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How to Increase the Efficacy of Your Synchronous/Asynchronous Learning Environment

Maintaining learning continuity during extended school closures is critical for districts that have implemented fully remote or hybrid learning environments. Dr. Christopher Harrington, an expert in K-12 education technology and virtual and blended learning environments, leads a discussion on how to improve upon current synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, and how to increase student engagement during remote learning.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • The pros and cons of synchronous learning vs. asynchronous learning
  • How to determine which learning environment is right for your district
  • How to improve your current synchronous/asynchronous learning environment
  • How to increase student engagement during distance learning
  • How to implement Dr. Harrington’s guide to drive the success of your remote learning environment

Dr. Christopher Harrington has long served on the forefront of innovative education. Currently an adjunct professor at Immaculata University, Chris specializes in assembling and inspiring great work from great teams.

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Read the Transcript

0:06 (Marissa Naab from Lightspeed Systems)

Good morning, everyone. We are just a couple of minutes early, so I’m going to give some other attendees a few minutes to join. We will begin shortly. 

1:41 

All right, looks like we’ve had several people join us, so I’m going to go ahead and get started. Good morning, and thank you all for joining us. We appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule to join us today for this discussion on how to increase the efficacy of your synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. Before we get started, I just want to go over a couple of housekeeping items really quick. 

2:09 

We will be recording this session and sending the session link out to everyone post webinar along with some of the resources shared by Christopher Harrington and Elizabeth LeBlanc. 

2:22 

We also will be taking questions from the audience at the end of the session, so if you have a question about any of the material shared, please enter it into the chat box and we will make sure to answer it when the time comes. 

2:35 

Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce Dr. Christopher Harrington and Elizabeth LeBlanc. 

2:43 

Would you guys like to share a little bit more about yourselves? 

2:49 (Chris Harrington, Founder of Institute for Teaching and Leading)

Yes, of course. So, Chris Harrington, first of all, we’re thrilled to be here. We were working with the Institute for Teaching and Leading were the founders. And this way, I can tell you from our experiences working with schools right now, there has never been a more important topic right now than in education that we’re about to talk about around student engagement. But then also, helping to provide some guidance and insights around how to increase the efficacy of asynchronous and synchronous learning environments. So thank you for having us. We really appreciate the time with you today. 

3:28 

Just to give a little bit of a background about the Institute for Teaching and Leading, what we do is we focus on helping schools design and implement innovative learning models, and whatever that means to them. 

3:39 

And a lot of times, it does focus a lot on the use of technology, and also creating more student centered or personalized learning environments, which rely heavily on virtual or, or digital learning environments. 

3:53 

So, that’s, that’s where we spend a lot of our time, I, myself, as an educator, middle school, and high school, for about 11 years. 

4:04 

And then a central office administrator for, for about 15 years. 

4:10 

So, in total, and probably helped 40 or 50 school districts, design and implement their online learning environments. 

4:18 

And then, when Elizabeth and I met, and we formed the Institute for Teaching and Leading, we’re really able to take my experiences with helping schools at a more systemic level, then marry that to Elisabeth’s experiences, direct building leadership, and then also working directly with students and innovative models. But I’ll let Elizabeth tell you a little bit about herself, Elizabeth. 

4:46 

Thanks, Chris. So, yes, I’m the other part of the Institute for Teaching and Leading. I founded the Institute five years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun. 

4:59 

And really, we do help schools and districts, there, families and really leaning in on identifying what the needs are, what their vision for teaching, and learning, and that whole process is, from the learner perspective. And then kind of rebuilding and configuring their systems around that. Chris does a lot of work at the district and school level, working with leadership and helping develop that vision. And then my work usually comes with helping groups of teachers and students, figure out how that vision then gets to the classroom. We talk a lot about technology. And especially in this conversation will be talking about technology. Because it’s an accelerant to that work. It’s what makes us able to really reach every learner at scale, So we believe really strongly in that. And so, we’re super happy to be here with Lightspeed. This is a really lovely partnership for us as well. My own background is, so I get to live in both worlds at both them and the consulting world. So I get to help schools and districts across the country. 

5:59 

This has been a unique year for learning for all of us. And in our work at the institute, that, I also have one foot in the practitioner world. I am the leader of a small blended learning school here in northern New Mexico, working with a fairly at-risk population, and so I get to do, you know, really the best of both. So sometimes I’ll be speaking to you from lessons learned from our across the country work, and sometimes they’ll be speaking to you directly as a school leader and former teacher myself. I came to this work very honestly, as did Chris, so I have 12 years of teaching experience in blended and innovative learning environments, including surely online learning and kind of everything in-between. So we’re very excited to be here today to share whatever we can, that helps. Everybody’s raises everybody’s baseline. We are all in this together. So thank you again for having us. 

6:57 

Thanks, Elizabeth. So on the screen right now, you see our contact information. And I know there’ll be shared a little bit later as well. Please know that these are our cell phone numbers, and we welcome phone calls, text messages, between the middle of the meeting or whatever. Feel free to just reach out to us. 

7:15 

We make these numbers widely available, so we can help you at anytime when you need it, OK. 

7:21 

All right, so our goals for today. It’s pretty straightforward. It’s pretty simple, There’s so much to talk about, but we’re gonna focus in on just a few things in particular. The first thing we’ll do is we’re gonna talk about what is synchronous versus asynchronous learning. 

7:36 

We’re going to level set a little bit just to make sure we’re all on the same page, and then we’ll talk a little bit about what these different formats can do for you. 

7:46 

And we’ll also talk about have some guiding questions around which one, which format is right for you, the asynchronous or synchronous, or maybe it’s a combination of both. And then we will move into a conversation, a deeper dive, into what we consider to be at the heart of the efficacy of the synchronous or asynchronous environment and that student engagement. 

8:08 

And then we’ll kind of bring that around to, to share some more resources about how you can, you can dig even a little bit deeper to, to go ahead. 

8:17 

And then we can evolve your programs, OK, well, let’s jump right in. 

8:24 

So when we talk about virtual or remote learning, there are two general formats they’re synchronous and there’s asynchronous. 

8:31 

And here’s the difference between the two in a synchronous environment. It’s more like, it’s real-time, OK? So it’s, it’s teachers and students interacting in real time. 

8:43 

As opposed to asynchronous, which is more like, at your own time, at your own place, at your own pace. And so, in a synchronous environment, communications happen in real-time. 

8:54 

Asynchronous, lot of times, it’s, um, now you’re posting messages on discussion boards, or you’re sending e-mails. And it’s not this back and forth instant, know, like a text message or something that’s, it’s not that instant. 

9:07 

Um, the thing with that. one of the major differences and reasons why people will prefer one format over another is in a synchronous environment. 

9:18 

You can, you can have a greater degree of engagement, or possibly a level of engagement that, it’s a little more familiar to those who are used to teaching in a face-to-face environment in an asynchronous environment. 

9:32 

You don’t have that direct and immediate engagement, however, there’s a different benefit there, and for a lot of folks, it’s just a little bit more flexible and a little bit more convenient. 

9:43 

I’m still taking some graduate courses and I absolutely need to have the asynchronous environment, because I need to do my work late at night. 

9:51 

And, you know, and that’s, that, that’s what some learners will need. 

9:54 

So that’s, that’s an environment that works, for me. And, and it works for them, as well. 

10:00 

So we’ll go ahead and go a little bit further than those general definitions and take a look at what these formats look and feel like for students and teachers. So in this particular graphic, on the right-hand side of the screen, and the right circle, we have what a synchronous online class will look like. 

10:17 

And that’s, that’s really when kids are attending class, It’s virtual, of course. 

10:24 

But they’re either interacting and connecting in this real-time format, either daily, or multiple times per day, or maybe it’s weekly, whenever the schedule, that is set forth by the teacher tips. And I think that’s the key thing to think about there. It’s about a schedule. 

10:41 

Things are scheduled, and the expectation is that you are there in real-time and being present. And that’s obviously when you can participate in these, these real-time discussions. So if I were the teacher in a synchronous environment, I could be having a conversation with, with my class right now, and up on my screen here. 

10:58 

And I can, I can see, all my students. And I can ask them a question. 

11:03 

People raise their hand, you can do a thumbs up, now have like no cards, red, yellow, green, different kinds of codes that they can use to, to communicate, but it’s all real time and synchronous. 

11:14 

In an asynchronous environment, however, this is where we oftentimes see coursework, because it’s assignments, and projects are all signed on, on a periodic basis. 

11:27 

Common timeframe is one week, So you may have a certain amount of work that you need to get done in a given week. 

11:33 

And you decide when you do that, could be late at night. You could get it all done in the beginning of the week and they spread it out all week. 

11:40 

It could be one of those who waits till the last minute gets it all done in the last hour of the week before It’s due. 

11:47 

Um, it’s an asynchronous environment. Some of the common assessment tools will give you immediate feedback. So it could be like a multiple choice test or a quiz, where you can get some immediate feedback on your work. 

12:01 

And it’s not to say that you can’t collaborate, because you certainly can, but because it’s asynchronous, if you do want to have some real-time conversations with some of your classmates, you need to schedule that time, because there is no general expectation that there is a regular schedule. 

12:18 

But then where these two, these two formats merge, synchronous and asynchronous, you still can attend class from any anywhere. 

12:26 

It’s just whether or not you’re going to be bound by a schedule. And there is, there’s definitely going to be communication between you and your instructors in a good program, and a strong program. Then also, that connection from student to student, as well, and in creating those kinds of networks. 

12:41 

So, that’s kinda what it looks and feels like in these formats. 

12:46 

So, all that being said, which is right for you, well, it really does depend on what it, what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and what are you trying to do as a school or district. 

12:58 

So if you are trying to provide learning opportunities for kids who cannot be bound by schedule, maybe they have either medically fragile, maybe they have certain phobias. Maybe they have some family challenges, where they cannot guarantee when they’re going to be available to learn, and to have their education from the school. 

13:22 

in case sometimes we have some student athletes who are traveling and they’re competing nationally, and these are some things where you just absolutely cannot have a schedule. So the asynchronous route is for you. 

13:34 

Um, now, we also have some schools who philosophically they really believe that there has to be some real-time communication between the student and the teacher. And if that’s the case, then you definitely want to be synchronous. 

13:50 

So you can have that what we’ve seen a lot of, especially during these school closures back in spring of 2020. And then for the start of the school year, a lot of schools have actually moved to some sort of a hybrid approach, where you have a combination of asynchronous with synchronous components built into it. 

14:08 

So, we see that as being very common. 

14:11 

So, there are some programs, of course, that are very strong and almost purely asynchronous, and there are some that are that insist on being completely synchronous, where everything is real-time. 

14:22 

But the vast majority of schools that we’ve worked with in those schools that we help us get started with their back-to-school learning models for this current school year are using some sort of a hybrid approach where they do have strong, asynchronous components. But then they do have these synchronous pieces for that level of engagement and making sure that the relationships between teachers and students are developing and remain intact. 

14:47 

So regardless of whatever the format that you choose, whether it’s asynchronous or synchronous, or a hybrid. 

14:55 

There are certainly some fundamental considerations that need to be taken into account when developing or improving a virtual or remote learning programs. 

15:03 

And on the screen here as a resource from the National Standards for Quality Online Learning, these are sets of standards That that schools and districts should strive for in developing their programs and their courses and their pedagogy around virtual or remote learning, whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous. 

15:26 

So these standards were really born out of the National Standards for Standards of Quality Online Learning. 

15:50 

But about 10 years ago, they develop these standards, they become outdated and now an art and organization. 

15:57 

There’s a partnership of an organization. 

15:59 

Quality Matters, which does a lot of vetting of, of quality course content in higher ed and in K 12, and the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance, which is a group of more than 12 statewide virtual schools, pulled together to revise these standards. And fortunately, Elizabeth and I hadn’t had the privilege of being able to be part of this work and helping shape some of these. 

16:21 

But the, the link right is where you want to go to get to these, these resources. 

16:32 

This slide deck with hot links will be available after that, after this session. 

16:37 

But, um, but the online program, quality standards focus on things like governance structures, funding, staffing, curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher, and parent support, Of course, program evaluation, getting a little more granular, the standards around courses, focus, obviously more core space, they focus on the kind and quality of content within online courses, instructional design and assessment practices, and then evaluation of courses in particular. 

17:08 

Then, of course, the standards for teaching are really around digital pedagogy, community building, digital citizenship, student engagement, and then more specific guidance on instructional design and assessment practices. 

17:21 

We’re going to talk a little bit about that, and some of the things that Elizabeth will share with us in just a moment, So, there’s so much to talk about here. 

17:30 

And I can give you some more guidance if we connect offline or sometime after this, this particular session. 

17:38 

But so, as I mentioned before, here at the Institute for Teaching and Leading, we’ve done a lot of work with schools, helping them get back to, get back to, get back to school after the school closures in the spring of 2020. And one of the things that we’ve seen is, even with the strongest programs, ones that have taken into account all of these National standards. 

18:01 

There are still struggles with student engagement. And in these strong programs, they depend on the student engagement. 

18:08 

So even the most well designed programs and most evolved programs, are still at the mercy of student engagement. 

18:15 

So, this is why we’re going to take a deep dive here and share some insights, and some, some suggestions and guidance on how to how to thrive in this kind of environment. 

18:25 

So, with that, I’m going to turn it over to Elizabeth, and she’ll take us into that deep dive. 

18:31 

Elizabeth? Awesome. Thanks, Chris. And Chris and I, and I’m sure we’re not the first people to say this, but something that we find ourselves often saying is, you know, it’s a great thing, that we work in education, because there’s never a point where you’re done. Right. These are all kind of constantly evolving programs. And for most of our schools and districts, we really, even when they thought they were starting out with one type of model, they’ve really had to go through, you know, models that we didn’t even know existed a year ago. So, just a kudos to everyone here, because we are in education and it is a business that is moving from surviving, one of the, I can’t imagine a more, a year that demanded more of us as educators. But, we are moving from surviving into thriving. And really, and truly that student engagement piece is the heart of everything that we do is the heart of the technology platforms that we choose. 

19:28 

It’s the heart of the, the way that you design your model, because you’re trying to figure out what is the optimal way to have our synchronous work with our asynchronous pieces for optimal student engagement. That’s really what we’re after. So, it’s something Chris and I believe in a lot, we’re definitely in the right field, Chris, because this is work that we truly believe in and are very energized. 

19:52 

So, what we’re gonna be talking about, is this really building a foundation of trust. And there’s certain things that go with that. Mainly trying to build a foundation for both learners and families, that is clear. So our learning goals are clear, the expectations are clear when you’re supposed to be synchronous is very clear, when it’s OK to be asynchronous. But what the expectation is for progress around that. For example, it’s very clear. So, Clarity, and, obviously, to communicate that to your learners in your families, the school and district really have to do the work upfront to know what those things are. Right? To be able to then get your learning community on board. And then, consistency, working within and across classes, and platforms, so that we know, for this kind of task, I’ll be logging into this kind of platform, and that will be consistent. 

20:48 

Or when I’m going as a learner, when I need to find out what asynchronous work has been left for me, I note that I’m doing that in a specific LMS, or Google Classroom. 

20:58 

And those things aren’t changing a lot, that we’re really thinking about it ahead of time, and setting our students up for success, because they know where to go, and when, and for what kinds of learning, and feedback, where that’s coming. So, for families, they need to know, like, will I be cheering for my students teacher once a week, once a day? You know, once every nine weeks. What’s the feedback cycle and then also, how do I connect with them to give them feedback? Because right now we are really at most schools are either virtual or hybrid. 

21:31 

Very few schools are truly back in a 100% format. 

21:35 

And that means we are reliant on families in a whole different way when we talk about parents as partners, you know, before the pandemic but that became very, very real. So, not just feedback, but also how is that two-way communication happening, where and when does it work for learners and families and teachers? 

21:55 

Then latest flexibility, and this really gets into the diverse needs of students and families, especially during this year, we have found that while covert has impacted everybody, it has not impacted everyone in the same way, and, therefore, the needs of our students and families are wildly diverse. So I may have families who they really want and need for their student to be able to attend, and get some live instruction and some synchronous time with the teacher during the workday during the school day. The way that we’ve done it previously, and I have other families, and we’ve seen this, and, you know, different districts have been impacted differently, and others have families who are struggling just themselves. Like, they need to either not be in the home, because they are working to keep a roof over everyone’s head. And so maybe that student doesn’t have an adult or a guide by their side during the school day. And so, they might need the flexibility of meeting with the teacher, say, after the traditional school day, or they might be need the flexibility of having that learning happens in a different sort of setting. Have it be asynchronous. So they can still access the material, but engage with it at a time when they have that adult support. 

23:09 

So, really figuring out where and how to leverage these to support the needs of your learning community, is really one of the first places that Chris and I work with a school or district when we start working with them as the Institute for Teaching and Leading. 

23:24 

Then, once we start building into this, so this gets into that. It’s kind of the relationship building, and, you know, we’ve all been talking a lot about social emotional learning, And the relationship piece is really key to that. 

23:37 

But a lot of that happens with, again, consistency and points of communication. So, thinking through, where and when does communication happening, and what tools will I be using, both as a school and district and teacher, to communicate with families and mobile I expect for families, how will they engage them with me? So that needs to happen at the beginning of the term. Beginning of each lesson, to kind of prep students, Right. How will they be getting feedback during the lessons? Will I be leaving no video notes, and Seesaw, for example? Or will I be sending a Google Doc home to families and expecting them to also get feedback on what’s happening with their students, however, those things are happening, being clear about the intent and purpose and platforms being used? Again, what are the points of remediation? So, for example, if a student doesn’t get something the first time, which happens often in education, happens to us as adult learners as well, right? 

24:35 

How did they have access to that information. 

24:38 

If they weren’t, say, live and plus, do they go to a video, or their resources posted somewhere, and knowing where those places are? Also, knowing how to reach out for 1 to 1 tutoring, or reteaching. And maybe looking at shifting the traditional schedule so that those kinds of times are available, has been something that we’ve really worked a lot. on, You know, several of the schools and districts like that Chris and I have worked with. Started with, and we were all in, you know, Emergency Teaching, and learning, and March of last year. So, we’re coming up on almost a year of this, and a lot of us, the starting point, was, Oh, my goodness. We need to stand up school in a Cloud, in the in the cloud, and that needs to happen within a week. 

25:21 

And, it looked a lot like replication of our regular Bell schedule into the Cloud, and that was Step one. And then as these have evolved, and as we’ve been working more deeply, you’ve realized different students, again, have different needs. And some of them need some 1 to 1 support. And so building that time into their weekly schedule, some of them need some deep re teaching Sometimes in specific areas, for example, if they have a learning disability, and something like language arts, or math, that’s really content specific. 

25:51 

Sometimes they just need study skill support, but building that into schedules and methods the contact. Then also on the other side, figuring out where and when enrichment can happen, where do we apply these skills that we’ve talked about? Is that happening? And a whole group synchronous setting is that happening asynchronously, where I introduce a skill. And then I say, OK, take a video of yourself, practicing this skill. 

26:15 

And then I give asynchronous feedback, all of those are great ways to do this, that you need to think them through. 

26:21 

And then, the last but not least, something that we’ve really in the sounds very basic, that it has been huge and when we do surveys with families of districts that we’re working with. 

26:32 

This last piece has been by far their favorite thing. We’ve just simply had our schools and districts create time to do phone call outreach at the beginning of each term. And then also having somebody who’s specific job part of the day is to follow up with families at risk of disengaging using that just old-fashioned phone call. Hey, we noticed, so it says, not in class, how are y’all doing? Is everything going OK? And it sounds very basic, but it has been key to re-engaging students and families by simply asking what’s going on What are the barriers, because we often don’t know what’s going on. And so during the planning, we’ll get into learner engagement and what that actually looks like instructionally now. 

27:15 

So, learner engagement during planning. You’re trying to do a couple different things. 

27:20 

And I’m looking at this both from, actually, the course level. 

27:24 

Of course, I guess you’re building a class for a semester or a full year at the lesson level, but a lot of these things, also, I would ask you to think about them and extrapolate even up to the learning model level. So, some of these pieces are things that will go beyond just one course that really need to run all the way through. 

27:43 

How we’re doing business across the board, across grades, across content, the things we’re looking to do to engage our students. We want it to feel welcoming. We want them to feel invited and you want to get them a lot of different ways to access the information needed. 

28:00 

We want them to see why and this is a big one for motivation. If you work with high school students to know all about this. 

28:07 

That it really and truly at a national level we’ve seen that the told our pandemic has taken on the mental health of all of us but also really specifically on our high school learners. So, helping them see why they are engaging in this, like, what does the Revolutionary War have to do with me? 

28:25 

Just a really valid question, OK, being able to help them make sense of the why of their learning, helping them stay engaged throughout, and then we talk about making the learnings sticky. We want to make this a meaningful experience. And then we want them to be able to take it away, right? So it’s not just something that they’re going through. The motions and checking. The boxes says we’re looking for engagement, not just compliance, you built really differently when that’s part of your consideration. 

28:52 

So when we look at this instructionally, again, looking, this is a really specific, like, this could be an outline for just how you do one specific, one daily lesson, for example. This can also be pulled out and change to make a full, no template for a course. And then, actually, this is something that we’ve worked with schools and districts on implementing across all of their classes. So there’s consistency across them. And again, this is a sample. We’re not saying, this is what you must do, everybody’s learning contexts. It’s different. This is one that we found to be really successful. So, opening activity, usually that’s announcements, news, attendance, those kinds of things. 

29:32 

And that usually takes place synchronously, usually. Obviously, if you’re in a completely virtual setting, that might look different. Although, we also have seen more than usual, usually completely online courses that are taught with an optional hybrid component or an optional synchronous component, because that engagement pieces a little bit harder this year. There’s some sort of learning community activity and again, that can be done synchronously or asynchronously, but this is something that is done that creates, that allows the community to collaborate with one another. Usually, most effective, in real-time. 

30:14 

But it’s something that’s helping them bond, helping them move forward it to be an SEL activity. It can be group problem solving. Something that’s helping the group come together. That’s part of that sticky factor and the social piece, that we really want to be giving to our students as well, because a lot of them are learning in isolation right now, and this virtual connection is really the only time they have to be with other students their own age. And then you can move into the new learning and instruction. And, again, that can be a synchronous time, where the teachers maybe doing a mini lesson or mini lecture, and then, an asynchronous component where the student interacts with that somehow. It can be completely asynchronous. Sometimes teachers might do, you know, just video themselves, doing the lecture, and post that, stay in an LMS, and then the student, and are accessible that way. 

31:08 

But then, you want to build in the independent practice, an activity. 

31:11 

So, one of the things that we really caution against it, if you’re going to post something, you need to tell the learner, why. Like, why are they doing that, what’s important, and what do they need to do to interact with that material. 

31:25 

So we’ll talk about videos later, this is where we see the most, right, but really digging into, OK, if I’m doing this synchronously, here’s the kind of interaction I want. I want students taking notes, for example. And showing me their screen and showing that they’re taking, you know, showing that we’re doing that. Or, I want them to, maybe, I’m using something like Lightspeed, or some other type of thing, where I can see, and thumbnail what they’re actually doing. And I, as the teacher, can monitor what’s going on. But I want to also, then have a daily sort of assessment of the learning. So I need to give the opportunity to learn, I need to be really clear about what it is that I’m expecting them to learn. And then there needs to be some moment where the teacher, and, again, this would be ongoing during a course, but. 

32:14 

Again, happening at really specific times. Once that you’ve already decided on, how am I going to assess the learning? 

32:21 

I’m going to wrap up and give some reflection and time for that. Because we know that helps build longevity of learning, Right? We know that helps, keep the learning, you know, at the student’s fingertips, is providing that moment for reflection before they leave class. And finally, there’s some sort of wrap up. 

32:36 

And again, if you’re doing some sort of something that even resembles even remotely as a bell schedule, right, and you’re doing kind of a class that you’re pulling live, and, you know, synchronous and asynchronous time. If you can manage to do a synchronous closure or wrap up. That’s really key. And this works, actually, we’ve done this in a couple of different settings. So we’ve done completely virtual. We’ve done some hybrid. A lot of schools right now are moving to zoom. You have the half of the kids that are actually in the room with the teacher, and then we have the other half of the students that are kind of logging in. So, just things like that. 

33:17 

You want to make sure that you’re thinking through announcements and wrap up. 

33:23 

As we’re heading on, gonna break apart each of these just a little bit, and I’ll start to go a little faster now that we’ve sort of establish the framework for you. When we’re looking at this, we want to be thinking about, so welcoming presence, right? 

33:38 

Welcoming, just making sure that your teacher presence is established, right? 

33:46 

And again, that’s whether you’re synchronous or asynchronous. If you’re in an online course, maybe that’s a welcome video. Maybe it’s a welcome video, even if you’re not in an online course, and you’re planning to teach mostly synchronously. Other things to consider might be looking at, sharing some personal details. You want to kind of humanize yourself as the teacher. 

34:06 

Right? Allowing opportunity for students to have present themselves, then that actually gets kinda founded in the virtual world, that might be through a discussion question but it might be, you know, you might talk about how they represent themselves through avatars or sharing favorite memes. Or there are actually some really fun things that we can do to start building this idea of a learning community that we’re all doing this work together, and then that we’re all actually sharing the same level of expectation. 

34:33 

So, this is also when you would do things like starting your social emotional learning, and this is where you start building the learning community, right, So, things like icebreakers and check ins, and inviting students to be part of setting the norms. So, things like, when we log into the classroom, we’re going to start with a check in, and then, something, like, OK, what are our rules for, you know, quote unquote rules? What our expectations around sharing our camera? Do we only do that during the check in? Do we expect that all students are doing that all the time? Yes. Everybody, just like says hello and then goes to their avatars. Are we OK with different people doing different things? So co creating those norms with the students. 

35:16 

And again, that can be done totally altogether and a synchronous setting. 

35:21 

Can also be done asynchronously, and that can be through something like Padlet or Google Docs and anywhere that you can share ideas, something that you can have open, that students can interact with at different times. 

35:35 

So the social emotional learning piece is really the pin of building a learning community. And that’s really the intention of those very first two steps. 

35:42 

And then when you start to introduce the new learning, you start to get into really trying to leverage, like, OK, what is the benefit of synchronous time and the benefit of asynchronous time? 

35:55 

And what I would really caution here is you want to be sure that whatever you’re doing, the teacher, is not the only conduit to the material, right? So if I miss the synchronous time as a learner, for whatever reason, I should still have access to that learning. 

36:10 

In some other modality, we really want to give as many different access points as possible to our students. 

36:18 

And that brings me to videos. 

36:20 

Which is having a clear expectation of why we’re using those. 

36:26 

You know, just because one of the things that we see is there’s a lot of content out there and it is not reasonable to expect teachers to recreate all of the content for their courses. It’s not even a great use of teacher time and the world that we live in now. But when you want when you do these you have to make sure that any videos or any other you know any other kind of resources on your Pear Deck or anything that’s being created for our students. Want to make sure they’re clear. 

36:55 

expectations: What is the students supposed to do before, during, and after they are viewing these? 

37:01 

There are things that let you put in questions so that you can kind of monitor progress as you go. 

37:06 

Then there’s also things that, you know, you can simply post, like, as you are doing this, like, please fill out this rubric or, you know, do a KWL teacher talk for some of the different graphic organizers that we ask students to use when they’re trying to assess new learning. So, just keeping them short, keeping them to the point, and being sure there’s an intended purpose for all content created anyway, so called out videos here, but that really is true of all learning content accessible to the greatest degree possible, whether or not the student can be with you synchronously or asynchronously. 

37:46 

Then, we want to make sure there’s the learning daily assessment, so did we achieve what we wanted to and again, the spectrum for this is huge, synchronous, or asynchronous, you can do a ton of different things that you wanna make sure it’s, it’s close to the time that the learning actually happened. And there’s a whole array of having ways to have students, you know, they can do something really short and simple. Like a Google form, for example, or a spot check, or just cold calling that, you can also get really into this and do some open sharing things. Again, like Padlet or building a Kahoot. 

38:23 

At the end, that goes like OK, here’s like the top five things that I hope my students are taking away that day. If possible, you want to make sure they have a chance to revisit the learning, and this is where, because teachers tend to, over plan, this is kind of what we all do. You want to make sure it’s actually easier if you build this part in an asynchronous format. Building it into a live instruction can get a little bit long, especially when we’re talking like the zoom. 

38:56 

On the other end, they don’t experience the classroom in the same way as a student is there with you. And that’s just something that we’ve all learned. So we’re trying to keep the learning short and sweet, right? Very targeted. 

39:08 

But then, if you’re building in an asynchronous time for them to go back, review, and then think about what it is that they learned, that is a huge piece. 

39:18 

Then last, but not least, you want to make sure that you give them a chance to wrap up and really summarize, OK, here’s what we hope you learn, right? Give them a hit, like, OK, next time, when we get together, or in the next class, or, you know, in your next lesson. Great, give them ahead of what’s coming next, kind of targets spiral curriculum, right? 

39:41 

And then make sure they have a couple of minutes that they’re able to simply ask questions, and I would suggest there are a couple different ways to do this. It’s actually one that works really well if you allow for it to happen kind of off camera. So, everybody, like all students know if we’re altogether synchronously and I say, are there any questions? 

40:02 

Nobody wants to be the one who’s likeactually, I totally am lost. Don’t get that. But allowing them to say, post a private question, or allowing them to have a discussion board that’s only, you know, like students are able to post. 

40:16 

And then I, as the teacher, can follow up, those are ways that you can really leverage that synchronous and asynchronous time to engage students and give voice to the ones that don’t always speak up. 

40:28 

Speaking of wrapping up, we have packed this slide deck with resources for you, and I’m glad to know that will be coming out. 

40:35 

When you have the recording, please go through and take a look. There are a lot of resources that we’ll go over super briefly now. Some of them are ones that we have developed at the Institute for Teaching and Leading, and are available on our website. Others are developed by friends and colleagues of ours that we strongly recommend. 

40:53 

So, I’ll let Chris, if you will, jump into just kind of go through some of the less resources that we have and wrap it up for us. 

41:03 

Give you a little time, sorry. Thank you. 

41:07 

Every time I hear you talk about the student engagement piece, just becomes increasingly more obvious, to me, how important it really is, and we can talk for hours on that, and just providing samples in some direction, guidance, and advice. Thanks for that. You know, so, as Elizabeth described, the teacher clearly sets a strong foundation for student engagement in a couple of ways. 

41:33 

So it’s through the instructional design and actually building places in intentionally for student engagement but then also through the direct interactions with students. But the fact of the matter is, that it requires a little bit more than that. 

41:49 

Um, it’s going to require some responsibility on the part of the students but then also some support from the families. And through our work we recognize that so we’ve created these playbooks, if you will, for, for students and for families to help them be more successful in a virtual or remote learning environment. 

42:09 

So you can see here we have, we have an elementary student edition, middle school student edition in a high school student edition. And then even a family edition. And this is for parents. 

42:21 

So these playbooks are actually designed to be read by the kids or by the families themselves, so they are the audience and it’s a way for them to internalize this. And some of the topics categories that we talk about within these playbooks, we talk about being organized. 

42:36 

We talk about the importance of connecting and interacting with your classmates, who talk about ways and the importance of staying engaged, some tips and tricks, tricks for managing time. But then also, what are the ways you need to communicate with your teachers and your classmates, as well as the appropriateness, if you will. 

42:57 

Then inside each of these playbooks, there’s also a checklist, so if you wanted to, a quick and easy list of things, aren’t, just tell me what I gotta do. There are checklists for the kids, there’s checklists for the families, but by looking at those as educators, you can see what those important factors are as well. 

43:17 

So, hopefully you get a chance to take a look at those, and if, if you want more conversation around that, we can certainly, of that, but, again, there’s a hot link here to it, but it’s also available on the Institute for Teaching and Learding website but also share another resource. So, I’m tightly connected with an organization called Michigan Virtual. I serve as the Director of Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute and at the Institute. 

43:44 

This institute, we, um, we’ve created a learning continuity page, we stood this up back in the spring of 2020. 

43:52 

And it’s evolved, but then it’s packed full of all kinds of resources for school leaders and for teachers alike. 

43:59 

But these resources are all to help teachers in particular get acclimated and learn some tips and tricks on how to keep students engaged. But then also how to structure your courses. So, I think what you’ll see is there’s a lot of alignment between what we at the Institute for Teaching Leading do, and what some of these resources are. 

44:21 

And this, um, this, this image right here on the screen is a is of particular interest to school leaders. It’s the planning considerations guide where, honestly, it’s, it’s a hefty. It’s a hefty read. 

44:33 

It’s about 30 pages long, and it includes some theory behind how school leaders can go in the lead learning continuity. 

44:44 

But then also, the, the practices and the guidance and advice there, are applicable to even mature and virtual remote learning environments, even outside of a pandemic, outside of learning continuity. 

45:00 

But then, there’s also some direct steps and actions that, um, school leaders can take to actually strengthen their programs and increase the efficacy of those programs. 

45:11 

Then, coming back to the Institute for Teaching and Leading website, this is more resources for school leaders. These are video conversations with school leaders from across the country, and we touch on different topics here. 

45:25 

The videos can range anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes in length, depending on the topic, but we talk about things like program planning, technology access, and support, LMS, and platform planning, curriculum, instruction assessment, professional learning support for parents, communication, and school operations, in general. So these are all freely available, as well. 

45:46 

And, and again, once this, this slide deck is share it out, you’ll have direct access to those links. 

45:54 

So that kind of wraps up what we wanted to share. I know probably felt like a drink from a fire hose. We’d love to answer some more some of your questions that you may have. And as you’re thinking of those, I’ll turn it over to Aiden. And he will share some ways in which Lightspeed is actually helping to support schools as they move forward in this process. 

46:20 

Thank you so much, Chris. 

46:21 

I’m really excited for the opportunity to partner with Chris and Elizabeth and with the Institute for Teaching and Leading, to kind of learn a little bit more about some of the factors that go into deciding what sort of learning environment is right for you. 

46:38 

I think as Elizabeth mentioned, there’s a lot of factors that go into that, so excited to walk you through how they can help with that. 

46:47 

Before I get started, just know we are going to be doing that Q and A portion, right, as soon as I wrap up. So, if you have anything in mind that you want to make sure that we addressed, make sure to start adding your questions through the question box, and we can jump right into the Q&A afterwards. 

47:03 

So, once again, I’m Aiden, regional sales manager here at Lightspeed. 

47:08 

And to kind of talk a little bit more about where Lightspeed fits into this equation. 

47:13 

I think one of the important thing that I took away from personal Elizabeth’s presentation is that almost every school is going to have a hybrid between synchronous and asynchronous learning based on things changing suddenly are based on different student’s need. 

47:29 

The last thing that we want is for you to feel restricted by your technology into pigeonholing you to decide. Do I need to go synchronous only, do I need to go asynchronous only? Do I need to keep kids in class, or remotely? We want to be there to be flexible, to keep students safe, and to make sure that any online learning program is going to be effective right there. 

47:52 

Lightspeed has had the amazing opportunity over the past 21 years to work with schools all over the country and all over the world. 

48:00 

We now work with 28,000 schools, and, sorry, over 20 million students, which gives us an amazing opportunity to get a lot of real-time feedback over the years, for what sort of needs different school district have, what you need for an educational environment, and how to create the best possible solution to make sure that kids are learning as they should, or being protected from harmful content. 

48:24 

Kind of walking through some of the different offerings that we have here at Lightspeed, are filtering solution is the most effective and accurate content filter on the market, just baseline. 

48:34 

That feedback and categorizing we’ve been able 

48:37 

We’ve been able to do from over 20 years working with, with all of those school districts, our analytics portion. 

48:44 

I think what that applies to most from Kristen Elizabeth’s presentation, ensuring student engagement is going on with any successful online learning program. 

48:54 

Our Lightspeed Alert is something that is really core to our mission of student safety. And to what we heard earlier as well, there’s been a huge toll on the mental health of students during this pandemic or any solution that we can offer to help school district and to help kids. 

49:10 

And to keep them safe is something that we are very proud to offer. 

49:14 

Our Lightspeed Mobile Device Management won’t get into as much today, but it’s an MDM solution designed for the school environment to make things easy with devices on campus, as well as off campus. And then our classroom management is a great option for those schools that do have a synchronous learning component going on, and they might not have students in class as much as they normally do. But the teachers don’t want to feel involved and in control of how their students are learning during class time. 

49:44 

So as we dive a little bit into the filter, our main goal here is to make sure that students are protected while educational content is not blocked. 

49:54 

We know a lot of teachers spend all night coming up with lesson plans, and we want to make sure that they’re able to access everything. And students are, when they’re at home, they’re able to access everything you could need, from a learning perspective, while not being exposed to the harmful content on the internet. So whether it’s watching harmful videos, or images, that’s all going to be included with our database, and then something I’ll get into in a little bit, as well as our parent reporting features. Just keeping that feedback, as clear as possible for those guardians and parents who have taken a new role in terms of their child’s education. We want to make sure to be able to offer that for those parents. 

50:35 

Within some of the reporting that we’re offering within our filtering. I think it’s really important to give as much data as possible to the schools, because this is so unprecedented for everyone. Sure, you’re tired of hearing unprecedented times. But if we can offer that data to help you understand in real time, what’s working? and what’s not working? You can make those adjustments to make sure that your online learning program is effective as possible. To help you identify students who might be at risk of falling behind, or aren’t engaging with educational content, to help parents understand that learning is taking place during school hours, or after hours. All of that data we want to be able to provide to our customers and to the end users to make sure that they have full understanding of what’s going on. 

51:23 

This is a little bit more on that Parent Portal I touched on earlier is something we launched during Covid due in large part to those parents and guardians that are assisting with remote learning. 

51:33 

They’re the primary tech support for their child. They’re making sure that their child, who maybe is taking a home a device for the first time, using it effectively. You want to make sure that they feel up to date with their child is using the device, what sort of Internet website they’re going to if they want to make sure that their kid not browsing after hours. They have the ability to turn that off. And I think this is just, from a clarity and a feedback standpoint, very crucial for keeping the parents in the loop with what’s going on with their child. 

52:06 

Touching a little bit on the classroom and how that’s going to play into that remote synchronous learning environment, you know, teachers, maybe, for the first time is not going to be able to walk around the room and see what’s going on with their students’ devices. We want to make sure that they have a real-time view of how kids are learning so they can check in with their students, make them feel supported, and help in any way possible. 

52:30 

So whether it’s looking at your class, at a list view, or a real-time screen view, and just knowing that everyone’s on the right page, seeing if someone gets dark, seeing if someone falls behind or get a little bit off task. That’s all going to be possible here. We also have these auto generated insights that are easy for teachers, who I just want to take on more laid-back approach and get alerted if a kid starts to exhibit some unusual browsing activity. That’s very big for keeping the teachers engaged in, making sure that they understand what’s going on in the class. 

53:03 

Another thing that’s very helpful from a time saving standpoint is at the beginning of class. As a teacher, you can push out a link to make sure everyone dark on the right page without waiting for kids to type in a URL, or make sure that they’re getting to the right document. You can take five minutes, every class. It’s really going to start to add up over the course of the semester. 

53:24 

Then for that more granular, individual student control, if I know as a teacher that Angie maybe is prone to pulling up games during class time, I can click on her on her name and see what’s going on, on your screen. I can get her attention by quickly locking things down, just to let her know that I see what’s going on. 

53:43 

I can record what’s going on for sharing with either administration or parent, as well as just sending a message to Angie just to see if she needs help with anything, or maybe she has done with her for daily assignments. 

53:56 

Then, the last component for how we fit into the online learning effectiveness that we’re all talking about is that analytics is very crucial for more visibility into student engagement. I know a lot of districts that we’ve spoken with have adopted new online applications or educational content for the first time, and they want a little bit better understanding of which ones are getting adopted by their students. 

54:21 

This is a great window of insight into which tools are being adopted by which students and getting way more granular and holistic view of how learning is taking place, whether it is synchronous or asynchronous. But especially in asynchronous learning, when you’re not quite sure what students are visiting to get their work done Analytics is very helpful from that perspective. As well as just understanding, once again, you know what time of day they’re learning. who is engaging. with which application. 

54:50 

Maybe there’s something that’s taking fire at one school and you want to deploy district wide. All that’s going to be possible. If you have two different solutions that you’re not quite sure what to decide on, you can build custom chart to present to the curriculum or administration and let them see which one the teachers and the students prefer. So this is just kind of that next level window into reporting on, on how kids are learning, and allowing you to make smart decisions based on the data that we have on student engagement. 

55:23 

And so once again, really excited to partner with the team, and we’ll now open up to any questions. 

55:33 

Yes, Thank you guys for your valuable insights. A lot of great content today. So thank you so much for joining. 

55:43 

We’re gonna take a couple of questions now from the audience. 

55:46 

This first one is for Aiden, with the help of parents, and making sure asynchronous students are engaged in learning effectively. 

55:59 

Yeah. That’s a great question. I think there’s a couple of tools that you’re going to be able to share with the parents. As well as identify proactively on your side. The Parent Portal is a great way for those parents who are a little bit concerned for their child. They’re learning at home, for them, to see how their kid is accessing the internet, or be able to turn off web browsing as well as that online activity report, just so you have a window for which students may not be seen online recently, are not engaging with as much educational content. So I think both of those partner, well together to help you identify which students are maybe staying on task during asynchronous learning. 

56:42 

Awesome. Thanks. 

56:44 

This is for Elizabeth. Elizabeth. Can you speak more to building out the instructional framework at the course level? Are there things we should be doing after each learning unit to make sure that the knowledge stays sticky throughout the course, when students aren’t face-to-face? 

57:02 

I am glad to talk to that. Yes. Is the short answer. I think anytime you have a chance to kind of reinforce learning or make it sticky, I think that’s a great thing to do. But really, that brings up one of the key pieces of, you know, this was one that we didn’t get to dive, is deeply into, but I could talk about for hours, is the importance of designing assessment that actually helps students reflect on and apply that you’re learning, especially when we’re in virtual and hybrid learning models. 

57:31 

One of the reasons for that is we’re in the age of Google, right, as Aiden was talking about, like you know, yes, we have some filters that the Internet is that their fingertips. And so, what you need to be doing, when you’re thinking about the end of a lesson, into big unit, things that will make it stick, is actually having students do something that helps them personalize the information, learn to interact with it in a way that’s in alignment with their own interests. So, how do I take, say, a mathematical concept and test that, instead of, with a bunch of multiple choice questions, right? Which are basically Computation and any student worth their salt can Google. How do I actually designed an assessment that helps them take that mathematical equation, or, you know, maybe a scale or whatever the concept is, and then apply it in a unique way? So, like, how would you build a birdhouse with this? How would you design a garden? You know, it’s also a chance to bring it a little more creativity, so I think anytime we can be doing that ends of lessons and units, especially when they’re can have combination of knowledge, is super helpful. 

58:37 

All right, thank you, Chris, can you share more educational resources you found to be effective for a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning environments? 

58:50 

Sure. Yeah, this kind of goes back to some of what Elizabeth was talking about within that framework. 

58:57 

When, when providing content force for students, I’m talking about digital content, of course, when providing that, providing it in a way where access to that content is not dependent on the teacher. 

59:11 

Sure. The teacher is the architect of the learning environment, and the teacher can provide some direct instruction. But having content that’s available for students is really important, and it’s not just important for the students, but you have 

59:25 

The family are the caregivers at home who are helping to support the students. 

59:30 

If they have access to the same content, they can do a better job at supporting their child, and there’s, there’s plenty of content out there in this world. 

59:40 

There are commercial content providers, same providers who provide content for, um, online learning programs, like some of the national brands that are there. They’re certainly available in our school options, where you can actually get that content and have your own teachers teach it. 

1:00:00 

There’s also this concept called open educational resources, and that’s just free content that’s available, and you can find some content like Khan Academy is a very common one that schools use. Having this kind of accessing this kind of content is really important. 

1:00:17 

But then I would also say don’t forget about just who’s in your backyard. 

1:00:23 

There are schools and districts that are willing to share their content with, with other schools and districts just for the sake of helping each other out. 

1:00:32 

So reaching out to some of your peers there in other school districts is very helpful. And then of course the other technology tools and resources we’ve been living in the world of, of the live streaming lessons. zero. 

1:00:48 

So video cameras and speakers just devices in general. Even talked a lot about what Lightspeed can do, you know, so those, those are some resources. There’s no one thing necessarily, but I will say this. It does all come down to professional development. And then how do you actually use that stuff? Right? Not, not just from a training standpoint of where do I click to do this, how to hook this up, but it’s, how do I use it in my classroom. 

1:01:23 

And honestly, there’s a lot of resources out there at Michigan Virtual website that I shared, has a lot of resources that can kind of guide people cut folks in that direction. But he isn’t going to your national teachers’ associations. The teachers’ unions, they have access to a lot of resources on their websites, and we’re finding more and more than at the state level departments of education or including these resources as well. 

1:01:50 

So there’s, um, there’s plenty of ways to go and plugin there. 

1:01:56 

Awesome, thank you Chris. 

1:01:58 

Well, that is, unfortunately, all of our time for today. If did not get to your question, we will make sure to follow up with you post discussion via e-mail, to make sure that we get your questions answered. And thank you to our panelists today for participating. This was a great discussion. And thank you to all of you who joined us. We know that you are very busy, so we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today. 

1:02:25 

The contact information for the Institute for Teaching and Leading is on this slide, as well as the information for our next webinar, on Thursday, February 25th. It’s with Janet Corder on the most essential tools for learning environments. And we hope to see you there. 

1:02:43 

Thank you all, again, for joining us. Have a great day, and hopefully we see you next time. 

1:02:50 

Take care.