Teacher Blog, Teaching Youth

My Virtual Teaching Strategy – Self Paced Learning

Follow along for updates on how a small town WI teacher is handling the Covid-19 crisis.

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This is my fourth year teaching high school social studies. Our district is pretty tech-savvy. We are 1:1 for grades 3-12 and last year our middle and high school purchased Canvas as our Learning Management System. I am part of our district iTeam (innovation Team) which is a group of teachers and IT from throughout the grade levels that get together to test out new technology and ideas before bringing them to the rest of the staff. I thank God for my experience with this team because it has made the transition to virtual teaching relatively smooth. This post is a look at my virtual teaching strategy.

My Strategy

Overall, I decided to set up a self-paced classroom with all four of my classes. This year I taught Current Events, World History (in a skinny, 45min, and block, 90min), and World Cultures.

Self-paced has been something I have done in my classes prior to this year, and it has had some awesome results! I was not planning on doing self-paced this year because our department received all-new curriculum to work with and I was still getting used to the new material. Time for a crash course! This will be a key component of my virtual teaching strategy.

My reasoning for self-paced:

There are a few reasons for self-paced, however, the biggest is that everyone learns at different rates online. In a traditional classroom, everyone is pushed along at the same rate. This leaves some students bored and unmotivated while leaving others behind and anxious. This is my attempt to correct this. Even though this seems like a loose structure, there will be due dates and checkpoints. If students fall behind they will be contacted more frequently for help. If students show they can handle self-paced, they will be given much more freedom to move at a rate that is comfortable to them.

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Students are given a log to track their progress through the Unit. The essential questions are to be completed in order (Canvas has the cool ability to set prerequisites and requirements, so students cannot jump around the activities). As students feel they have sufficiently gained knowledge in a lesson through the required activities and/or the optional enrichment activities, they can take the quiz on Canvas. When they reach a sufficient mastery level on the quiz, they may move onto the next lesson. Once all of the lessons are completed, students will then receive the final assessment. They brainstorm and meet with me via Google Hangouts to discuss how they plan to complete the final assessment.

For an example of what my pacing guides look like, Here is a link to my Renaissance and Reformation Unit.

Below is a unpolished video I made for my students with more explanation on the Self-Paced Learning Plan.

The Pros and Cons to Self-Paced

Pros to Self PacedCons to Self Paced
– Students can work when its convenient for them
– There are no penalties for late work, only for not doing the work at all, this is a big stress reliever for students
– Students who have intrinsic motivation work well
– Students have the ability to work ahead
– Enrichment activities allow students to complete work that is interesting to them, instead of everyone having to do the same thing
– Students who struggle don’t feel like they are keeping the class from moving forward
– It is easy for the teacher to see which students are getting the material, and which are struggling
– Higher level students are able to move quickly through the unit
– Students have the ability to finish the year early
– Can lead to the feeling of teaching 24/7
– Without hard due dates, some students can procrastinate
– Keeping track of where all the students are in the unit can be a hassle, but with proper documentation is manageable
– Students can get frustrated when it takes them multiple attempts to pass a quiz
– Like any online learning, there are technical issues when turning things in, this can prevent a student from moving forward

– 80% of my students are passing or on track to pass– less than 10% of my students have completed no work at all


Self-paced is not for every teacher or every student. It works for me because I am a Type A, highly organized person. I have enjoyed teaching this way in person, and I would much rather do it that way. That being said, doing self-paced learning when we have to be virtual teaching has been very successful. This was my virtual teaching strategy.

We got this! – Mrs. Pettit

What successes have you found with virtual learning/teaching?

Curious about the lessons I learned during online teaching? Click here!

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