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Research, resources, and reflections on inquiry-based teaching and learning.

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How to Make Distance Learning More Engaging

Updated: Jun 11



The reality is settling in: students might be learning at home for a while. Coronavirus has shut down schools across the country, and teachers have been tasked with creating a distance learning curriculum on the fly. What that looks like varies significantly from district to district and state to state. From worksheet packets to a transition to full-on virtual school with synchronous calls with teachers, educators are innovating and creating using new tools and platforms. With this massive transition, educators and administrators have had to move quickly in crisis mode. Although the world remains in crisis, the reality of students learning at home requires more long-term planning. Teachers are thinking more about meaningful engagement and what it looks like with distance and remote learning.


Research has found that students learn best when they can relate their learning to the world around them and create meaning from their experiences. (https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED539399). Here are the 5 ways you can ensure your distance-learning continues to engage students:


  1. Make it specific to their context- Kids are stuck at home, and they are catching bits and pieces of the news and constructing understanding. Make learning specific to this moment in time, and have students think about their time and place within the moment.

  2. Help students connect to their community- We are all experiencing isolation, and trying to find new ways to connect. Helping students connect with their classmates, family, and community with benefit them immensely.

  3. Require sustained investigation- A lot of worksheets and even projects are quick things that can be completed in one sit-down. Think about asking students to do activities that require multiple days of focus and investigation, after all, that’s how things work in the real world.

  4. Promote excellence in student work- Have students reflect on anything they create during this time, and ask them to make improvements. This practice of generating self feedback and critique will help build their growth mindset.

  5. Take an interdisciplinary approach- With the confines of core curriculum textbooks and state testing taking a backseat for the time being, consider interdisciplinary approaches. One of the best ways to do this is through inquiry-based learning, start with a big, compelling question, and have students explore the question through multiple subject lenses.


And a final word of advice- know that there are hundreds of organizations that want to help you right now. There are endless lists of free resources surfacing, and organizations want to help you make this transition- we are also educators, parents, and worried adults in this challenging time. Research, reach-out, and engage- we will get through this, together!

inquirED has created Together When Apart- a free inquiry-based distance learning curriculum. Together When Apart includes weekly interdisciplinary inquiries that explore the question: How can we stay together when we’re apart? With accessible, engaging daily activities that can be shared directly with students, and a structure to build toward the creation of weekly project- Together when Apart connects student learning to this moment in time.