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Building an Online infrastructure so K-12 Teachers can Toggle their Instruction between Online, Hybrid, and Traditional Educational Settings

August 13, 2020 - 5 minute read

K-12 teachers and school leaders across California and the rest of the country face an immense challenge called the “toggled term” as outlined in the new book Navigating the Toggled Term: Preparing Secondary Educators for Navigating Fall 2020 and Beyond. The “toggled term” means that teachers must be prepared to teach in online, hybrid/blended, and traditional classroom settings at one point or another during the school year. During this unpredictable year, many teachers are beginning the year in an online setting knowing that there is a possibility that if health conditions do improve in that locality (whether it’s in a month, by the end of the first semester or sometime in early spring), educational settings may physically reopen for a hybrid learning model. Then, if a vaccine and further treatments become widely available, there may be an opportunity for schools to fully open in a traditional sense towards the end of the year. On the other hand, if a school does reopen its physical buildings for a hybrid or traditional instructional model and COVID-19 cases appear, the school will immediately have to shut down and all instruction will then have to revert back to online instruction. In essence, this is what the toggled term encapsulates. 

To prepare to navigate the instructional challenges presented by the toggled term, in Part One of Navigating the Toggled Term Dr. Matthew Rhoads, a Concordia University Irvine graduate of the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership provides part of the solution to essentially move back and forth between multiple educational settings seamlessly and continuously without halting or delaying any student instruction as the instructional setting transitions to either a hybrid or traditional setting or from a hybrid or traditional setting to an online setting. The solution calls for creating an online instructional infrastructure that can be used to deliver instruction anywhere and at any time in addition to being able to transition without having to delay or interrupt student instruction and learning. 

What is an online instructional infrastructure? There are four components that make up an online infrastructure. These components include a learning management system (LMS), a content creation application like G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365, a virtual synchronous class session tool such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, and additional student engagement edtech tools. An LMS is a platform like Google Classroom, Seesaw, Canvas, or Schoology. An LMS allows teachers to post their teacher-created content in the form of assignments/tasks, assessments, resources, links to tutorial videos and live synchronous class sessions, and acts as a grade book and communication tool to reach students and families. Additionally, the LMS stores all of the teacher-created and student-created asynchronous content that can be posted and delivered by the teacher and turned in by the student for teacher feedback.

Learning Management System
Content Creation Applications Virtual Live Synchronous Session Platforms Student Engagement Edtech Tools

Figure 1. The Online Instructional Infrastructure Components

 A content creation application tool allows teachers to build the tasks, resources, assessments, and assignments they would like students to engage in while on the LMS or deliver during a live synchronous meeting on a live meeting platform. On top of these content creation applications, there are additional edtech tools that can be plugged into them to create more engaging and collaborative student tasks, assignments, and assessments. These extensions can be found in the Google or Microsoft Marketplace and are plugged into Google G-Suite or Microsoft 365. Popular extension applications that plug into these content creation applications include Pear Deck, Flipgrid, Nearpod, and Bunce and can arguably increase student engagement and collaboration during online or in-person instruction. 

The last and final piece to this online instructional infrastructure is the live synchronous class platform like Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and AdobeConnect. Each platform allows teachers and students to interact together in a virtual class setting. There is a multitude of different features and limitations of each platform, but having one is necessary to have daily or weekly synchronous class sessions with students. Once this has been added to the equation, teachers now have all of the necessary components of the online instructional infrastructure. 

When the online infrastructure is built, it provides teachers the opportunity to always deliver instruction from the digital content and applications they have utilized and built in both online or in-person class settings. There are even possibilities of delivering instruction simultaneously in-person and online in a synchronous session, but that’s a conversation for another day. Overall, if you have a functioning LMS and have classroom routines built around the LMS for delivering instruction along with your additional selected edtech tools for engagement, it can translate virtually in a distance, hybrid, or traditional setting. The only element that disappears from the online infrastructure is the synchronous live classroom platform when instruction shifts to an in-person class setting. It will reappear again if instruction transitions back online. Thus, with an online infrastructure, K-12 teachers can toggle seamlessly between educational settings and provide continuous instruction for their students throughout the school year regardless of whether the physical school building is open or closed or whether students are learning from a distance online.

Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D., a graduate of Concordia University Irvine’s Ed.D program, is an Educational Specialist at a secondary school in a school district located in North San Diego County. He is also a lecturer at San Diego State University on Educational Technology and Instruction for the Dual Language and English Learner department. His new book is Navigating the Toggled Term: Preparing Secondary Educators for Navigating Fall 2020 and Beyond, which is this article’s featured content. Navigating the Toggled Term also provides chapters on selecting edtech tools, edtech tools and their instructional applications, differentiating instruction, Special Education case management and online IEPs, reopening schools and refining reopening school plans, and instructional and organizational frameworks that can help schools and districts toggle between online, hybrid, and traditional educational settings. 

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