3 Takeaways: Emergency Remote Learning


June 20, 2020 by Dr. Robbie Barber

This post is week 1 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. The topic is: What is your personal takeaway from #RemoteLearning? (I do not promise to do all 8 weeks, but the topic is intriguing and, as I continue to re-evaluate my experiences, blogging provides a tool to help the process.)

Mid-March through the end of May 2020 afforded us many lessons about what not to do. And, I find that I disagree with many teachers / teacher-librarians who want a single, universal learning management system (LMS) for their school / district. It would be comforting but not as functional as you might think. There are limits and workarounds, but I really believe one of our strengths – particularly as teacher-librarians – is our flexibility.

I do come at this from a high school perspective. What can I do to prepare my students for leaving the school environment and becoming a productive adult? I keep getting back to the concept that they need to be flexible. A new computer system shouldn’t become a roadblock – it should be an adventure of finding out the system’s strengths and weaknesses. I need to prepare my students to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

What we just experienced during a pandemic was very uncomfortable. We were thrown into the wind. In my case, the district had one LMS system that teachers had done marginal training on. Five days into the shutdown, they opened another LMS system. Now, during the pandemic, I was teaching teachers REMOTELY how to use a new LMS system and hoping they could adequately teach their students. I spent the first two weeks of the shutdown trying to work with groups and individuals for 12-16 hours per day. I discovered which teachers had small children at home and needed the night to develop coursework and which teachers put off til the last minute (literally!) to develop coursework. It was exhausting.

This brings me to the 3 takeaways from the emergency remote learning we just experienced.

  • Patience. It may seem like your teacher (or student) is waiting til the last minute to ask for help. And it may be true. But it may not. Did your student become the sole breadwinner for the family with their grocery bagging job? (I had some that did.) Does your teacher have unlimited machines and internet at home to handle their kids and their own work? (Many of mine did not.) Just take a breathe. Set limits for yourself and be patient with those who are having more difficulties.
  • Curate. The reality is that there are more resources than we know what to do with available on the internet. The resources include suggested lessons, additional information, books(!), helpful software, etc. Rather than double-down on doing things one way, explore. Open yourself to the possibilities. But don’t send your teachers (or students) 500 email links! Help them find a solution to their problem. One or two examples is more than enough.
  • Flexibility. As comforting as it is to become an expert in one thing, open yourself to trying other solutions. It is absolutely okay to tell a teacher that you tried 3 options and the first one is still the best. If you actually tried multiple things, you are more of an expert in that area than in just that one piece of software. Model this for your students. Encourage them to give you the pros and cons of different systems. You might be surprised!

Additional Article: The academy’s neoliberal response to COVID-19: Why faculty should be wary and how we can push back. https://academicmatters.ca/neoliberal-response-to-covid-19/ by Honor Brabazon, St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo. (5/29/2020)

3 thoughts on “3 Takeaways: Emergency Remote Learning

  1. Theodora Papapanagiotou says:

    I totally agree with you! When we teach remotely, it seems that students can access us more easily with their questions, which is good, although, sometimes this can be overwhelming, since instant communication is what everyone expects. I believe most of us did good in such a challenge though!


  2. […] to run an online class. (Teaching how to use tools does not count!) As I’ve said before, the emergency remote learning we did in March 2020 was not online learning. So, how do we get started […]


  3. […] lesson I’ve learned from the emergency remote learning is that even when we see students in person, we need to be engaging online too. The online […]


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