Moser, et al’s (2021) research concludes that we are “witnessing how planned online and remote instruction might benefit both the learners and educators.” (p.10). Exercising best practices for online learning within a K-12 environment is one-way school library teachers prepare for the future. While online principles offer theoretical for the teaching and learning experiences, best practices guide the actual teaching and learning experience (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). Because there is a paucity of research for online instructional design within a K-12 environment, Boettcher and Conrad’s (2016) fourteen online teaching best practices can be modified. Originally designed using research that focuses on academic environments, Boettcher and Conrad’s (2016) best practices for online teaching, once modified, can serve as a foundation for K-12 instructional planning. The K-12 environment online best practices in teaching descriptions are:
- Develop and use a consistent content instructional design frame for the delivery of instruction. Consistencies built within the frame provide a clear map with reference points for learners to use as a guide. Also, a clear design frame with mapping points assists in reducing student stress caused by the vast details necessary to understand online learning before the content is even presented (p. 59).
- Be present within the instruction. Students interpret an educator’s presence as caring about what they are learning. Presence is broken down into social, teaching, and cognitive approaches. Social requires educators to seek understandings of each student’s life. Teaching requires an understanding of guiding each student’s learning experience. Cognitive requires an understanding of how to guide each student’s academic growth. Online tools that build an educator’s presence provide for announcements, feedback, discussions, meetings and creates an environment of inquiry (p. 46).
- Create a supportive community by providing opportunities for communicating between students and educators. Before providing the tools for communication, educators must have clear guidelines and responsible expectations in place. Establishing a supportive community requires building relationships and trust. Grade level appropriate tools that offer live chats or emails facilitate conversation. Creating welcome videos, mini-lessons, lesson introductions, announcements, and reminders are all ways of communicating while guiding the learner. Facilitate student to student support using tools that promote discussion questions, editing or commenting on shared work (p.47).
- Students and families must have clearly stated expectations of communication methods and expected assignment time. In addition to email, educators directly connect with students and parents through their learning management systems. Using these systems to communicate office hours, after school virtual availability, time allotments for video viewing, or any expected assignments time considerations respectfully assist with students and family planning and prioritizing (p. 48).
- Make use of a whole class, small group, and individual work experiences to build confidence and skills. Virtual field trips, guest speakers, and lesson introductions and closing bring unified understandings to a whole class. Small group tools such as a breakout meeting facilitate sharing when critical thinking is necessary. Finally, individual work can be facilitated using journals, blog postings, and mind mapping tools (p. 50).
- Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities during and after the school day. While synchronous activities are most assuredly student simultaneous learning, asynchronous activity tools flip classroom teaching and learning by providing small bits of content followed by quick evaluative assessments (p. 51).
- Seek student and family feedback concerning online tools and instructional design effectiveness. Feedback concerning online teaching and learning tools can often be confirmed using evaluative assessments. Using feedback adds to building trust between stakeholders. Surveys, discussion posts, or online response tools are a great way for seeking feedback (p. 52). Feedback should be utilized to create positive changes.
- Carefully prepare the capacity for discussion posts. Students should understand the protocols, expectations, evaluation of discussion posts, and especially due dates. Discussions require two due dates; the first for the initial posting and the second for replies. Discussions should aim to ask open-ended questions, invite lively, critically thought out and reflective replies that often lead to additional questions (p. 53). Most important is that the discussion is a student that the instructor monitors. Educator replies will often reshape the conversation as students focus on pleasing the educator rather than the discussion with each other.
- No matter full remote or hybrid, search, utilize, and organize digital teaching content when available. Many digital tools allow for paper to electronic conversions, pdf formats to become electronic worksheets, and electronic assignment turn-ins can be easily assessed and returned. Trimmed videos present the point an educator needs or be added in between practices. By providing all the materials needed, students have the choice between paper or digital, and may very well oscilate between the two. Posting the instructional materials in a the order of use organizes and facilitates the learning. Students and families are less stressed when all that is needed is present and open searches are unnecessary. Educators can make use of the organization because they are assured the material is present for a student to use (p. 54).
- Rigorously connect student learning outcomes to both the content and digital standards. The combination of content with digital standards ensures student and educator technology skills are maintained (p. 58).
- Provide experiences that guide and scaffold the learning outcomes until mastery has been achieved. The educator’s guidance is complemented by the instructional design and online educational tools to enrich each student's overall learning experience (p. 60).
- Provide opportunities for personalized learning in addition to whole class understandings. Online educational tools that support individual pacing with frequent assessment and correction activities help to reinforce learning and build confidence within each student. Providing a variety of assignment building online tools for students to choose from allows for individual learning experiences and encourages individual creativity (p.55).
- Distribute a variety of assessments throughout the unit or course. Online educational tools allow for creative frequent learning assessments to better evaluate and adjust instruction until a student reaches mastery (p. 58).
- Cumulative assessments using online education tools allow students to deeply challenge their learning and display knowledge gained to the evaluating educator. A unit of learning or an entire course can be creatively completed with an online tool.
- Consider how cumulation projects presented synchronously to a whole class can reinforce the understandings with all students (p. 57).
Online education technologies are now an expectation of the education environment. Miller and Paget (as cited in Dede et al, 2016, p. 128) stated that for two decades educational technologies, although recognized, never realized their full potential. Coleman (2020) urges educators to plan outside of traditional content and design. Recognizing the heightened role school library teachers will have in the future of online educational technologies, instructional design is essential to the profession. Instructional design support has now become a strong contender for school library teachers to consider as part of their professional future.