Announcing a New Tool to Strengthen Remote and Hybrid Learning

A tool to help educators and leaders get a pulse on your reopening plan, identify resources you need, and how to equitably reach your students.

By Anna Sudderth

This XQ Design Principle Tool Can Strengthen Remote and Hybrid Learning

When schools made the transition to remote learning almost overnight, no one knew how long the change would last. Throughout the rollercoaster of virtual and hybrid learning, teachers and students learned how to navigate a whole new way of doing school. Now, students are back in the classroom—but teachers learned that aspects and approaches from remote learning worked and may be useful in an in-person setting. 

Remote learning—when done well—could expand options for students. Experts from Policy Analysis for California Education explained that remote learning can give teachers more tools, allow school to continue during disruptions, and create opportunities for students to move at their own pace. A study from the RAND Corporation showed that at least two in ten schools plan to continue some use of remote learning beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, we learned that remote learning often falls short of its potential, and leaves students feeling disconnected, unsupported, and behind on learning. To be a long-term and sustainable tool for learning, remote learning needs some improvements. 

We know that schools can tackle the challenges of remote learning to create exciting opportunities for students. That’s why we built our Remote and Hybrid Learning Tool to help you think through the challenges of remote learning at your school, and come up with solutions that: 

  • Build relationships with your students
  • Engage them in their learning
  • Give them a voice
  • Involve the community
  • Use available resources efficiently
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page

This tool is grounded in the XQ Design Principles, the six core characteristics of an effective, equitable, and student-centered high school. Through discussion and self-assessment questions, teachers, education leaders, and students can work together to apply the Design Principles to remote learning within their own community context.  

The tool’s questions will walk you through what your school is doing now, what you might try, and what additional resources you might mobilize around remote learning. It also includes a self-assessment worksheet to create a plan to meet students’ needs better and more equitably. Explore the questions below to see which Design Principles feel most relevant to the needs of your school, then go to the online tool to get started!

Using the XQ Design Principles to Strengthen Remote and Hybrid Learning: Questions to Think About and Discuss

Build Relationships With Your Students

Caring and trusting relationships are at the core of learning. Lauren Bierbaum, XQ’s head of data, research, and evaluation, explains, “Research tells us that having even just one close relationship at school can do wonders for supporting students’ learning and development.” 

This is especially true during remote learning. When students feel known and connected during virtual learning, they are less likely to experience distractions and social isolation. Use our remote learning tool to think through questions like: 

  • What practices will you use to cultivate belonging
  • How can students stay connected to one “primary person” from school during remote learning?
  • How will you issue warm, personal invitations to learn to every student, even when students are learning from home?

Engage Them In Their Learning

Creating meaningful and engaged learning means looking at curriculum, assessment, student agency, and the structure of the school day to ask: are students actively involved in their own learning? Is what they’re learning relevant to their lives, and teaching them the skills they’ll need for future success?

These high-level questions are necessary to creating remote learning experiences that work for students. When students are engaged in meaningful work, they are less likely to be distracted, and more likely to take initiative—both keys to remote learning success. Make a plan to support meaningful and engaged remote learning by asking:

  • How will teachers access professional development around remote learning best practices?
  • How can your school support students who have fallen behind?
  • How can your school respond and accommodate differences in student interest and learning styles during virtual learning?

Give Them A Voice

Giving students a say in what and how they learn empowers them as partners in their own education. Centering youth voice and choice in remote learning keeps students active and invested, even when they’re not in the physical classroom. 

Listening to students will also help you design remote learning options that actually work for your students’ individual situations (for more, explore how Brooklyn LAB gathered student and family input to design their remote learning curriculum.) Start a discussion around youth voice and choice with questions like:

  • How can your school collect honest input on students’ experiences of virtual learning so far?
  • What would it look like to give students real decision-making power?
  • How can students give regular feedback on remote learning models?

Involve The Community

Remote learning expands the boundaries of the classroom, allowing students to connect with resources and people outside of the physical school environment. This flexibility makes remote learning a powerful opportunity for community partnerships.

By partnering with individuals or organizations in the community, students can connect with real-life learning experiences that help them build their dreams for the future. Consider how community partnerships can support remote learning for your students with questions like: 

  • How can your school engage local businesses, nonprofits, and higher education institutions to enrich virtual learning experiences?
  • Are there community organizations with remote or hybrid resources that could help students explore college or career options?

Use Available Resources Efficiently

Remote learning changes the way we think about the logistics of school—about time, space, technology, finance, and the roles that adults and students play in learning. Smart use of time, space, and technology will enable your school to make remote learning as efficient and effective as possible. Our remote learning tool helps you consider these logistics, with questions like:

  • How can remote learning schedules help students fill academic gaps and accelerate learning?
  • What technology tools are most effective at supporting student learning and engagement?
  • How can your school think creatively about new roles, including nontraditional educators and paraprofessionals, to support remote learning?

Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page

When students and teachers aren’t in the same physical space, having a unifying school culture is more important than ever. 

Cultivating a strong mission and culture—a set of values and principles that provide common purpose, express belief in the potential of every student, and define every aspect of a school—will help students feel connected to the school community even when they’re not in the building. You can consider:

  • How will your school innovate its structure to respond to problems effectively and equitably during remote learning?
  • How will your school work to establish common goals and values when not together in person?
  • How can your school articulate its values and beliefs so that they’re shared amongst students, staff, families, and other stakeholders?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Spend some time with our remote learning tool to make a plan for how remote learning can support your work to empower students.