A few years ago I wrote an earlier post examining the research and theory behind a well managed and effective virtual learning model. Little did I know that just about a year later the entire planet would be talking about this and rigorously looking for ways to create effective virtual learning spaces. The post now seems quite ludicrous to read given how much the definition of an online learning management system has changed since January 2020. It reads more like a poorly researched thesis paper written by someone who has absolutely no idea how tough and challenging the practical aspects of the work really is.
This post is not at all a recommendation list since as a teacher I know how annoying such generic lists can be. Each school’s setting and it’s community’s priorities are different. So to hand out a laundry list of best apps that you should try is meaningless and presumptuous. That said, I do want to document some of the solutions that have made an impact in my classes. In some ways I would say these are solutions I look forward to using even when life goes back into full time in person campus mode.
To keep it a bit more interesting to go through I made a quick data studio report instead of having paragraphs of text to go through. The information is categorized by purpose, student feedback and other parameters. I hope to keep adding to this collection as and when I find something more that has had an impact in my classes.
Applications Data Dashboard
Good old Sites
Holding all these elements together are my classroom based websites designed using Sites. The advantage has been of course ease of use but also a clear way to connect the links between what the other apps I mentioned are doing and where to actually find all the class content. Students are already overwhelmed with having to go to different places to find class related work. What I have done with Sites is stitch all of that into a single point of truth. This way a student knows that while the other applications can be for engagement purposes, there is still one spot where all of them, and more, are cataloged. Here are some examples of the work I have put together this year.
Lessons and takeaways
Everything I knew about teaching and learning was challenged after the pandemic began. I started my classes this year with what felt familiar but over the last 8 months I have continued to experiment and adapt as best as was possible. The thing about technology is that the range of options available at any given time can both be a blessing or the real hurdle. So over time, like the rest of us, I have tinkered with what felt stronger in terms of student impact and kept its presence in my teaching. Will this list change? Of course. But at least now there is some clarity and direction for me with what a virtual learning setup could look like at ground zero.