How to help students make real world connections using digital learning


by Haylee Massaro

This blog post is a re-post from the Edgenuity blog. We are grateful to have permission to share their work.

Many of today’s veteran teachers are a part of the generations that grew up without smartphones or Wi-Fi. We learned in classrooms where the overhead projector was cutting-edge technology. But now we are working in a world where students are constantly exposed to the most advanced technology the world has ever seen. Thus, we work tirelessly to keep our classrooms relevant in the ever-changing, always evolving digital age.

Online classes are a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning where lectures and lessons are programmed conveniently into a student’s course. The virtual instructor uses synchronous web sessions, email, phone, text, and other avenues like Zoom and Skype to reach out to students for tutoring and supplemental lessons. While this type of learning may not have been the norm when I was growing up, students of today are used to learning this way in blended learning environments.

How can teachers help students make real-world connections using digital learning?

Projects and supplemental assignments

Some students may see their assignments, projects, and papers as a means to an end; however, like in traditional education delivered in the brick-and-mortar classroom, teachers must seek to give these projects, assignments, and essays context and meaning, thus allowing students to make a real world connection.

For example, you may have an assignment where students need to create a public service announcement (or PSA) on an issue that they feel passionate about like the environment, racism, prejudice, poverty, or ending drug usage. Integrating real life issues into the curriculum allows students to make a connection to the outside world with the assignments that they complete.

 “FaceTime” with instructors

Because a lot of work done in the online classroom is asynchronous, it is important to include moments of synchronous connection with your students, whether via chat, text, phone, Skype, Zoom, or other similar platforms. Skype, Blackboard Collaborate™, and Jigsaw are platforms that allow for teachers and students to speak face-to-face about their courses, which creates more rapport between students and teachers and can also lead to a deeper connection to classroom content.

If you’re unable to speak with your students face-to-face, a phone call or text can also be an effective way to bridge the gap and create meaningful connections.

Applying Skills to the Real World

Finally, it’s important to remember that our world is becoming increasingly digital and digital literacy will help students succeed in higher education and the workplace. The proper technology exposure will also give students an advantage when they enter the modern workforce. Knowledge and familiarity in virtual learning platforms, social media, and other advanced technology is a growing asset in our ever-changing world.

About the Author

Haylee Massaro joined Edgenuity in 2012 and currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Pittsburgh where she studied English Literature, and then went on to receive her M.S.Ed. from Duquesne University. Haylee has been teaching for four years in which time she has gained experience as a teacher in a brick-and-mortar classroom as well as online.