Online Learning

[Guest Blog] How to adapt materials for online learning…

Author: Terry Freedman

Terry freedman is a freelance ed tech writer and consultant. He blogs at ICT & Computing in Education, and tweets as @terryfreedman.


Lots of companies have resources that schools can download and use. Until recently, it didn’t matter too much if the materials came with very little guidance. Indeed, there’s a fine balance between providing no guidance at all, leaving it completely to the teacher to use the materials in the way she or he sees fit, and providing an extremely detailed lesson plan for each resource (which many teachers don’t like, in fact).

But now we have a very odd situation. We don’t know if there is going to be another lockdown. You may not know whether the schools who download your materials are going to be working completely face-to-face, or if pupils will be having face-to-face lessons on alternate days or in alternate weeks. You might not even know what software they’re using to run their online lessons.

Well, you have a choice. You can do nothing, but the danger here is that some teachers will find it difficult to adapt the resources to online use and turn to something else instead. Or they may not adapt them very well, fail to get great results, and then think the resources themselves must be to blame.

Alternatively, you can revamp all of the resources, and hope that they cover every contingency. That may take a long time.

A middle way is to write some supplementary material to accompany the existing resources, consisting of suggestions or prompts for the teacher. Here is a list of considerations to guide the creation of these supplementary resources:

  • Could this activity be done outside lesson time? For example, if there is a lesson starter involving each pupil saying what they think of a data protection scenario they had to read for homework, could that be done through a survey tool like Google Forms, before the online lesson?
  • Should an activity be broken up into smaller parts? And if so, how? Bear in mind that taking part in online lessons is quite tiring, often more so than face-to-face lessons.
  • Where some activities involve paired work or small group work, how can they be done online? If a school is using Zoom and they have the right kind of licence, this presents no problem. All the teacher has to do is use breakout rooms. But what of those schools using something like Google Meet, which (at the moment) does not have breakout rooms?

In other words, what you need to do is go through the existing material and ask yourself: will this activity work in an online lesson just as it is? If not, what needs to be done to it?

As an example, a supplementary guide to an existing set of activities might read as follows:

  • Activity 1: Set this up as a Google Form survey for homework the week before.
  • Activity 2: This involves showing a video, so make sure you know how to share your screen and run a video without loss of quality.
  • Activity 3: This should work perfectly well in an online environment.
  • Activity 4: As this is quite long, think about breaking it down into smaller segments, or even skipping it altogether.
  • Activity 5: This involves a visit to X. Unfortunately that is not possible at the moment. However, their website has a special new video section, so use the video called … instead.
  • Activity 6: This involves pupils working in groups of three. If you don’t have a breakout room facility in your application, run it as a whole group activity, but leave out parts 3 and 6.

As you can see, you don’t have to rewrite everything, and teachers should not have to ditch the materials altogether. Everyone is happy!


Terry Freedman

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at, and the Digital Education newsletter at You can follow Terry on Twitter @terryfreedman.

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