schools, I had little experience with online/distance learning. All of my high school classes were in person at my high school. My undergraduate university experience was similar, with 98% of my classes being in person. There was one class when I lived in Quebec City that was technically “online,” although all it consisted of was a syllabus given with a few assignments and a book to read. The assignments were submitted online via email and there was a prof you could email to ask questions to. However, there was no forum/blog to interact with other classmates, and certainly no zoom sessions or virtual meetings. I would say it was more so a “do it yourself class” than distance/online learning.

My first real experience came with online teaching in March 2020. What a wild ride it was. Luckily, I had used Google Classroom before in my class as a way to share things with all students when it was time to work on computers, and to collect their typed assignments. This was helpful since my students already mostly understood the platform. However, the concept of teaching online instead of face to face was daunting and I spent most of the time feeling like I was just trying to keep my head above water. I felt like I was failing to give my kids proper instruction and that the disconnect/lack of connection really affected my teaching. Let’s also not forget about all the students who just disappeared and never logged in at all…

Now, although online learning isn’t for everyone, there are definitely many students and teachers who will thrive in an online environment. Using the right tools can be helpful for engaging students and enhancing lessons. Plus, these tools don’t only need to be use for distance learning. There are so many tools that I either used online, or discovered later, that could work both in the classroom and for distance learning. Here are just a few:

How would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class, and how would your current context be impacted if you were to shift to an online/distance format vs. face to face?

As I said before, online teaching really was not my jam. If I needed to do it again I could probably get by, and of course improve my abilities to teach online over time. However, I feel that I excel when there is the face to face connection. I also prefer many methods that aren’t as easy to accomplish online such as small group work, 1-1 work on the same paper, and I Do, We Do, You Do lessons. Yes, all of these things can *technically* be done online, but personally I find they work better face to face.

I think the most important thing to remember is that what works for one person will not always work for someone else. There are many teachers who enjoy teaching online, just as there are many students who struggled without the in person environment. Everyone has different preferences and needs. There are so many tools that exist now a days and these can be great options for both online and in person learning!

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3 thoughts on “Are Online Tools Only for Distance Learning?

  1. I had a similar experience where I had already existed ‘online’ for my students. The steepest learning curve was Zoom, but I spent too many hours working to build an understanding of the shortfalls, but I did manage to avoid ever getting zoom-bombed. Was there a particular tool that you found to be frustrating to learn?

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    1. Honestly the most annoying tool for me to learn has been Edsby. It isn’t difficult per say to nagivate, but I find it is lacking in features that I used to rely on a lot come report card time so it has definitely been a learning curve these last two years.

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  2. The teacher account on Canva is awesome! I love using it- even if it’s often for my master’s classes haha. Also, I really like your last point. With such variety of information available about various learning styles, I love that online learning is becoming a much more viable option.

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