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A study published by Lastinger Center affiliate faculty Walter Leite and Wanli Xing, and research partners Gail Fish (UF Research) and Chenglu Li (UF College of Education) explores how specific teacher practices in virtual learning environments relate to student achievement.


After nationwide school closures due to COVID-19, virtual learning environments (VLE) have seen tremendous increase in usage. The current study identified teacher activities for orchestration using an Algebra VLE during school closures, and whether these activities were related to student achievement. In May 2020, we collected survey data on how 213 teachers were using a VLE for Algebra with 10,590 students, along with system logs and student achievement data. Results indicated that teachers made several changes to teacher strategies due to school closures, including allowing students more time to complete assignments. Multilevel modeling showed that teacher orchestration activities, particularly those related to regulation/management and awareness/assessment, were positively related to student achievement. We discussed the results and provided implications for practice (Q&A setting, assignment flexibility).

Virtual learning environments (VLEs) have become a common resource for teachers to supplement classroom instruction in mathematics, and school districts frequently pay for subscriptions to VLE and push teachers to use them. There is evidence in the literature that the use of VLEs to supplement classroom instruction can increase students learning (Mitten et al., 2021; 2019; Roschelle et al., 2016). Furthermore, many studies have examined specific activities to supplement classroom teaching with VLE to improve teaching and learning in K-12 settings: some studies focused on activities for completely in-classroom use of VLE (Fong et al., 2018; Jones & Warren, 2011; Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012); other research focused on supplementing classroom teaching with VLE more in line with blended learning, thus combining online educational materials and opportunities in VLE with traditional place-based classroom methods (Martin et al., 2016; Schwier et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2017). More importantly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools moved instruction online during the Spring of 2020, and VLE platforms had a tremendous increase in usage (The World Bank, 2020). The increasing use of VLE presents a unique opportunity to investigate possible relationships between how teachers orchestrate their student’s engagement with these VLE during a crisis time. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify teacher activities for use of VLE that had a positive relationship to student learning during extended school closures due to COVID-19. The identification of effective activities is critical in better preparing educators for future temporary school closures.

Plenty of research addresses how to best deliver teaching and learning entirely online (DiPietro et al., 2010; Lee et al., 2004). However, scholars have illustrated the grand difference between carefully designed online learning versus emergency remote teaching (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020; Hodges et al., 2020). While the prior takes months of planning, preparation, and development time for a completely online course, the latter is a quick temporary shift of instruction to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances. The teaching and learning activities for well-planned online courses may not work effectively for emergency remote teaching (Hodges et al., 2020). A few studies examined how countries respond to school closures in a time of crisis at a national level (Davies & Bentrovato, 2011; Rajab, 2018) and how students reacted to the move to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Yan et al., 2021), but there is a scarcity of studies about emergency remote teaching and learning activities. As VLE naturally becomes an integral part of solutions to emergency remote teaching, it is imperative for educational researchers to study and provide guidance on how teachers should orchestrate VLE to facilitate learning and students’ use of VLE and be prepared for future crises.


Leite, W., Xing, W., Fish, G., & Li, C. (2022, August 16). Teacher strategies to use virtual learning environments to facilitate algebra learning during school closures. Taylor & Francis.