Skip to Content
Back to top
Curriculum & Leadership

Four Key Drivers of Distance Learning

The Newsela Team
Apr 6, 2020

Last month, as the severity of COVID-19 in the U.S. set in, schools across the country were faced with a herculean task: switching from classroom to distance learning, and doing it in a matter of days. 

For teachers and administrators, the sudden change to interacting with students virtually raised a number of urgent and important questions. What is a typical day like when remote teaching? How long should teachers be meeting with students, and what technology is best to facilitate? How can instructional content ease the transition to remote teaching and distance learning?

We don’t have all the answers, but we do want to share what we consider four key drivers of distance learning that can help schools adapt to this new reality. Grouped under infrastructure and instructional considerations, these four elements can help provide school administrators with a roadmap for implementing distance learning successfully.

Reliable infrastructure and training that support remote learning

It’s no surprise that infrastructure is on everyone’s minds, especially as schools do their best to maintain the level of connection that’s taken for granted in the classroom. Delivery platforms and reliable internet are, of course, central to this discussion, and the options range from video conferencing apps like Zoom to learning management platforms like Canvas

When it comes to infrastructure, it’s important for school leaders to remember that they can leverage resources already available to them: for example, Google and Microsoft have virtual meeting apps built into their larger platforms. Using resources schools are already comfortable with can go far in enabling virtual classrooms to get up and running quickly, especially since sharing facetime, even if just for an hour or two each day, helps provide a much-needed sense of connection for teachers and students.

A second key infrastructure driver? Training and professional development for teachers. Addressing needs and filling knowledge gaps quickly is essential to a successful transition, and teachers—many of whom are in crisis mode themselves—need to feel as supported by their schools as possible. Many vendors and organizations are now routinely offering webinars and other tools, but how to sort through it all to find what works best for teachers? Consider the following instructional components.

Instructional content and community that is flexible and robust

When it comes to the instructional resources schools leverage in the new distance learning landscape, providing flexible instructional content that can transition seamlessly from classroom to remote teaching is more important than ever. Schools need a content platform that is flexible, accessible, and transparent, enabling teachers to have visibility into how students are engaging with it from afar. Platforms that are digital first (without being digital only) enable the versatility required of schools in this time, and equally important is the depth and breadth of the content, which needs to cover a wide range of subjects while engaging students with topics that are relevant and diverse. 

If content is the motor that drives distance learning success, then a strong and supportive community of school leaders and parents are the hands that guide the wheel. It’s essential for schools to engage families in these uncertain times, ensuring parental buy-in during each transition and providing frequent, supportive communication and guidance. 

Without a focus on the four drivers above, it will be even harder for schools to address the more complex challenges distance learning presents: ensuring equity for students with limited access to technology, and making sure Social-Emotional Learning is a priority to support student well-being through traumatic changes in learning and social routines. These considerations are at the forefront of the transition to distance learning, and finding solutions is a key part of the steps schools take to ensure that connection platforms, training, content, and community are flexible and robust.

The Latest from @Newsela

It's easy to get caught up in the negative news lately, but many people are doing good to combat the fear and isolation of the coronavirus. Take Jodi Beder for example, who holds daily 30-minute cello concerts for her neighbors in Mount Rainier, MD 👉 https://t.co/BOVQfDN6Lg https://t.co/XQHV0Vq7TY
May 26, 2020, 5:25 PM
Schools responded in many different ways to the unexpected shift to distance learning, and will likely take new approaches for going back to school. RSVP for one of several upcoming webinars to explore how Newsela can help you plan for re-entry 👉 https://t.co/R7rR45cHZF https://t.co/J0Px5F2TSG
May 26, 2020, 4:21 PM
Read the story of how three districts worked hard to transition as smoothly as possible to #distancelearning. While their strategies and tactics may differ, they share one thing in common: a dedication to supporting their student population’s needs. https://t.co/atAUaJVxyP
May 26, 2020, 3:17 PM
Join us this Wednesday to learn how science and literacy share a symbiotic relationship in California 👉 https://t.co/O5MXcEjnlo We'll cover: - Engaging your Science students at 5 different levels - Phenomena-based NGSS activities - Real Classroom Practices - STEM Connections https://t.co/oi9qHd9fwd
May 26, 2020, 2:13 PM
Newsela Certified Educators drive school-wide innovation, especially when it comes to distance learning. Build your expertise in designing creative teaching applications with our instructional content 👉 https://t.co/odmsKMCbxP https://t.co/SsXaPzcWYY
May 26, 2020, 12:50 AM
Have questions about how to bring Social Studies to your classrooms with Equitable Learning? ⏰Tomorrow, join Newsela to review California's Social Studies Critical Standards and Equitable Distance Learning. Happening Tuesday, May 26 from 2-3PM PST 👉 https://t.co/YwDT5xUfvx https://t.co/hWOu12pf3Q
May 25, 2020, 10:20 PM
This Memorial Day, students can read and reflect on the articles in this Text Set to honor the men and women who gave their lives defending the United States of America from the Revolutionary War to the war against terror 👉 https://t.co/hLL6FjvPW4 https://t.co/YpsIKc9N9p
May 25, 2020, 6:29 PM
You might think of "Minecraft" as just a silly video game, but it can actually offer educational content for students stuck at home. Learn about free downloadable worlds with lessons on biology, fractions and even a virtual tour of Washington, D.C. 👉 https://t.co/lgDBvRIm4o https://t.co/fLx3GBJsYk
May 25, 2020, 4:21 PM
"We know that COVID-19 has been anxiety-provoking for everyone, and it's potentially scary and hard for children to understand. So we wanted to create a resource to help them." This Coronavirus coloring book is available in English, Spanish and Arabic 👉 https://t.co/8HPmOmv822 https://t.co/DUqKYsvnkA
May 25, 2020, 3:17 PM
Did you know the first candy in space was M&Ms? 🚀 Take students on a virtual field trip to the M&M Factory to learn all kinds of fun facts about the history this yummy candy and chocolate altogether! 🍫 https://t.co/h7Pbk1X67Q https://t.co/o9MEmxpUYn
May 25, 2020, 2:13 PM
What will post COVID-19 school look like? Whether virtual or in-person, the role of #edtech in classrooms will continue evolving. There will be challenges ahead — but bright spots as well. Here's how distance learning has proved four #edtech myths wrong. https://t.co/JyfL1JkN01
May 24, 2020, 10:20 PM
Ever considered teaching U.S. History with "Hamilton" the Musical? 🎶 Using this collection of Newsela articles, students can gain an understanding of who Alexander Hamilton was and why the Founding Fathers are included throughout the play "Hamilton" 👉 https://t.co/iSoueFuNne https://t.co/rEYH8nwpXB
May 24, 2020, 6:29 PM
So you've heard comics are just for kids? Think again! Read how a group of students and teachers at a Vermont college are using their artistic talents to leverage comics as an educational tool for people of all ages 👉 https://t.co/4WvSeYY14i https://t.co/asn0AMPPUG
May 24, 2020, 5:25 PM
Planning for re-entry back to school? Register for one of our subject-specific webinars with our Teaching and Learning team to explore how Newsela can help you adjust to hybrid schedules. https://t.co/R7rR45cHZF https://t.co/FFg2GNmYI8
May 24, 2020, 2:13 PM
When unexpected events force schools to close, there's no playbook for how to respond — but there are lessons learned. This case study looks at how 3 districts across the U.S. transitioned to distance learning, all while supporting student needs 👉 https://t.co/atAUaJVxyP https://t.co/1V7TWYVoXp
May 23, 2020, 6:29 PM
On this day in history—May 23, 1934—the law finally caught up with Bonnie and Clyde. Read the legendary story of these two lovers on the run and then reflect on the valuable lessons we can learn from their decisions 👉 https://t.co/f7rF38d3Fe https://t.co/1ytjDUh0Fs
May 23, 2020, 5:25 PM
Today marks the end of Ramadan—a month-long time of fasting, prayer and self-examination for Muslims. If you're looking to teach students the history, significance, and practices of Ramadan, here's a Newsela article to help 👉 https://t.co/ui0yGqJeDU https://t.co/dNk6Tr4LCs
May 23, 2020, 4:21 PM
Have you seen the latest expansions to Virtual Field Trips for Science? 🚌 🔬 Plan a 'visit' to museums like Berlin Natural History Museum and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Or explore factories like M&M 🍫 and Toyota 🚙 https://t.co/F2CUWAYQ41 https://t.co/mEYPhvfnCP
May 23, 2020, 3:17 PM
Looking for a fun way to connect fiction and non-fiction in your classroom? 📚🔬 This Newsela article does the trick 👉 Scientists in the U.S. have named a new snake species after a character in the Harry Potter series. https://t.co/wWw0Qfvq1t https://t.co/M9raBSIHcd
May 23, 2020, 2:13 PM
Join us on May 27th to Learn How Science & Literacy Share a Symbiotic Relationship in California 👉 https://t.co/O5MXcEjnlo We'll be covering: - Engaging your Science students at 5 different levels - Phenomena-based NGSS activities - Real Classroom Practices - STEM Connections https://t.co/lpep8WMjai
May 22, 2020, 8:43 PM
Have questions about how to bring Social Studies to your classrooms with Equitable Learning? Join Newsela to review California's Social Studies Critical Standards and Equitable Distance Learning. Happening Tuesday, May 26 from 2-3PM PST 👉 https://t.co/YwDT5xUfvx https://t.co/dOGiZT36SH
May 22, 2020, 6:35 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales