5 Ways To Support Students and Teachers Virtually

Chad OstrowskiBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better, Survival


  • A rapid shift to virtual learning can be difficult and stressful.
  • 5 tips to support students and teachers virtually.
  • Examples to implement each tip in your role.

It’s Going To Be Ok…

The transition to virtual learning or working from home can be a challenge for anyone. But learning and progress don’t have to be totally lost. Regardless of the reason, whether you’re a teacher or a student, there are several things you can do to ensure that productivity loss is limited.  Administrators need easy ways to continue overseeing and supporting instruction. Teachers need ways to continue growing and supporting learners. Generally, we need to virtually support our stakeholders.

Learning and progress don't have to be totally lost. Click To Tweet

Here are 5 things to consider when managing virtual environments for teachers or students.

1. Be flexible.

As we consider almost all aspects of virtual environments, it is absolutely paramount that we are flexible. When there is a physical space, environment, or school where all work and learning is being done, we can have rigid schedules, time-frames, expectations and transitions.

When environments are virtual, many of these factors are removed or modified based on the individual environments that exist for each user. This requires that we consider things like general or suggested schedules, flexible directives, and providing time.

This is especially important if this is a quick transition to a virtual environment. A relaxed and flexible approach will be much more effective in the end than strict, rigid, and unforgiving expectations.

2. Provide clear expectations.

While there should be flexibility, a clear set of expectations for teachers and students must be established. This includes what is expected as well as what is NOT expected.

Provide clear and concise instructions, and don’t allow for any “guess work” on the part of the learner or teacher.

Whatever you’re communicating should be simple. Provide easy to follow steps and expectations for what is to be produced or completed.

Remember: while communication shouldn’t be difficult, the luxury of immediate response that exists in a physical environment will be severely diminished.

3. Maintain communication channels.

For teachers and students, a move to virtual environments can feel like being banished to a deserted island. There is a huge transition involved.

Teachers and students are unable to immediately ask questions or clarify instructions. It is vital that all lines of communication are open and maintained.

If a student or teacher feels that these lines have “gone dark”, it can greatly increase anxiety, halt productivity, or cause resentment. Daily “open check in” times are a way to help do this. Another option is to choose several individuals to reach out to each day, so by the end of the week, you’ve touched base with everyone.

You may also have to create new communication channels to maintain a needed level of support for staff and learners alike. Think through the most practical and effective ways to accomplish this based on your community’s specific needs.

4. Maintain supports and scaffolding.

Just because there has been a shift to virtual learning or working, doesn’t mean that the support that existed in the physical environment is no longer needed.

Teachers and students both still need to be supported. You must provide the needed support, tools, and differentiation that existed in the school building. While this may not be quite as easy as when everyone is together, there are a lot of ways to make this happen.

1:1 virtual meetings or learner conferences, flexible, self-paced learning frameworks, and multiple options for work completion that provide voice and choice for stakeholders are all ways to maintain these scaffolds and supports.

5. Consider limitations of virtual environments.

This seems fairly simple, but it needs to be said and reflected on.

Reviewing materials, instructions, and  procedures to transition to a virtual environment are absolutely imperative to being successful.

One of the most common examples is expecting everyone’s home schedule to be the same as their school schedule.

Create asynchronous environments where all stakeholders can access information, videos, resources at their own time, pace, or availability. This will help ease stress.

The control over student and teacher schedules is generally lost because their home circumstances can’t be dictated, and their needs can vary. Instead of mandating ‘normal’ meeting times, offer several options throughout the day. Record the primary meeting information, and allow students or teachers to view and respond at their convenience. Just be sure to include the clear expectation!

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This shift can be successful and maintain the needed level of both engagement and productivity for teachers and students alike! Keep these five factors in mind, and your transition can be smoother and more effective.

About Chad Ostrowski

Chad Ostrowski is the co-founder of the Teach Better Team, the creator of The Grid Method, and co-author of the Teach Better book. But he is a middle school science teacher at heart. He now travels the country sharing his story, working with teachers, schools, and districts to help them to reach more students. Chad is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.