I am one of those teachers and coaches affected by campus closures due to COVID-19. In now our fourth week, we had to take a “brick & mortar” school and turn it into a “virtual” school overnight. We changed, and as our students and teachers become better Distance Learners, it is now as important as ever to be collecting data.

One strategy I’d give every educator who may find themselves in similar circumstances, is to survey early, and survey often. Micro-surveys, and visible responses to those surveys, give people an outlet and show them you care. Plus – it helps you to respond when things aren’t going well and become a better Distance Educator.

I have been surveying 8th grade math students – which is the course I am currently supporting in this time of distance learning – with three major questions:

  1. What is going well for you?
  2. What do you find challenging?
  3. How long are the modules taking you?

Questions #1 and #2 were open response. I didn’t have a hope or prediction for those questions – I wanted students to respond freely and then I replied back. For question #3, I hope my modules are taking around 30 minutes to 60 minutes max. This is because you can imagine how much time students are now spending on screens and since the circumstances can be stressful, I thought it best to err on the side of a modest amount of course work.

Here are my data and reflections:

Students are loving the flexibility of Distance Learning. They can sleep in, take naps, explore other passions, eat when they want. A keen reminder to incorporate more flexibility and choice when we return to campus. We used this data to start adding choice to our online modules. For example, we gave the choice of a digital app to work on math or a pdf where they could do the work in their notebook.

Hands down, students are recognizing the value of face to face learning with their peers and teachers. Students talked about losing the ability to learn from and teach one another, to have a helpful teacher to interact with, and the variety of tools a school has to deliver high quality instruction. It’s a reality of the circumstance and we can’t recreate everything we had. I’m hopeful that many of our students will come back grateful for the power of learning together.

Fortunately, my estimates of workload were correct. But there are still some students who are needing extra time. We adjusted our modules a bit by not making everything required, finding tools to make videos download quicker, and reaching out to students who are taking longer.

Also, of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE, is to share and respond to the results in a public way. My collaborating teacher and I share their feedback weekly in our instructional videos. Just a quick 30 seconds to say we are listening, we are thankful for their feedback, and what we are doing in response.

Survey early, survey often, respond compassionately.