Covid-19 has effectively shut down schools in many parts of the world. Here in Ontario, Canada, the Ministry of Education has ordered schools to remain closed until May 4, 2020 (not April 5, 2020 as initially hoped.) This is based on advice from medical experts in response to the need for physical distancing social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Depending on how things progress, they will reassess the situation and make a decision about whether to open schools are not.

Chances are you are facing something similar in your neck of the woods. It begs the questions:

  • What might education look like if you didn’t have a traditional classroom with the teacher at the front of a group of students?
  • How do I teach my students online during the Covid-19 pandemic?

This article is a work in progress – every day, we will add a tip, strategy or information nugget to help you get ready to teach, assess, and evaluate online. These are great strategies for distance education – regardless of whether or not we are having a viral pandemic keeping us home.

What is distance education?

Distance education or distance-learning is when you teach students who are not physically at school.

“Providing education to students who are separated by distance and in which the pedagogical materials planned and prepared by educational institutions”

SOURCE: Higher education and the digital revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, social media, and the Cookie Monster

In a world of Covid-19 where social distancing has shut down schools, let’s take a moment to look at different types of distance-learning and resources:

What might distance education look like during Covid-19?

Currently in Ontario and in many places around the world, we are looking at schools shut down.

Ontario is finishing it’s March Break and then will go into 2 weeks where schools are physically shut down.

How do you teach online when your students can’t physically come to your classroom?

Online Learning Tool #1: Google Classroom

I recommend Google Classroom for online learning in the classroom, blending learning, and distance learning.

This assumes your school board uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and all of the teachers and students already have google accounts.

1. You don’t have to worry about account set up for students

If you teach in elementary or middle school, websites need to be careful about what information is collected.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a US federal law that covers the online collection of information for children under 13 years. Even if these children are not in the US, COPPA still applies if the company is based in the United States. (Hello, Google)

If your school board creates Google accounts for teachers and students, your employer has already set up things for you.

  • Google Classroom needs to be turned on by the school board. Find out if your school board allows Google classroom by trying to sign in with your school account here:

Note: Google classroom is available for everybody (even if you’re not a student or teacher using the education version of Google suite.)

This is fantastic for homeschooling and many scenarios.

Under no circumstance would a teacher want to create a Google classroom for their students using personal accounts. (Even though it’s possible.)

Here is a screenshot of a Google classroom help page that explains what user account types can work together in Google classroom.

  • Scenario #1: Your school uses Google suite for education and has set up Google accounts for teachers and students. As long as the school board has turned on the Google classroom feature, you and your students will be able to use Google classroom together.
  • Scenario #2: If a teacher sets up a Google classroom using their personal Google account, students will not be able to join using their school Google accounts.
  • Scenario #3: If a teacher sets up a Google classroom using their personal Google account, students would be able to join this classroom using their personal Google accounts, but don’t do this.
Screenshot taken on Mar 20, 2020. Source: Google Classroom Help Support page

Best practices for teaching online

1. Don’t assume your students know how to log into their school. Google accounts

If your students haven’t used their school Google accounts in a while, chances are they don’t know how to log in, or they’ve forgotten.

  • They may not know what their school email address is. (Sometimes to protect students, student email addresses are truncated to four or five letters.)
  • They may not know what their password is. (Some school boards change the password from year to year for security.)
  • Depending on how tech-savvy the students are, they may need a lot of help signing into their school Google accounts.

In a normal classroom situation, you can show the whole class at once how to login.

You could call students up one by one to tell them their student email account and password.

I find students often forget, so you have two options:

  • If you are able to print out a class set of usernames and passwords, simply slice it up and give each student a piece of paper with their login information.
  • Sometimes, you have to look up student usernames and passwords one by one. In this case, you can call them up to your desk and have them copy down the information into their student agendas or a place they won’t forget.

During the start of Covid-19, you may not have an opportunity to train your students how to log into their school email accounts.

At this point, sending their parents an email with instructions and student login information may be the only way to go.

Online Learning Tool #2: Google Meet

During Covid-19, Google is currently offering all Google Accounts access to their advanced Google Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities through July 1, 2020.

  • Up to 250 participants per call
  • The ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive

This means you can schedule a time to “meet” with your students to go through a slideshow or teach them a topic.

You can record the meeting and then have that ability as a Google Drive video. (You could also publish it with a private link on YouTube.)

Students and Teachers do not need to use the video chat portion. (No one needs to see your bed-head.)

Play with it now at

Stay Tuned.

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