The No-Nonsense Distance Learning Guide

A step-by-step plan with tools and tips for every educator.

Plan an Equitable Distance Learning Program. Keep the needs of all learners in mind as you plan with these six considerations.


How to Plan a Distance Learning Program With the Needs of All Learners in Mind

At this point, your learning community has defined distance learning and aligned on vision and goals for your community.

The next step is to create a comprehensive, equitable plan and onboarding strategy for teachers, families, and students.

What do we mean by equity?

When we talk about equity, we want to look at how to give every learner a quality education, regardless of gender, race, background, income, or learning level.

Like students themselves, every school has a different makeup with its own unique needs, so we're not here to be prescriptive. Rather, we're here to help you out with a list of six considerations – think of them as hats to put on as you are building a plan that serves everyone in your community.

1. Consider a path that gives support and enrichment for every level of learner

One-size rarely fits all. As you're planning your transition to distance learning, consider how you will keep students engaged at all levels of learning. Does your curriculum provide multiple levels of supports?

Do your students have access to resources that help them learn in a way that's best for them? In curating your resources, you will want to consider not just support for those who are behind the curve, but enrichment for those who are ahead, as well.


As you personalize for each student, consider a way to do so discreetly to give students privacy. Rather than posting all instructions on a public board shared to the entire classroom, create a line of personal communication with each student.

This will keep students from unhealthily comparing their personal progress to others, and help them focus on their own growth.

During this time, it is equally important to include culturally responsive pedagogy in your instruction. Challenging, thoughtful learning experiences that include student perspectives will enhance meaning and engage students.

For example, some students might have a hard time concentrating during this time when communities are affected in different ways by COVID-19. For this reason, addressing the situation with social awareness and developing social and emotional skills are critical.

2. Consider a path that enables a quality education for ELL learners.

You know your community best. As you're choosing tools and resources, evaluate options that include language supports for students and parents who are ELL learners. 


The free Open Up Resources 6-8 math curriculum that comes along with this distance learning bundle raises the bar for the integration of English Language Learner scaffolds in every lesson, with topic- and activity-specific guidance. This curriculum includes a first Instance of every mathematical language routine in each course. The first instance provides a detailed description of the support and implementation of the activity.

3. Create a path that includes asynchronous and synchronous learning.

Asynchronous personalized learning environments can create more, not fewer, entry points for learners. By giving students asynchronous access to all of the information and materials they need online, the student can move at his or her own pace.

Here are a few other ways digital tools can open doors for traditional courses:

  • Class text with modified language strategies
  • Common assignments scaffolded to suit different levels
  • 1:1 pull-out or push-in support of a reading specialist
  • Leveled activities and assessments culminating in a common assessment with individual accommodations
  • Students select a text, with teacher's input on what might be an appropriate challenge
  • Teacher pushes out just-right assignments to students on an individual basis
  • Teacher who creates curriculum provides 1:1 assistance during office hours
  • Each student moves at her own pace.
  • Activities and assessments are provided when the student is ready and can be completely differentiated by the teacher

What Free Resources Come With This Distance Learning Bundle?

Kiddom + OUR promo

1. Kiddom and Open Up Resources co-authored this No-Nonsense Guide to Distance Learning to help learning communities ensure continuity and quality through engaging remote learning experiences.

2. We are also partnering to host a Distance Learning Webinar Series. Sign up for upcoming webinars here.

4. Consider empowering students to build their own path to mastery.

While we're on the subject of allowing students to work at their own pace, it is important to look beyond the tools and into the teaching methods you will use in your distance learning environments.

Consider how much ownership your students have of their own learning and mastery during this time. Early on, it can help to provide a mix of graded and ungraded assignments, so students can get comfortable with receiving and acting on feedback — a key part of distance learning.

5. Consider how you will ensure quality for every learner.

When embarking on a distance learning program, prioritize both instructional quality and fidelity. This, of course, can be done in a number of ways.

One consideration is to build a system of accountability into your plan. Check in with your teachers, parents, and students often, and foster a community of learning by continuing PLCs and coaching throughout your distance learning transition.

6. Make space for the equity conversation.

These conversations are often skipped: equity (or the lack of it) is commonly seen as something that only affects certain members of a community. However, not only does equity in education make a world of difference for engaging students of all backgrounds in their learning, it can also impact how they will come to view the workforce they’ll join, and the world they’ll grow into.

In order for any community or organization to pursue equity, every stakeholder should recognize how the presence of barriers impacts them — positively or negatively. You can create the space to talk about equity by holding regular check-ins, creating an equity committee, or offering Q&A sessions, where questions are submitted anonymously.

Once you've put together an equitable plan that paves a path for all learners with various degrees of access, you're ready to Set Up Essential Tools & Schedules. Or jump to another stage below.

Introducing The No-Nonsense Guide to Distance Learning

This step-by-step guide for educators provides practical advice that can be implemented rapidly during this critical health crisis. Use it to easily navigate to the stage of distance learning your school is currently tackling, and jump right in. Along the way, you'll discover helpful tips and tools that are specific to your role.

How to Navigate This Guide

This guide is here to offer support through every step and day of this “new normal.” We realize not everyone is starting from step one. Please navigate to the section that best fits your needs using the index at the top of each page.

The first few sections provide a broader set of planning considerations for schools and districts. The latter sections focus more on implementation, including two quick-launch tutorials to set up a course for distance learning using digital curriculum*.

*A quick note on digital curriculum: We believe a rapid move to distance learning shouldn't put educators into the position of having to forego quality for urgency. We have some ideas on how digital curriculum ensures quality, but more on that later.


Supplemental Resources and Tools

You will find a number of recommended resources and sample schedules in the fourth section. In the spirit of no-nonsense, we've provided links to every resource mentioned so you can get started immediately.

We built this guide to be helpful, regardless of the tools your school or district plans to use for distance learning. However, for the sake of example, we will cover implementation using the free tools we offer.

There are two ways to use these tools for your school's distance learning program, which you can learn about by clicking on the tabs below:

A bookbag souped up with some stickers + an ipad with the OUR bee logo on itIf you are using Open Up Resources's 6-8 math curriculum digitally in Kiddom, learn how to leverage this rich and engaging highly-rated open math curriculum to plan instruction and assign your lessons digitally in the Launch Courses & Curriculum section of this guide.

In Kiddom, students can complete assignments and communicate with teachers, who can in turn grade, provide feedback, and track skills and assessments.

If you are not teaching 6-8 math, you can learn how to start a distance learning course from your own curriculum using Kiddom Classroom, which is always free.

Kiddom Classroom's curriculum builder lets you plan and assign lessons unit by unit. Students can complete assignments and communicate with teachers, who can in turn grade and track skills and assessments.

We will cover how to set up a course from your own curriculum in more detail in the Launch Courses & Curriculum section of this guide.

Role-Based Guidance

While most of this guide applies to all educators, certain sections are more specific to some roles than others. You can identify these areas by the following role icons:

For example, if you see the next section is for all educator roles -- that means everyone within your learning community might find the following information helpful. So keep reading!

Online Resources for Classrooms Impacted by COVID-10.

As you consider online options in response to COVID-19, here's a helpful list of distance learning resources from our Chief Academic Officer, Abbas Manjee.

Revolutionary Patience: Moving to a Digital Classroom.

In light of COVID-19, teacher and engagement director Geoffrey Schmidt offers some hope and advice for those transitioning to digital classrooms.