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How to Optimize Online Learning in the Age of Coronavirus (COVID-19): A 5-Point Guide for Educators



Due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) there will be increasing reliance on online learning for school students. There are some key considerations important to take into account when delivering online instruction. From my perspective as an educational psychologist, I propose 5 key considerations for educators to take into account when supporting students' online learning.
This is an extended version of the online article posted at UNSW Newsroom:
How to Optimize Online Learning in the Age of Coronavirus (COVID-19): A 5-Point
Guide for Educators
Andrew Martin
Professor of Educational Psychology
School of Education, UNSW Australia
Due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) there will be increasing reliance on online
learning for school students. There are some key considerations important to take into
account when delivering online instruction. From my perspective as an educational
psychologist, I propose 5 key considerations for educators to take into account when
supporting students’ online learning.
1. Instruction
It is important for online instruction to be as explicit, orderly, and well-organized as possible
– particularly when students are learning new or difficult subject matter. In the classroom,
teachers can monitor whether students are understanding things and can adjust instruction as
they go. In the classroom it is also easier to deliver information incrementally so students do
not get lost and it is easier to provide feedback in real-time. In an online environment it is
harder to monitor students’ understanding, and there is significant risk that lessons are poorly
organized and too much material is delivered too early—leaving learners lost. We have
identified Load Reduction Instruction as a way to reduce these risks. Following the principles
of Load Reduction Instruction, online lessons must be very clear and well-structured,
delivered in manageable chunks, allow good opportunity for students to practice what must
be learnt, and enable opportunities for the teacher to see students’ work and provide feedback
on time. When the teacher is satisfied the students have the basics, they can then provide
more independent and self-directed online learning activities.
2. Content
Alongside explicit instruction is the need for high quality content that is appropriate to the
learner’s level of knowledge and skill. There is a vast amount of poor quality online
information and learning materials. It is thus important that educators first do careful vetting
and selection of online materials and programs to ensure that students are working on the best
material possible. In the classroom, if the material is not such good quality the teacher can see
this and explain it better and provide real-time clarification and one-on-one help. This is
much harder in online environments. Also, reiterating an earlier point, it is important that the
content is not too difficult too soon. It must be delivered in doable chunks so the learner is
not overwhelmed or confused early in the learning process. Finally, remember that text books
are often well targeted to the education syllabus, written by experts in the field, reviewed by
other experts in the field, and designed to incrementally raise the bar on the learner as they
move through a given section or chapter. Many of these textbooks are available online—so
use them. On a related note, schools might also post hard copy materials to the home—
especially in cases where technology or online connections are unreliable.
3. Motivation
Motivation refers to students’ energy and effort as they learn. There are many parts to
motivationthe Motivation and Engagement Wheel captures the major ones that are critical
to any learning situation, including online learning. However, there is one area of motivation
particularly relevant to online learning: self-regulation—represented in the Wheel by self-
and task-management, planning, and persistence. In an online environment there is vast
potential for students to go off track, try to do too many things at once (multi-task), dive
down deep rabbit holes that are interesting but irrelevant, continually monitor and respond to
social messaging and emails, or abandon schoolwork altogether in favour of gaming, etc. In
essence, poor impulse control can be a real problem. High quality online instruction and
content that keeps the learner engaged and on track can reduce these risks (see Instruction
and Content considerations above). Frequently reminding students of these risks is also
important. Setting some work that can be printed and completed in hard copy separates the
student from technology for a whileand separates them from online temptations. School
requests to parents to monitor students’ online activity can also be helpful. Negotiating a
timetable with students for when they do online schoolwork and when they can catch up on
social media, game, etc. may also be viable. Encouraging students to remove all technology
from the bedroom during sleep hours is another important self-management strategy. The
point of all this is that students who can effectively regulate their use technology will be
better placed to learn in an online environment. Other aspects of self-management include:
setting more frequent due dates for small units of work (this also enables more frequent
opportunities for students to receive teacher feedback), developing a schoolwork timetable
for students for each school day, students maintaining bed-time and wake-up times that align
with the school day, and parents identifying a place at home where students can concentrate
while they do schoolwork.
4. Relationships
We are social creatures (something COVID-19 has capitalised on!). Interpersonal
relationships are integral to learning. The classroom is the ideal place where teacher-student
relationships and peer relationships can flourish. Students are pretty good at connecting with
peers online, so here I want to discuss the online teacher-student relationship. In an online
environment it is advisable that teachers maintain contact with the class in numerous ways,
such as via email, the school’s online learning platform, video, blogs, and class chat-groups.
From a relationship-perspective, ample opportunities for face-to-face online instruction is
important. If in doubt, teachers should over-communicate rather than under-communicate
with the class. Some of this can be pre-prepared and pre-recorded. Some can be in real-time.
As teachers maintain online contact with their class, schools will also need to ensure
appropriate teacher-student boundaries and uncompromised professionalism are observed.
Connective instruction has been developed as an educational approach that helps teachers
maintain connectedness with students in the everyday course of learning—including online
learning. This approach to teaching shows how educators can connect to students on three
channels: the interpersonal channel (e.g., emotionally supporting students), the content
channel (e.g., delivering content that is well-matched to students’ ability and interests), and
the instruction channel (e.g., supporting students through Load Reduction Instruction). The
more teachers get these three right, the more they will be connected to students in the course
of their learning.
5. Mental Health
Good mental health is not only a vital outcome in itself, it is a means to other important
outcomes—such as learning. If mental health suffers, learning usually suffers. When students
attend school in person, teachers and other support staff can observe students who may be
struggling, provide real-time assistance, and guide them to appropriate professional support.
This is more difficult to do in an online learning environment. During periods of online
education, school will be aware of some students with whom they must maintain closer
contact (including students with additional educational needs, such as those with dyslexia,
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, etc.). But it is important that all students are clearly
informed of who to contact inside or outside the school if they are struggling. In this time of
COVID-19 it is also likely students will be anxious and some may also lose loved ones or
have family and friends who are seriously ill. As soon as a school is aware of this, it is
important they immediately reach out to the student (probably via the school’s counselling
support unit, or similar) and provide the appropriate support and professional referrals
To conclude, online environments offer tremendous educational opportunities during times
when it is difficult for students to attend school in person. At the same time, there can be
significant barriers to learning if poor quality online instruction is delivered. The five
considerations presented here provide a means by which schools and teachers can develop
and deliver online learning to optimize their students’ learning.
I wish all educators and students the very best.
... Concurrently, providing tasks must be somewhat challenging because language students are more motivated when they accomplish tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult (Harmer, 2015;Schunk et al., 2014). Besides, when presenting the task, teachers should keep their instruction short, simple, clear, and well-organized (Filgona et al., 2020;Martin, 2020) so that the students know and understand the clear goal of doing it because the way the task is presented is influential in raising students' interest in the activity (Dörnyei & Csizér, 1998). For this reason, the task itself should be relevant to students' interests and experiences so that they can relate it to their personal lives. ...
... Furthermore, calling out students' names and paying attention to their personal information, such as hobbies and birthdays, can make them feel warm. Martin (2020) suggested that teachers should also keep in touch with students through various means such as email, class group chat, or the school's online learning platform. ...
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Motivation has been considered one of the main contributing factors to academic success, particularly in foreign language learning classes where there is little contact with the target language community. This is because highly motivated students tend to be ready to learn and engage themselves in the lesson, which allows them to receive more input that will help them to succeed in language learning. Hence, motivation is regarded as an internal power that drives students' abilities to perform well. However, it is worth noting that motivation in foreign language learning is complicated as every language student walks into the class with different levels of motivation, requiring teachers to be creative in designing the lesson to help them meet their needs and goals. This article discusses common types of motivation and their importance, as well as ways to sustain students' motivation in language learning. The article concludes with a variety of classroom tips that can be useful in keeping students motivated in learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
... Thus, while there are numerous challenges associated with online learning during COVID-19, various suggestions have been put forward by different researchers to enhance online learning. Martin's (2020) five-point considerations seem to be viable as they cover different aspects of the teaching-learning process, including instruction, content, motivation, relationships, and mental health. ...
... Meanwhile, there are various suggestions advanced by researchers to address the problems associated with online learning. Some of the above-mentioned solutions centre around five key factors, including instruction, content, motivation, relationships, and mental health (see Martin, 2020). Other key solutions are to do with preparation, lesson delivery, course quality, communication, student-teacher interaction, and student engagement (Dhawan, 2020;Fung et al., 2020). ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every aspect of society. It has caused profound disruption to the education system as governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Face-to-face classes have been canceled and moved online, bringing about the rise of online learning that has allowed learners to continue their education. The sudden transition from face-to-face to online learning has, however, posed numerous challenges for students, teachers, administrators, and education leaders. Drawing on previously published sources, this article first attempts to explain different terms used to describe online learning. It then discusses key challenges posed by the widespread adoption of online learning during the pandemic, followed by a discussion of suggestions made by different researchers to enhance the effectiveness of online learning. The article concludes with a summary of key challenges and suggestions and brief recommendations for the broader adoption of online and blended learning in the post-COVID-19 world.
... However, teachers' lack of training and knowledge to teach online and the poor infrastructure in the institutions were the major challenges. Clearly, Instruction, Content, Motivation, Relationship and Mental health are the five important aspects that an educator must remember when imparting online education (Martin, 2020). On that premise, this study is proposed to validate earlier findings as well as predict the status of 'online teaching' in the future. ...
... learning currently more directed at modernization activities with the help of technology sophisticated technology with the hope of helping students in learning lessons interactive, productive, effective, inspiring, constructive and fun (Min & Kavita, 2019). Moreover, students are also expected to have life skills from the application of technology because learning by using technology provides opportunities for teachers to be able to improve and develop their competencies, especially pedagogic and professional competence (Martin, 2020). Technology in education is usually called Elearning. ...
The aims of this study are to find out how to implement optimization using Google classroom in the distance learning process at vocational school, students’ response towards it, and whether it can achieve the learning objectives at vocational school. This qualitative study used exploratory sequential mixed methods with observation and questionnaires, analyze the results and then strengthen it with quantitative research (test) by using two groups consisting of the experimental group and the control group. This research was carried out in one of the existing Vocational Schools in West Java and used the 184 twelfth grade students of the academic year 2020/2021 using purposive sampling technique. The sample was the students from Computer and Network Engineering program, each subject taken from the population is chosen intentionally based on the class group selection. For data collection techniques, this study used observation, questionnaire with closed ended question, and test. Based on the data, the results of this research that have been carried out, that: (1) application of optimization using Google classroom in the Distance Learning process shows that the Distance Learning process carried out which run well and in accordance with classroom learning procedures starting from making classes, changing the old class themes, making general information about subjects, making subject matter, making and starting assignments, students working on assignments, until the teacher evaluates the results of the assignment. (2) Student responses to the use of Google classroom for Distance Learning were very good. (3) Distance Learning using Google classroom can achieve the learning objectives.
... Scholars and educators tout emotional and empathetic engagement as essential to foster a welcoming environment for students in classrooms [10,61]. Similarly, research has shown that students who can connect with their teachers have more substantial academic and social outcomes [23,28,31,42]. ...
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Background Over the last decade, the prevalence of childhood and adolescent trauma has continued to gain public notice, forcing educational systems to explore the impact of these traumas on students, teachers, and schools. Some have implemented trauma-informed practices that are purported to be effective for supporting students in classrooms. Researchers have explored the possibility of its adverse effect on teachers as secondary traumatic stress. This study aimed to explore Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) in classroom teachers in one small urban school district. STS is said to capture how professionals working closely with traumatized populations are impacted by witnessing their clients' experiences. This phenomenon has adversely affected attrition in other helping professions yet is only recently the focus of educational research. Methods The author administered an attitudinal survey to measure levels of STS in one small, urban school district in the U.S. The population sample in this study mirrored that of the district's population and that of national demographics of teachers in the U.S. Descriptive statistics were used to run regression analysis against the STS data. Results The findings showed that most teachers experience STS levels within the normal range. White, working-class elementary school teachers experienced higher levels of STS than their K-12 classroom teacher peers. Implications The results support a need to continue research on the impact of STS on teachers. Further investigations could inform teacher preparation programs and professional development to identify practices that can help mitigate STS in teachers.
... Almaiah et al. (2020) examined the crucial problems and factors impacting the use of the e-learning system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Martin (2020) looked at how to optimize online learning in the age of coronavirus . Haghshenas (2019) examined a model for utilizing social Softwares in learning management system of e-learning. ...
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This study aims to investigate students’ learning engagement during the pandemic. A mixed method design was used by combining a questionnaire and in-depth interviews. The quantitative data analysis used descriptive statistics and the Likert scale. The qualitative data analysis used thematic analysis technique. The findings indicate that most aspects of learning engagement are reasonably feasible, but there is a need to reduce the learning workload. The in-depth interviews of the online technology utility are effective to some degree. Internet network should be improved, the workload and the duration on the phone screens should be reduced to make students less exhausted.
Macroeconomics is one of the less popular courses among students that requires them to understand concepts and theories, and master mathematical and statistical skills. Failure to understand the concepts in economics is among the main causes of students’ failure following economic learning. The technological advances of the world have brought many changes in the world of education. The development of information and communication technology in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 has had a huge impact, not only on the development of the country, but also on the today’s world education. This development has brought about a new transformation in the world of education. The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of blended learning using the Learning Management System (LMS) platform through e-campus for macroeconomic learning at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan. A total of 120 macroeconomics students from the Faculty of Entrepreneurship and Business, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, were the respondents for this study. The PLS-SEM is employed to analyse the objectives of this research. Findings show that the use of blended learning is highly significant. Blended learning is well received by students enrolled in the macroeconomics course. Yet, successfully integrating blended learning into curriculum demands improved strategies and a more proactive approach.KeywordsInnovative pedagogy and technologyBlended learningEffectiveness
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Virtual, distant, and blended learning are not unheard of and have been practiced in the English language teaching (ELT) context for quite a while; however, the abrupt shift to online education during COVID-19 was entirely different from the actual online education (Hodge et al. in Educause Review 27, 2020), and it should rather be named as emergency remote teaching (ERT). In effect, the present mixed-methods study aimed to screen English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of ERT classes as well as discovering the probable (non)alignment between their attitudes. Hence, 20 EFL teachers and 30 learners were invited for the qualitative phase of the study who underwent semi-structured interviews. Moreover, 34 EFL teachers and 70 learners participated in the quantitative phase by responding a self-report questionnaire on their experiences with ERT classes. The data from the questionnaire helped researchers gain a general profile of the participants’ attitudes as both groups expressed satisfaction with ERT which indicated relative alignment between their perceptions. The qualitative analysis of teachers’ data manifested two thematic categories: (1) engaging online EFL learners and (2) enhancing receptive and productive skills via online instruction. Besides, EFL learners’ data revealed their belief in (1) enhancing digital competence and technological knowledge and (2) improving communicative language learning through online instruction. The findings contributed to ELT teachers’ awareness of applying online instruction to elevate EFL learners’ technological knowledge, to improve teaching receptive and productive skills, and to create an interactive learning atmosphere through meticulous selection of tasks and activities in order for the learners to be passionately engaged in classroom communication.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way instructors teach and students learn. Rather than receiving education face-to-face on-campus, remote online education emerged as an alternative solution. If implemented properly though, online education can have its positive impact on the teaching and learning processes. Online education, however, may have its deficiencies, especially in terms of mental health. This paper is a follow-on study comparing students’ perceptions towards remote online education versus their perceptions towards on-campus education as regards mental health specifically. Involving sixty-two engineering students at a private university in Dubai, where this study was implemented, the researchers utilized a questionnaire focusing on both online and on campus education models, which was conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown time and on-campus education following the lockdown period. Based on the study’s findings, most respondents were in favor of on-campus education, particularly in relation to its impact on student mental health.
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The current research tries to investigate the influence of Coved 19 on the students' achievements and progression of Arab Bedouin students living in the southern district of Israel. The population of research consists of nine teachers and nine students from different Bedouin schools. The participants varied in age and schooling levels. The research instrument was an interview. The findings of this research show that both teachers and students face different kinds of difficulties in distance learning. Some teachers did not get any qualifications before teaching on zoom, others do not have any knowledge about technology, synchronic, and asynchronic teaching. In addition, they are in favor of face-to-face teaching. Whereas some students have different kinds of problems such as lacking poor infrastructure and very weak internet signals. Others did not have enough computers at home. These factors hinder the student's academic achievement and progression.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.