Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
NEA provides guidance and resources for returning to classrooms safely, and with an emphasis on racial and social justice.
Learn More

Digital Learning: Best Practices for Educators

Follow these tips to set up an effective, equitable digital learning plan for your school or district.
Published: May 6, 2020

As schools around the country shift to digital learning to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) offers the following recommendations for creating a digital learning plan that maintains a high quality of public education for all students.

Take time to prepare. Allocate at least one day to allow educators to familiarize themselves with digital learning formats, test functionality, and troubleshoot issues.

Focus on accessibility. Accessibility for all students and stakeholders is critical:. The needs of English-language learners, students with disabilities, and families must be considered, and efforts made to provide instruction and critical information in the languages that students and families speak at home.

Protect your students’ privacy. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) dictates the kinds of information that educational agencies and institutions can collect, maintain, and disclose with permission. Safeguarding personal data of students and educators must be a top priority, and data privacy must be of paramount concern. Educators should not publicize identifiable information of students and should take care to comply with FERPA in addition to state and district policies. For more, check out our deep dive on digital learning privacy issues.

Ensure digital equity & design independent learning. Equity is an important obstacle to consider in preparing for digital learning. Not all students and their families have sufficient internet access at home, so you may have to make alternative arrangements. Ensure that your plan considers both family access to technology and Wi-Fi and capacity for families to be involved in the digital learning process.

Communicate daily schedules & set clear expectations with students and families. Consistent and clear communication between administrators, staff, parents, and students is crucial throughout digital learning. Ensure that frequently asked questions have answers so that everyone is on the same page, and be prepared to provide extra support so that students know when to be online and everyone involved knows how to ask for help.

Provide robust learning. Break learning up into small chunks. Be clear about online expectations and participation, and provide prompt and frequent feedback to students using online knowledge checks and comments. Be sure to include virtual meetings, live chats, and video tutorials as much as possible.

Choose the right tools and stick with them. There are a variety of free apps and digital resources available to keep students as engaged as possible. But rather than trying to use all tools available, stick to a few so that families and students aren’t overwhelmed.

Address the emotional toll. It’s important to check in with students and colleagues, especially those who are less comfortable with digital tools and digital learning. While there is a convenience to working from home, it can be challenging to keep to a regular schedule. Some things that can help include taking regular breaks, making time to exercise and move, keeping a regular sleep schedule, limiting distractions when possible (e.g., social media), setting daily goals, and being sure to take time to socialize (at a safe distance) and decompress.

Make it official. Create your Digital Learning Plan—incorporating the above guidelines—as a living document that’s shared, constantly reviewed, and adapted as changing circumstances require, but always focused on student learning.

NEA provides guidance and resources for returning to classrooms safely, and with an emphasis on racial and social justice.

Are you an affiliate?

Jump to updates, opportunities, and resources for NEA state and local affiliates.
Librarian leans over seated students at the library who are reading a book

Education News Relevant to You

We're here to help you succeed in your career, advocate for public school students, and stay up to date on the latest education news and trends. Browse stories by topic, access the latest issue of NEA Today magazine, and celebrate educators and public schools.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.