Incorporating SEL Online

I started teaching a graduate class this week. I know it’s winter break at many institutions but our university offers a winter semester and I’ve traditionally taught a class called Online Learning Environments in our graduate program during the semester. There’s usually a handful (or more) of graduate students who are hoping to use their vacation to get take a class or two to progress in their programs. Since I do better when I’m busy, I’m happy to oblige.

I’ve taught this class the last four winters. The class has traditionally culminated with the design and development of an online unit that my graduate students can use with their students. In past years, I’ve built the unit around there being some inclement weather event where schools are shut down for a week or more. With the inclement weather shutdown, the teacher needs to teach their students online and have to purposefully go through an instructional design process to analyze students’ needs and build a unit that incorporates good online pedagogy,

It’s funny. Looking back at previous iterations of the course, I’d always have students who would balk at the fictional nature of the activity. “When would we really need to create a week or two of online instruction?” they’d ask. With the global pandemic upon us, I’m doubting I’ll get any push back from my graduate students this winter.

But I’ve also reframed the activity. The students are still designing and building an online instructional unit but instead of focusing on some fictional inclement weather event, they’re purposefully implementing social emotional learning into their teaching. With so many schools moving to remote, hybrid and online modalities, I’m finding lots of teachers know how to create lessons and activities for their students online. The challenge now becomes teaching online in a way that also supports students’ well-being and promotes a safe space for them to learn. As I’ve written in other posts, I worry a lot about how the isolation from online teaching and social distancing is impacting our students and it’s critical for teachers to support students’ social emotional aspects through good design.

I know that social emotional learning (SEL) may be new to some readers, so I thought I’d provide some resources. PBS LearningMedia has created some great videos addressing the Core Competencies of SEL and the Indicators of Schoolwide SEL. In my class, students don’t necessarily have to teach SEL to their students through their online instructional units. Instead, I want them to build SEL practices into their online teaching. If you’re wondering how you could do this with your students, here are some ideas:

30 Ways to Integrate SEL During Distance Learning
28 Social Emotional Activities that Support Distance Learning at Home
5 Tips for Supporting Students Socially and Emotionally During Distance Learning

These resources cover a bunch of different grade levels and academic contexts, so some of them may not be appropriate for every setting. Others may need a little tweaking to fit the academic setting in which you work. Regardless, it’s important that we all intentionally build in SEL practices into our online learning environments so our students’ well-being is supported.

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