Taking School Online: A Teacher Checklist

Posted by Facing History and Ourselves on March 23, 2020

Online Learning_Large2The public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 outbreak has many schools rapidly shifting to online and distance learning. In these schools, educators are navigating new technologies and ways of teaching during an immensely challenging and uncertain time in our communities, when students’ (and teachers’ own) social-emotional needs are just as critical as academic goals. The resources below are designed to help teachers approach online learning with a focus on sustaining community, supporting students, and creating engaging, meaningful learning experiences. 

This checklist includes various considerations as you move your teaching online. A Letter to Educators Teaching Online for the First Time also captures the values of connection and community that Facing History shares. We recommend reading this thoughtful piece by two educators as you begin your planning.


  • What guidelines, infrastructure, and support are available from your school or district? Will technology be used to support distance learning? What accommodations are available for students who don’t have access to a computer, smartphone, or internet at home?
  • What platform will you use to communicate with students and what is your communication plan? How comfortable are you with this platform? Do you know how to get tech support?
  • Will your teaching be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both? With small groups of students or a whole class? How will you balance on-screen and off-screen learning time?
  • How often do you plan to post work—daily, weekly, or at another cadence? Is there a suggested daily schedule for students?
  • When will you schedule time to prepare materials and assess student work?
  • What is your contingency plan if you are unable to facilitate online or need to be absent from “school”?

Suggested Resources:
Preparing to Take School Online? Here Are 10 Tips to Make It Work (EdSurge) and Coronavirus Has Led to a Rush of Online Teaching. How Can Professors Manage? (EdSurge Podcast)


  • Will you consider using email, text messages, chat, office hours, or another medium so you can communicate with students 1:1? Do you have up-to-date contact information for your students?
  • Will you also communicate with parents and caregivers about how they can support students’ learning? 

Suggested Resources
: Coronavirus: Multilingual Resources for Schools (from ¡Colorín colorado!) and Communication Tools (from the State Educational Technology Directors Association—SETDA) 


  • What elements of your classroom and curriculum do you want to stay the same? Understanding that distance learning is more complex and time-consuming for both teachers and students, what curriculum, content, and skills will you prioritize and what will you let go of? 

Suggested Resource
: Powerful Learning is a useful framework for thinking through these questions (Digital Promise)


  • What routines, strategies, and tools can help your students feel connected to you and to each other?
  • What role can video, images, or social media play in helping your class feel connected to each other, to other classes in your school or community, or to schools around the world?
  • How can you stay connected to colleagues and maintain a professional support system? 

Suggested Resources
: Join Facing History’s new online teacher community, Facing History and Ourselves Digital Lounge; see also Prioritizing Human Connection When Social Distancing Is the New Norm (EdSurge).


  • How can you practice self-care as you navigate your professional responsibilities?
  • What boundaries might you set around working hours and communication windows?
  • What form of stress relief can you schedule into each day: e.g., exercise, outdoor time, journaling, mindfulness, or any activity that helps you feel good? 

Suggested Resource
: How to Keep the Greater Good in Mind during the Coronavirus Outbreak (Greater Good Science Center)

For teachers interested in digging deeper into effective online teaching and learning, Michelle Pacansky-Brock has provided free online access to much of her book Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, as well as posting a rich collection of resources on Humanizing Online Learning.


Facing History and Ourselves invites you to access even more tips via our free PDF, Taking School Online With a Student-Centered Approach, and register for our free webinar, “Coronavirus: Maintaining Healthy Schools and Preparing for Online Learning” to be held on March 25th 6-7pm EST.

Access Tools for Educators

Topics: Online Learning

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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