Virtual Online Learning Impact on School Culture & Climate


There are different elements in any organizational structure that influence the ability to create a meaningful workplace. In an educational context, I often use the terms school “climate” and “culture” to describe the unwritten patterns and practices which influence the daily exchanges between students, teachers, administrators and parents. These interactions directly influence the way a school functions and operates. 

Having a positive school culture is critical to ensuring staff and students are committed and motivated to achieving both personal and schoolwide goals. In fact, studies show that there can be a positive relationship between school culture and student achievement. 

→ Manage the culture of your distance and remote learning with our PBIS Behavior Tracking Template

Regardless of your specific role within your school, there are a variety of ways you can help create and maintain a positive school culture during this time.

Create a safe, positive and productive virtual environment

Teachers can set expectations for online class sessions like they would in their classroom. 

For example: 

    • Log into the meeting from a space where you will be able to focus
    • Wear your uniform shirts while participating in class to get us in a learning mindset
    • As a way to limit background noise, keep your audio on mute
    • Use the chat box to ask questions related to class content and instruction 

Stay positive. Encourage students to consider the different ways in which they are learning life skills during this time of virtual learning and celebrate those experiences. 

For example:

    • College preparation: Learning how to navigate online class material and resources.
    • Time management: Making sure assignments are completed and submitted on-time without having a teacher remind you. 
    • Self advocacy: Finding new ways to ask for help or support.
    • Teamwork: Helping to support families or communities adjusting to the current reality.

If possible, administrators can create and send out online surveys to parents, students and teachers as a way to gather feedback about the new schedules and systems that have been put in place. 

For example:

    • Is the current length of your child’s class time appropriate?
    • How would you rate the user friendliness of _____ ? (insert specific program you’re using).
    • How can we improve the virtual learning experiences for students?

Motivate and Incentivize students and staff 

Shout-out’s sent through messaging apps to parents or the whole class can be used as a way to recognize individuals. An incentive that has worked well for my school is featuring a student and staff member on our school’s Instagram story. This encourages people to check the different platforms where information is being posted while also recognizing and encouraging positive contributions to the online learning space. 

Some schools have implemented principal perseverance phone calls home to parents and students as another way to incentivize and recognize students. 

Teachers and support staff can also continue implementing interventions such as the Check-in/Check-Out behavior system for students who utilized them while at school. These can be implemented virtually by assigning a staff member to students who they will communicate twice on a daily basis, checking-in and out at a set time. 

Holding students accountable and being consistent with previously implemented interventions will help mobilize and motivate the collective capacity of your school; especially as you strive to foster and sustain a positive school culture even under these conditions of rapid change.

Explore and implement different communication methods

Research shows that the more involved a parent or caregiver is in their child’s education, the more likely the child will succeed. Collaboration between home and school is critical. Utilize your pre existing programs that include messaging features to maximize the communication efforts between school and home. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook can also be used as a tool to convey important information to all stakeholders or simply recognize those who are going above and beyond. Staff can also reach out to individual families asking them to name a need their family has during this time. Pass the intel along to your school’s guidance counselor, social worker or admin team to explore help options.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, students and educators around the world are experiencing unexpected turbulence. Teachers, students, administrators and parents are being required to learn in new ways. These challenges are forcing educators and students to communicate remotely while taking risks and implementing new platforms in order to continue educating kids, even if they are not physically at school. Maintaining a positive school culture during these times of complex change is critical to mobilizing your school’s collective capacity towards individual and schoolwide goals.