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Supporting and Accessing Technology

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Focus on offering the resources and support needed for delivering effective online learning

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Offer Technical Support

Be flexible and be prepared for technology issues and internet disruptions.

  • Have a back-up communication plan. Ensure learners know what to do when all else fails, for example if you or they lose connection, or if something else goes wrong with the technology.
  • Make sure learners have an alternate means of contacting the practitioner (e.g., a phone number to call or text) to reach out if they lose connection or need assistance.

“Let everyone know if you lose the link or they do, just sign back in. Make sure you are fully prepped. Be prepared to change on a dime or as needed by learners.”

“If the sound failed we taught the tutors and the learners to just call and continue the class using their phones.”

Use a facilitator for group sessions online.

  • Having a facilitator or support person, in addition to the practitioner, who can monitor the chatbox and support learners who are having technical challenges allows the practitioner to focus on the learning.

“It is definitely helpful to have more than one facilitator present with the group, so that even if one is screen-sharing and not able to see the chat/participants, the other staff member can keep an eye on things.”

Offer one-on-one orientation sessions before the first group session.

  • Orientation sessions offer individualized support and a chance for learners and practitioners to get to know each other, get to know the tools they will be using, and have a chance to practice and get comfortable prior to the session start.

“[1-on-1 orientations offer] time for specific practice with tech, but more importantly having time to talk about what it feels like to be engaging in online learning.”

  • Provide first language interpretation at the orientation, if applicable.
  • Be prepared for some learners to need more time to get comfortable than other learners.

“Depending on the ability of the learner to engage in online learning, we would designate time for the learner to engage with staff in practice sessions. These could continue until the learner was comfortable.”

“Often it is easier to set up Zoom on a phone, so I send the learner a link to the app store first. Once they have it set up on their phone I have them turn the [phone] camera onto their computer [so I can assist with computer] set up [of] Zoom if necessary.”

Schedule a buffer time.

  • Consider blocking off time before each learning session so learners can join early and work out any technical issues.

“It was difficult at times to orient folks to the online environment and walk them through the steps to access the video chat. We implemented a 30 minute ‘buffer’ each day before the program started which helped allow time to work out technical difficulties and ensure all learners could access the video chat.”

Offer ongoing one-on-one support to build confidence and skills.

  • Offer tutoring sessions that are specific to the digital tools and platforms you use within your program (e.g., Zoom for beginners).
  • Try offering ongoing, informal, drop-in sessions online that respond to the digital learning gaps and needs of the adult learners in your programs.
  • Offer an ongoing club, like a skill booster club, to encourage learners to continue building their skills and confidence outside of formal learning sessions.

Offer technical support services for learners.

  • When possible, provide a back-up staff member or support person who can be contacted to troubleshoot technical problems with learners, allowing the practitioner to continue facilitating with the group.
  • Consider hosting a volunteer-run service dedicated to offering technical support for learners.

Provide step-by-step instructions.

  • If a specific issue comes up frequently, such as learners asking about how to log on to the course management system or online classroom, provide step-by-step instructions in print and digital formats. It is helpful to use screenshotswhenever possible to show the steps in the process. You may want to look online to see if there are documents already available to address common issues, but be sure to adapt these for your specific learners, with clear, concise instructions using the words you say in your class rather than technical jargon.

Use screen sharing and remote assistance.

  • Sometimes when technical issues arise, it helps to see what the other person is seeing on their screen. To accomplish this, try using the share screen function in the video conferencing platform, or have the learner turn their camera onto their screen (if that can be done). It may also be possible to use remote assistance technology, such as Windows Remote Assist, to see learner’s screen.
  • Consider the privacy concerns that may arise when learners share their screens or allow remote assistance, such as unintentionally showing private information or something embarrassing or inappropriate. Discuss those concerns with learners before inviting them to share their screen. If you are in a larger group, try entering a breakout room with the learner for more private assistance.

Offer Professional Development

Offer a choice of online, in-person, and blended professional development opportunities for practitioners and for volunteer tutors.

  • Both practitioners and volunteer tutors have professional development needs around online program delivery.
  • Some potential topics:
    • how to teach online effectively
    • how to deal with privacy concerns including what to do if practitioners or volunteer tutors witness violence or other safety issues in learners’ home environments while online.

“As a learner myself I sure hope CALP continues to offer online training as it is easier to attend than taking a day off work, disrupting our teaching for training.”

Offer short, focused technical training.

  • Possibilities include platform-specific training (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom) or topic-specific training (e.g., how to use the chat function, sharing digital resources, building effective PowerPoint presentations, interacting with learners via video).
  • Highlight transferable skills regarding functions common between different platforms (e.g., video conferencing platforms all have mute functions, but they may look a little different depending on the platform).

Offer digital drop-in sessions.

  • Regularly scheduled, digital drop-in sessions can allow practitioners and volunteers tutors to ask for specific help or instructions in a short, informal learning environment.

Offer asynchronous professional development.

  • Asynchronous sessions are learning opportunities that do not require meeting at a certain time; instead they are pre-recorded and available at a time convenient for the viewer. They may be one-time events or longer, ongoing offerings. They may include a cohort of practitioners and volunteer tutors journeying together and sharing reflections with each other, or they may be more independently oriented.

Increase Access to Technology

Support access to Wi-Fi.

  • Support learners to apply for low-cost internet subsidy programs (such as Telus for Good, and possibly CALP-based subsidy programs if available).
  • Find out where learners currently go to access publicly available free Wi-Fi. Share that information with other learners.
  • Consider how your organization, or a partner organization, could offer free WI-FI for learners, such as offering a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Lend devices to learners.

  • Use a device lending/rental agreement and adapt it to your context. Include a process for learners to sign out laptops or other devices that your CALP has available.
  • Consider how to determine legitimate need for the loaned device.
  • Co-develop with learners a method for them to “pay back” the loan responsibly, either with money or their time (e.g., tutoring someone else).

Remember the digital divide.

  • Just because something is accessible online does not make it accessible to everyone. Large files, high-resolution photos, and videos are not easily accessible for people who do not have access to affordable, reliable, high speed broadband internet connections. Many people may rely on places like public libraries for computers, printers, and scanners. They may use only free WI-FI or have very limited data. Keep this in mind when designing materials and how to make them available to learners.