With students back and classes getting underway, now is the right time to set your expectations for student participation in the Online Learning Center, however you choose to use it. Reinforcing those expectations often are key to a successful, engaged year.

Set Expectations

For Hebrew especially, ongoing regular practice is a large part of a successful Hebrew learning experience. When you set clear expectations early on in the school year, you give students and parents guidelines and an idea of how the curriculum will work.

We recommend early communications with families to establish your expectations. A presentation -- perhaps at back-to-school night -- that outlines your expectations also provides an opportunity to introduce incentives you will use to encourage students to complete their assessments. 

Here are a few examples:
- Share progress reports with parents - parents want their kids to succeed and stay up with the rest of the class
- Keep a visible tracking sheet for each class up to date with stars or other insignia to show student progress

Build Confidence

Help support these expectations by taking the time to make families comfortable. On back-to-school night, talk about the OLC a lot with parents and students. Prepare parents with usernames, passwords, and permission forms. Whether at a back-to-school night or in class, provide practice login sessions or demonstrate the software the students will be using this year. Show the OLC on a Smart Board or projection screen: Walk them through how to log on, where to go, what to select, etc. 

You can even share with families this short video from educator and author Dina Maiben about the importance, and the success, of regular, short Hebrew practice. All this helps to make the OLC less scary and feel more familiar to parents as they help get their students on board.

Tell students that if they want to become good Hebrew readers, they need to practice at home. Make sure the students know there’s nothing to worry about because it’s a replica of what they’re doing in class. Reassure them it's not too complicated, and they won’t get stuck.

Reinforce OLC Use

Not sure what kind of reinforcement system might work for your students? One Los Angeles school recently had about 60% of students completing their weekly at-home practice despite the temple's no homework policy. Here how: 

Give incentives. The school gave each student a $5 gift card to Jamba Juice for completing 10 lessons at home. Two-thirds of students earned the reward. This promoted a sense of recognitions, accomplishement, and pride. They also held  a party at the end of the year – for the whole class, because of the good participation. You can also create weekly or monthly participation challenges.

Check for completion. Make sure students know you'll be checking whether they complete their online work. The important measure is that students log in and complete the practice at home, and you can tracks how many times they log in. Their actual assessment matters much less. 

You can create your own reinforcement plan with charts, tokens, shuk shekels, or even the opportunity to ring a bell in class and be recognized. The key is ongoing, consistency reinforcement of the expectations you have set.

Bring Your Teachers Along

This is critical. Your teachers are your learning agents. They can make or break your program. Here are 3 key ways to make your teachers your partners in using the OLC and technology:

Get their buy-in. Acknowledge you are asking them to learn something new that they may not be comfortable with. An educator recently told us, “it takes finessing the teachers to bring them around.” Help them see that you are not adding to their work load; rather build on or replace something they’re already doing. For example, if teachers send homework by email, have them post assignments in the OLC instead. Above all, once they see that the children are enjoying the programs—and learning—they will be sold.

Help them develop their skills. Provide training, tech support, instructional videos, practice sessions, and teacher mentors to coach them in what works.

Provide ample tech support. Teachers need to know they have somebody to turn to for help—you, a tech-savvy congregant, the Behrman House support line, or another provider. In addition, have one or two tech-savvy and willing teachers mentor the others. Have teachers recount tech success stories at staff meetings.


For more tips and suggestions, see Top 10 Ways to Navigate Your Way Through the OLC, by Cheryl Epstein, assistant director of Jewish Education at Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, Florida.

We are always at work to help educators prepare their learning space to best accommodate student's learning skills. Do you have tips and tricks to help other educators ? We'd love to hear and share with your colleagues!