‘(Re-)Design for Remote Learning’ Toolkit
Version 2.0 // Last updated: 9 July 2020
This toolkit is designed to give instructors and educators a basic framework for converting existing high school and university courses into hybrid learning experiences—from uncovering
opportunities for more engaging, social learning activities to creating a
to help you update your syllabus and course materials.
Included in this toolkit are 5 steps for creating your design plan:
Looking to develop training from scratch for your business (or a less academic setting)?
👉 Check out the
or (for an even simpler approach)
Start by making a copy of this guide
To make a personal, editable copy for yourself:
* For the best experience, follow each of the 5 steps,
* To invite others to collaborate with you and message you directly inside this doc, simply click ‘Share’ at the top of the page.
Click ‘I’m Ready’ to get started
If you’re not quite ready to dive right in, click on ‘The Backstory’ to find out more about what this guide is all about before first.
A growing need for hybrid (in-person, remote,
offline) approaches to learning
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the enforcement of citywide lockdowns across the globe, many academic institutions and businesses have been scrambling to find ways to move their in-person classroom-learning sessions to remote (synchronous and asynchronous) online learning experiences. Numerous articles have been published, just in the last couple of months, to provide educators and learning specialists, alike, with tips and tools to help them achieve this seemingly daunting task of ‘going remote.’
The reality, however, is that only a few academic institutions (and even businesses) have the in-house resources to make this change or the funding needed to hire external consultants to carry out the upgrades. While there are many options for learning platforms to make this easier, they are not turn-key solutions that will solve all their e-learning and remote learning challenges.
3 common approaches to ‘remote learning’
Many of the 'remote learning’ experiences I was hearing about from high school and university students seem to come in three different flavors:
A 1-hour in-person or online video session
led by an Instructor who’s reading from bulleted lists on a Powerpoint or Google Slide deck with about 30+ slides (and a few animated GIFs thrown in for comic relief).
A recorded version of that 1-hour session (minus the students on video)
. Most likely the same set of Powerpoint/Google Slides with added voiceover. If it’s really fancy, there might even be ‘talking head’ video of the Instructor in tiny box in the corner of the screen.
A text-heavy PDF, article, or Powerpoint/Google Slides
emailed out as reading assignment—often accompanied by a long list of recommended articles, podcasts, books, and YouTube videos to supplement it. This is usually accompanied by a lengthy set of word problems, coding assignment, or written essay. These presentations and assignments seem to be an attempt to make up for the time Students are not in classrooms and labs.
What doesn’t appear to be working
The similarity between all of the common approaches to training is clear—they are, for the most part,
forms of learning. Students I've had a chance to speak with appear to be feeling disengaged with ‘remote learning’, with one-way video calls with their instructors.
While there’s great value in lectures and slides, especially since Instructors are often experts in their fields and sometimes incredibly engaging presenters, learning is more than information capture, or even retention. In order to make learning stick, studies have shown that our brains need to engage more deeply with new information. A book that summarizes these research-based learning principles well is
by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger, III. These learning principles don't only apply to grade school and young adults, but also to adult learners in the workplace.
Some Instructors have attempted to boost the interactivity by asking questions in remote, video sessions—only to met by the sound of ‘crickets’ (another words, no responses at all). One particular university student I spoke to mentioned how a professor threatened not to move on in the class until someone responded to their question. (Thankfully, someone was kind enough to respond after 2 minutes of silence!)
Beyond slides & ‘talking heads’
While presentations (and even videos) can be incredibly effective learning tools, they should not be delivered as
learning activities. Instead, these more passive, one-way information delivery formats should be immediately followed by
forms of learning that require more 'brain activity'. Hilarious animated GIFs don’t
count as higher-order learning in
levels (unless you’ve created one 😜).
One simple way to make learning stick is to 'design with the end goal in mind'—asking ourselves what the 'real-world' application(s) are in relation to what the students will learn. Some refer to this as more of a project-based, problem-solving-based, or
approach. In some ways, the necessity of remote learning has forced us to re-think about how we help students apply what they’re learning to life and equip ultimately equip them as lifelong learners who can drive their own growth, once they leave the classroom behind.
For more ideas on remote learning, just do a quick search for the keywords ‘classroom’ ‘to remote’ to find numerous articles, videos, and listicles about moving to a ‘virtual classroom.’ Although you may start to notice some recurring tips pop up, such as ‘fewer lectures’, ‘more social interaction,’ and ‘updating to digital formats,' it's my belief that if we all keep sharing insights and ideas with each other, we can make learning more effective than it's ever been—no matter where our students are learning from.
To learn more, go to the
page for a list of resources to start with »
If you have existing lecture-based, in-person courses you’d like to convert, this interactive workbook is designed to help you start converting classes into remote, online, hybrid learning experiences. This toolkit is based off of the
and many of the articles found on the
at the end of this guide.
It’s also a great ‘consulting’ guide to help newer Instructors approach course design in a more systematic, learner-based way.
Think of it as an interactive ‘workbook’ that walks you through how to:
Navigate a conversation with Instructors about their existing courses
Engage people in active learning through conversation and collaboration
Enforce deeper learning through reflection and mentorship
Promote application of new learnings to real-world issues and challenges
Not only does this guide offer a quick way to develop learning experiences, it’s built on commonly used practices, such as the
, all of which promote social learning environments, coaching/mentoring relationships, and on-the-job training opportunities.
How to get the most out of this guide
This toolkit is designed with Instructional Specialists or seasoned Instructors in mind. It can also be used by academic leadership as a resource to provide some consistency and alignment across the school on the learning frameworks utilized across the faculty.
The good news is that you already have all the content. You’ll just need to re-think how it’s delivered and how your Students will interact with the content, and with each other.
Follow each of the steps in order because what you do on one page builds on another.