Distance learning through Hwb

Distance learning can be delivered through a range of the Hwb tools, which are available to all maintained schools in Wales.  These tools will allow teachers and learners with suitable internet connected devices to continue their classroom activities outside of school as required.

Core Hwb tools that support distance learning include:

  • Office 365 including Microsoft Teams
  • Minecraft: Education Edition
  • G Suite for Education including Google Classroom
  • Just2easy

There are a selection of tools available through Hwb and choosing which tool to use will depend on a number of factors.  The information below will assist teachers in selecting an appropriate tool for engaging with their learners:

Distance learning can be just as personal, engaging and socially connected as learning in a classroom and can happen anywhere with Office 365 through Hwb.

Microsoft Teams is a digital service that brings conversations, content, assignments, and apps together in one place, allowing teachers to create vibrant learning environments.

Within Teams, teachers can quickly converse with learners, share files and websites, create a OneNote Class Notebook, and distribute and mark assignments.

Built-in OneNote Class Notebooks and end-to-end assignment management allow teachers to organise interactive lessons and provide effective and timely feedback.

As well as using Teams for class collaboration, staff can stay up-to-date and collaborate using ‘Staff Teams’ for announcements and topical conversations. They can also share instructional material using Professional Learning Communities.

Minecraft: Education Edition is available for teaching staff and learners through Hwb and can provide the engaging environment required to motivate learners when working remotely.

Learners can collaborate on projects in their Minecraft worlds, building, planning and learning as they work together.

When they are ready to document their work and submit their projects, through using tools like the Camera and Book & Quill to take screenshots, write about their work and export their in-game portfolios as a PDF, ready to share with their teacher though Microsoft Teams.

G Suite for Education, can help educators overcome some of the perceived challenges when implementing distance learning by engaging learners in interactive lessons using Google Classroom.

Distance learning is an opportunity for teachers to design lessons that include flexible activities, enabling learners to work at their own pace.

Formative assessments help to ensure learners are continuing to progress while away from school. Teachers can check for understanding during group instruction by asking a poll question in the middle of a lesson and showing the results in the Classroom in real time. Teachers can also assign graded discussions in Google Classroom, and learners can demonstrate their knowledge through project-based learning assignments using Slides, Docs or Sites.

Social emotional learning can continue in a distance learning setting. Using Google Forms, staff can create mood check-ins for learners to share their emotional state on a daily basis. Learners can also privately blog to reflect on their distance learning experiences.

In J2e you will find creativity tools, apps and games for Maths, English, Computing and cross curricular creative activities in a completely personalised learning experience. All J2e documents have their own unique web address which means, as well as accessing them from any web browser, you can easily share them with teachers, learners, family and friends. All work completed by learners in J2e can be viewed by teachers in the Pupil Files area, allowing teachers to begin a real time learning conversation to provide feedback.

Interactive spelling and times tables games in J2blast will help to engage and motivate learners when working remotely. Teachers can keep track of learners’ progress with these games, with the option of viewing results by class or learner.

Important considerations

  • Ensure learners and staff have been issued with their Hwb login details from the User Management Portal and are able to login.
  • Please note that Digital Champions and Hwb Administrators are required to use multi-factor authentication to access the User Management Portal outside of school.
  • Staff and learners are able to download and install the latest Microsoft Office tools for free at home.  These applications include Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as Minecraft: Education Edition.  Staff must have their licence allocated by the school Digital Champion.

A teacher’s guide to creating a virtual classroom

You can create virtual classrooms using Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or Just2easy.  Your schools digital champion may be able to support you in selecting the right tools based on your needs.

High-level guides to support the implementation of each tool can be found below:

Additional information to support your use of Office 365:

Additional information to support your use of Minecraft: Education Edition:

Additional information to support your use of Google for Education:

A guide to distance learning platforms for parents and carers

Through the Hwb platform, you can access distance learning content set by your child’s school. The Hwb platform is home to a range of applications which are available to all schools in Wales. Below you will find advice and guidance designed to support you in accessing each application. These include Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Flipgrid and Just2easy.

Resources provided by the Regional School Improvement Consortia.

While learning or working from home, it is important to continue to adhere to safeguarding policies as you would in a school setting, including your school's online safety policy. This includes reporting any safeguarding incidents or concerns.

Guidance materials, including teaching and learning resources for all education stakeholders can be found on the Hwb Online safety zone. The UK Safer Internet Helpline is also a source of support (available in English only).

Security essentials

The National Cyber Security Centre has issued guidance recommending extra precaution to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks on devices including laptops, mobiles and tablets.

Here are some practical steps you can take:

  • ensure software on devices is up to date including anti-virus protection
  • use strong passwords (update any default passwords), protect them and do not share login details
  • lock devices when unattended
  • Headteachers/digital champions should consider turning on multi-factor authentication when staff access all Hwb services (i.e. not only when accessing the Hwb User Management Portal). More information can be found on Hwb services
  • do not use personal accounts when collaborating with learners – always use school-provided accounts
  • always consider carefully the use of cameras and microphones when collaborating with learners online.

Phishing emails

A phishing email is a message which asks users to follow a link to an unknown website which could download malware onto your computer, or steal passwords. To prevent this from happening please ensure you do not follow a link to an unknown website. Currently there is a high number of phishing emails circulating about Coronavirus and it is recommended that you action caution around emails from unknown senders.

Additional guidance

National Cyber Security Centre practical tips - Cyber security in schools: Practical tips for everyone working in education.

Guidance on Hwb’s data protection and security controls can be found in the Hwb Trust Centre

Please see a selection of distance learning support materials from our partners.

For further support please contact the Hwb Service Desk: | 03000 25 25 25