The Slice

5 Remote Teaching Models and What to Learn From Them

June 23, 2023

In this article, we'll look at five of the most popular remote teaching models that can be used in any learning setting and what we can learn from them.

Technology hasn't just radically changed the way we can work. It's also transformed how we can learn.

Even before the pandemic hit, online learning was on the rise. Since then, many schools, universities, and companies have embraced online learning models, allowing more schedule flexibility, personalized learning experiences, and cost savings than traditional models.

Whether you're putting on a webinar, implementing a new training program, or teaching science to fifth graders, it can be useful to learn about the different teaching models that have emerged in our increasingly virtual world.

In this article, we'll look at five of the most popular remote teaching models that can be used in any learning setting and what we can learn from them.

1. Synchronous Learning

When you first learn about remote teaching, synchronous learning is likely the first thing that comes to mind. This is when teachers and students interact and communicate in real-time through video conferences, webinars, virtual classrooms, or other digital platforms.

Examples of synchronous teaching include a teacher facilitating a discussion with their students, delivering a live lecture and answering questions, and giving instructions to students for an activity that will be carried out during the live session.

Let's take a closer look at some of the activities that can be used to facilitate learning using a synchronous model:

  • Live lectures: When all of your students can get together simultaneously, you can provide live lectures for them using video conferencing tools or learning management systems. During the lecture, you can share your screen in order to present visuals, videos, slides, or other content. Students can use this time to take notes and listen actively to the lecture, asking questions either throughout the session or during designated Q&A time blocks. You can even record these live lectures so individuals that miss the lesson can watch it on their own time.

  • Group activities: Depending on your group size, you might divide your students into breakout rooms so they can work on collaborative projects. This is a great opportunity for students to discuss a specific topic, brainstorm ideas, or work on their problem-solving skills. The group can then come back together after a set amount of time in order to share what they have learned or created during the activity.

  • Interactive discussions: Talking things out is a great way to learn, and synchronous learning allows you to hold interactive discussions using discussion boards, chat features, or video conferencing platforms. This is an excellent opportunity for students to discuss ideas and concepts amongst themselves and ask the teacher questions.

  • Surveys and polls: Even when you're connecting synchronously, it can be difficult to feel like you really know what's going on with your students. Polls and surveys can help you gather feedback from your students, conduct knowledge checks, and "take the temperature of the room," as they say.

  • Question and answer sessions: If students have been working on a specific project or engaging with a challenging topic, holding a question and answer session gives them the opportunity to ask for further clarification or explanations.

  • Live demonstrations: Depending on the nature of the lesson, you might also find that presenting live demonstrations is an excellent use of the synchronous learning model. Since these are live rather than pre-recorded, students can ask questions throughout the demonstration that help them gain a greater understanding of the topic.

What We Can Learn From This Model: In a business or educational context, synchronous learning models provide a number of important lessons. The most glaring of these is the importance of social interaction in a remote setting– it's all too easy for remote learners or workers to feel isolated. Synchronous learning environments can simulate the experience of actually being in a classroom with others, which can help provide individuals with the support they need and the sense of being a part of a community.

2. Asynchronous Learning

Another teaching model, asynchronous learning, involves students and teachers engaging with materials at different times depending on their own schedules. This means that teachers might prepare or gather instructional videos, pre-recorded lectures, or online learning modules that students will access at a time that works for them.

In this model, discussions between students and teachers will likely occur asynchronously through online discussion boards or platforms. When it comes to assessments and assignments, these will also usually be conducted using an online collaboration or teaching software.

  • Reading assignments: Students can read material that is relevant to the course when it is convenient for them, such as book chapters or articles. You can also encourage students to take notes and write down questions they have.

  • Pre-recorded videos: You can record videos ahead of time that instruct students on how to complete assignments, or you can provide pre-recorded lectures.

  • Journaling: Another popular asynchronous learning tool is to have students keep online journals that include responses to prompts, insights they have related to course material, or reflections on their learning experience.

  • Online assessments: While you can give tests and quizzes during synchronous meet-ups, this can also be done asynchronously. Students can complete tests on their own time and at their own pace that teachers create using quiz platforms or learning management systems.

  • Asynchronous discussions: Even if you aren't using a synchronous learning model, it doesn't mean you have to forgo discussions entirely. Discussions can occur anachronistically through discussion boards or forums online.

  • Student projects: Teachers can give instructions regarding the parameters of the assignment, and students can then complete them individually. This allows them to conduct their own research, create presentations, slideshows, videos, or other projects, and submit them virtually.

  • Peer reviews: To help create a sense of community during asynchronous learning, it can be useful to encourage students to provide feedback for each other's finished projects. You can use shared documents or learning platforms to allow students to offer suggestions, constructive feedback, and other observations.

What We Can Learn From This Model: Whether you run a business or are teaching a course, several valuable things can be gleaned from the asynchronous eLearning model. The most prominent of these lessons is the efficiency of allowing participants to engage with the material on their own time and at their own pace. This doesn't just save people time, but it can also help individuals become more autonomous in their learning and feel empowered to take on responsibility and accountability.

If you're thinking about primarily using the asynchronous learning model, it's a good idea to incorporate some virtual hangouts for your class or team to help overcome the isolation that can accompany learning remotely. Consider throwing a pizza party or bringing everyone together to participate in a virtual escape room to help build camaraderie.

3. Blended Learning

The term "blended learning" is often used to refer to teaching models that incorporate some remote learning and some in-person classroom training. However, blended learning is increasingly also used to describe a combination of asynchronous and synchronous communication and teaching methods in an entirely remote setting.

Many instructors and learners find that there are some advantages to both asynchronous and synchronous lessons, with the former allowing more independence and the latter offering students more guidance.

Depending on how you structure the course, an entirely virtual blended learning model can be quite similar to a virtual flipped classroom model, which we'll discuss in the next section. You can deliver content online that students can engage with on their own time and then hold virtual synchronous class sessions where everyone gets together to discuss course material and engage with new content.

Virtual class sessions can also include online collaborative activities, breaking into smaller discussion groups, or completing projects using online collaboration tools. Assessments, quizzes, tests, and assignments can be completed asynchronistically or synchronistically, depending on what makes sense for the group and the specific material.

What We Can Learn From This Model: The blended learning model shows that you can customize the learning in your virtual classroom or employee training sessions to best meet the needs of the course material and the individual students. By combining asynchronous and synchronous learning models, instructors and participants can glean both methods' benefits.

4. Flipped Classroom

The "flipped classroom" model is typically used in hybrid settings but can also be adapted for fully remote learning and training.

The name for this teaching method comes from the idea that the traditional order of instruction is "flipped." Instead of a teacher delivering lessons to students during in-person classes and working on assignments, reading, and homework after class, students do reading, watch lectures, and engage in passive learning materials outside of the classroom before coming together to discuss the content in person.

Traditionally, students and participants would engage with materials (such as pre-recorded lectures) on their own time and then get together in person to hold face-to-face discussions.

If your teaching or training occurs in a 100% virtual setting, you can combine synchronous and asynchronous communication tools to recreate the flipped classroom model.

Here are some of the elements you can include in your remote flipped classroom model:

  • Have students watch pre-recorded lectures and videos outside of the classroom: teachers can record instructional videos or lectures that students then watch on their own time.

  • Evaluate students' progress using online assessments: Tests, essays, quizzes, and other assessments can be used to keep track of the level of understanding and progress of each student.

  • Host online discussions after students have watched pre-recorded content: After students have watched the videos or lectures provided, you can get together digitally using video conferencing software, learning management software, or through online chat platforms. This is an opportunity for students to discuss the content they watched, ask any questions they might have, and answer questions posed by the teacher.

  • Organize interactive activities: Teachers can design interactive activities that students can participate in, such as virtual labs, simulations, or collaborative projects. The content students watched before the meeting can be incorporated into the activities and help encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, engagement, and motivation.

  • Hold virtual office hours: Just because you and your students aren't in the same geographic location doesn't mean you can't have one-on-one discussions with them. Having certain hours when you are available for students to ask questions or seek support can help ensure that everyone is able to succeed.

What We Can Learn From This Model: The flipped classroom model turns the standard learning model on its head, allowing students to engage with material at their own pace and then come together (virtually) to discuss what they've learned. This can be a great way to encourage autonomous learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking while creating a dynamic and interactive learning environment.

Want to send your virtual learners a treat? Check out our guide to sending snack and gift boxes to distributed groups.

5. Project-Based Learning

Our fifth learning model focuses on allowing students to learn more hands-on, even in a virtual setting. Teachers provide instructions to students, who then complete specific tasks or projects that are based on real-world scenarios.

In this model, students can collaborate virtually or work on projects independently. This is an opportunity for them to do research on their own and then apply it to real-world issues. For example, if a teacher were overseeing a project-based learning activity for a virtual personal finance class, they might teach students about the basics of financial planning and budgeting and then assign them a hypothetical financial situation. You could then have them apply the principles and concepts you've taught them to create a budget and meet specific financial goals based on the scenario.

What We Can Learn From This Model: Leaders of remote classrooms and teams alike can benefit from this model of learning, where practical application, self-directed learning, collaboration, and continuous feedback are central to the learning environment.

Learning Remotely: A Customizable Experience For Instructors and Students

Each of these teaching models has pros and cons, but one of the great things about online learning is that the structure is practically infinitely customizable. Depending on the coursework, the group, the purpose, and other factors, you can utilize both asynchronous and synchronous tools and communication to ensure that all participants are able to get the most from the experience.

Whether you're working as an online teacher or training a group of new hires, understanding the various teaching models for remote classrooms can help provide a useful framework for the most efficient and effective learning.

At the same time, it's always important to keep the drawbacks of virtual learning in mind. While there are countless benefits to being able to connect digitally with others no matter where they are, an entirely remote classroom or work environment can be quite isolating for individuals.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to combat this issue. Whether you want to get everyone together for lunch, hold weekly coffee chats, or host a good, old-fashioned dance party with a live DJ, PizzaTime is here to help your team bond, build community, and create shared memories.

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