I have tried various different approaches to delivering a virtual curriculum. The elements I have found to be most successful so far are consistency in structure and regular feedback. I have a one-year-old at home and a partner who works long hours. My approach to the challenges of virtual teaching therefore has to be time efficient whilst maintaining high levels of engagement and learning.
I was full of enthusiasm in the first week of shutdown and perhaps over ambitious with what I, and my students, could achieve. I was a little overwhelmed reading blogs and ideas for using technology for virtual learning. Video conference calls were just not going to work for me! I have since refined my approach and have found something that seems to work, at least for the time being.
My most challenging class has been my Year 10 Triple Science students, through no fault of their own! They are an enthusiastic bunch and willing to try anything. The positive side of this is that you can experiment new ideas with them and they will give you honest feedback. The flipside is you could deliver some rather dry content and they would still thank you. I have been teaching them Organic Chemistry, which can be conceptually very difficult for students. This therefore requires clear explanation; a challenge when working remotely from your teacher and peers and therefore the ability to receive immediate feedback or troubleshoot problems.
I have settled on using a consistent structure for lessons, which includes chunking of content with regular formative assessment. This has improved participation in lessons and I have received positive feedback from students, as they enjoy being able to anticipate what their lessons will involve.
I usually start with a review of the previous lesson, perhaps a few short questions that students answer and then check themselves. Delivery of new content is via a PowerPoint presentation, uploaded to Google classroom. I keep content to a minimum in order to ensure they understand what the key points and learning from the lesson are. I will supplement this content with one or two carefully chosen videos, which students will access on Edpuzzle. There may also be multiple-choice questions or short-answer questions embedded in the video that students must complete. Fuse School, Free Science Lessons and Cognito are particularly useful channels for Chemistry. The advantage of this approach is that it gives immediate feedback on who is engaging with the lesson (they are not able to skip the video!) and how well they have understood the concepts. I will then provide practice questions for them to complete. Again, these are self-marked. I usually finish with a quiz set using either Quizizz or Educake, in order assess learning of the new content.
None of these tools are new to students but that is the advantage! They know how to use the technology, most of them are auto-marking so they can receive immediate feedback and I can see very quickly, who has engaged. These approaches are hardly ground-breaking but reading the EEF’s Remote Learning Evidence Assessment reassured me that teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered. A good lesson still has the same elements, whether delivered in a classroom or remotely.