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The 3 legs of Distance Learning


There are three main activities that occur in the classroom:

  1. Students consume content
  2. Students create content
  3. Teachers give feedback

Students might consume content in many different ways. They might read a book. They might listen to the teacher talk. They might watch a video.

Creating content is key to learning. It doesn’t have to be whizz-bang, but all teachers know that students need to write things down, to synthesise thoughts, to assimilate ideas, to demonstrate that they understand.

The teacher’s role is to direct students to the right content, to design the most appropriate creating tasks, and to finally assess their work and give them feedback.

Perhaps Distance Learning goes wrong when teachers 1. Get stuck in one aspect of learning. 2. Spend too much time on one of the aspects.

Getting stuck

It’s clear to me that many teachers spend a lot of time on consuming. They might expect students to read long passages of text or watch long videos. They might be very entertaining, but they don’t give students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding.

I’ve seen a few teachers who are always in project mode. There’s always something going on. But sometimes these students don’t have a lot of wide knowledge. They simply haven’t consumed much.

Feedback is interesting. It’s hard to imagine the whole class being stuck in the feedback mode. But I was involved with a group recently where the entire class was on a video call (15 students). The teacher was giving feedback to one student at a time, but the rest of the class was still on the call. If they muted the audio and did something else they were told off for being off task. This was extremely stressful and draining for everyone.

What’s your style? Do you get stuck in one of these aspects?


When I did my masters, we spent a few weeks consuming content. We had stacks of articles to read and entire textbooks to get through. There were also lectures to attend. We would then be given large assignments that we would spend several weeks on. These would be submitted, and, a few weeks later, we would get feedback. There’s a notable rhythm to this. We spend about 5 weeks at each stage: consume, create, feedback. The cycle was about 15 weeks long.

For a year 13 student, students often consume for 2-4 weeks, do an assessment, then get feedback. The cycle is 6-10 weeks long.

For a year 8 student, students might learn a skill over a few days, demonstrate their understanding of it by creating something (it might be a project of a series of worksheets), and get feedback. The cycle is about a week long.

For a year 3 student, the cycle is about one day long.

So the trick is: be mindful of how much time students will spend consuming, creating, and getting feedback. You need to set a tempo that is appropriate.


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