Digital Leadership: How Can Instructional Leaders Support Northern Alberta Students and Teachers in Online Classrooms?

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  • The closing of the Alberta Distance Learning Center combined with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a situation where rural and remote school divisions in Northern Alberta had to develop virtual education programs to serve their student population online. This study explored the perceived requirements and practices in developing an effective online Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classroom for rural and remote Northern Alberta schools. Questions asked of participants were centred around three themes: (a) student engagement, (b) technology, and, (c) best practices. This study drew on qualitative phenomenological and interpretive research design, conducting semi-structured, open-ended
    interviews with three STEM teachers who had a minimum five years of teaching experience, and had also taught at least two STEM courses online. An analysis of the data generated a fourth theme centered around student connection through face-to-face meetings. The findings of this study show teachers and digital instructional leaders should strive to engage students in short visually interesting lessons while encouraging students to engage with the material through active participation. Digital instructional leaders should also press to ensure students have access not only to all the technology required, such as a workstation instead of a single laptop, but push those higher up in leadership to ensure students also have access to high speed internet wherever they may need to access it. Digital leaders should also be supporting teachers in developing best practices suited for the online classroom, such as building engaging material and videos from the start. Such best practices can also be in the form of a complete pedagogical change from teacher-centered lecturing to student-centered flipped classrooms. Lastly, teachers and digital instructional leaders should strive to meet their online students in person within the first week of school as this face-to-face student connection was highlighted by participants as being a key to an effective online classroom.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International