How to adapt your lessons for distance learning

Making the shift from in person to distance learning is never easy. Whether this was your choice or necessity of the situation, we’ve got you covered 🙂 

If you’ve been teaching a long while you probably have a wealth of items that were designed to be delivered in person. If you are just starting out, you were likely trained to teach in person as well. 

The jump to digital can be alarming and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few simple techniques, you can make what you already have work in digital spaces.

Remember: you are an amazing educator! You’ve got this! 


Getting started with the basics: picking a tool

In order for something to work in your digital classroom, the first thing you will need to be able to do is make it a usable digital format. 

You’ll need to ask yourself some questions to decide on a format:

  1. What is the purpose of this assignment?

Why are you having the students do this assignment? Is it just for practice, or will it become a material they’ll reference often? 

  1. How do I want students to get feedback on this assignment?

Are you doing a quick check for understanding with a simple selected response or do you want to be able to leave comments? Do you plan on having them make changes based on your feedback? 

  1. What other elements will you be using with the assignment? 

Do you plan on having this sent through a plagiarism checker? Will you be having them answer questions based on another item like a reading passage? Is there material they will be referencing?

Once you know what you need them to do, you can select the correct tool or tools for the job. 

I have used Google tools in this tutorial because many teachers are using Google Classroom or Canvas (which integrates with Google Classroom). If you want me to do another of these with a set-up not mentioned, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

Screen-Shot-2020-09-18-at-12 47 30-PM

Obviously, these are all tools and you can get creative with them. This is just the easiest way to use them straight out of the box. 


Get your materials together

Making virtual versions of your materials is exactly the same as making them on paper. It goes smoothest when you are organized. 

Having a clean filing system is the best thing you can do for yourself if you engage in any sort of online teaching.

When you go to make a material digital, it helps to have the paper copy pulled up or an inspiration available to work from. Like we tell our students, the hardest part is getting started.

Have all the images you want to use in a file, ready to go. Have the text you want to use ready in an editable format. If you have to write something, put it in its own doc before transferring it to its new digital format. 


Give up on “how it’s supposed to be” 

Distance learning will be different for your students than the work they do in person, and digital materials are different from paper ones.

If you have a rigid vision of how this is all supposed to work out, you will be disappointed. Different tools have different strengths and limitations. 

Google Forms, for instance, are very powerful, but also pretty limited when it comes to adding things like different fonts. 

Try to let your digital lessons and materials be their own thing and release any expectations you have of them.

Be open with your students that this is new to you and accept feedback gracefully. If something is a little rough, the nice thing about digital lessons is you can change them right away, no need to go make new copies, or for white out to be used. 


Prototyping is your friend!

It’s ok to try something. It is very rare for something to work perfectly right away. When you were starting out as a teacher, I’m sure you used MANY materials that didn’t work out for one reason or another.

You have extensively experimented in your classroom and tried, discarded, and tried again – tons of materials.

It’s time to bring that spirit of experimentation into the digital arena.

Make a version of your material and try it out yourself. Send it to a teacher friend to try it out too.

Still not sure about it? Try it with a friendly class period, if you have one you know would be especially good to try it with. 

How to transition to distance learning: make the dang thing

Below are some very helpful videos on how to make your lessons digital using what you already have. 

How to Digitize Your Assignments 

Creating Interactive Google Docs

Don’t worry!

There are so many different resources for teachers who are trying distance learning. If you get stuck just Google around for an answer. 

Like all skills, you’ll get better as time goes on. You’ve got this and you’ll be fine, promise!


  • Helpful blog post it is! Just caught your blog and read this post regarding the concept I was searching for. I might appreciate your content and your efforts. Thanks and keep sharing. Would like to read more.

    • Katrina Glenn

      Thanks so much Melvin! We so appreciate your kind words 🙂 What would you like our next blog to be about?

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