How to Structure Learning Stations Online

While learning stations are most magical in the brick-and-mortar classroom, they can be facilitated during remote learning with a few adjustments. You might not be able to replicate the human-to-human collaboration or kinesthetic learning, but you can still use learning stations as a way to scaffold and “chunk” content/skills into manageable, engaging parts. Thankfully, technology like Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and Classroom make organizing learning stations easy.

I’ve been facilitating learning stations my entire teaching career and utilizing them in various digital environments for the past 4 years. During this time, I’ve been able to experiment with different ways of structuring stations using Google docs, slides, forms, and more in conjunction with Google Classroom.

This blog post is all about the structure + techie side of things, so if you’re looking for more information on how to create the actual content of learning stations, then head to this post first.

How to structure learning stations online
10 ways to structure learning stations in the online environment

Here are 10 different ideas to structure learning stations in Google Classroom. Keep in mind that these methods all work, and ultimately, the way you structure stations is a matter of what works best for you, your content, and your students.

1. POST STATIONS + A GENERIC GOOGLE FORM

The first time I ever adapted learning stations to a 1:1 environment, I posted the PDF of my print stations and assigned a basic but functional Google form for answer submissions. Years later, this classic method is still one I stand by, especially if I’m in a time crunch or don’t want to spend extra time digitizing my stations. To do this, simply post your Google slides, PowerPoint, or PDF to Google Classroom. (You can attach it to the assignment or post it as materials). Then, create a Google form with short answer or paragraph responses, and assign that on Google Classroom. Your Google form questions can be as simple as “Station 1,” “Station 2,” etc. so that students still need to reference the slides that you post.

This method works well because you will have all student responses filtered into one Google spreadsheet, thanks to the form. Another option is to create separate forms for each station. Do this if you’d like each station to have its own spreadsheet of answers. I’ve done it both ways, and it’s honestly just a matter of personal preference.

Google slides + form
If you don’t have the time or need for “fancy” stations, a generic Google form will work just fine.

2. EMBED IMAGES OF STATIONS INTO A GOOGLE FORM

Want to dress up that simple form from method #1? Add images of the station slides! This way, everything will exist in one spot for students. If you have an extra 5-10 minutes to spare, you can save your station slides as images (JPG or PNG) and embed them in the form. If your stations are in PowerPoint, go to “Save as,” select “JPG” or “PNG,” and click “all of them” when it asks you which slides to save. For Google slides, go to “File,” down to “Download,” and select “JPG” or “PNG.” If your stations are PDFs, you can use this website to quickly convert your file to images. After saving your images, add them to the form by selecting the “Add image” icon from the toolbar on the right. After each image, add short answer or paragraph response questions so students can respond to the station tasks.

With this method, you have the best of both worlds (the stations and the form) in one, user-friendly location. Students will be able to complete all of their work without jumping back and forth between station slides and forms.

Google form with images
If you want to preserve the visual appeal of your learning stations, consider embedding your slides into a Google form. (Pictured: Learning Stations for Any Novel)

3. COPY/PASTE PLAIN TEXT & LINKS FROM STATIONS INTO A GOOGLE FORM

If you don’t have any special formatting that would warrant saving your station slides as images, you can simply copy/paste your station content into a Google form. To do this, select “Add title and description” from the Google form toolbar on the right, and copy/paste what you need. I use the title section to label the station and the description section to add the content. If you want to dress up your form, you can add helpful images, videos, and even fun GIFs. You can change the header, color scheme, and more! If you want to get even fancier, you can make each station a different “section” (or page) of the form. This option is at the bottom of the toolbar on the right.

When you add images and other materials, this option is virtually the same as method #2. I recommend using this option if you need to direct students to links/outside resources (because those will not save if you simply embed the slides as images).

Google form with text & links
If you don’t need to embed images, you can simply copy/paste plain text and links into a Google form and assign it to students. (Pictured: Why You Should Read Learning Stations)

4. POST STATIONS + GOOGLE CLASSROOM “QUESTIONS.”

This option is very similar to posting a Google form for each station, but I actually like it better. Here’s why: When you post a Google Classroom “question,” students can see their peers’ responses after they submit their own. This creates a growing body of knowledge that students can use to learn from their peers. Google Classroom questions also allow teachers and students to reply to answers, which makes it easy to give feedback. Sometimes, I will even ask students to reply to a peers’ response and continue the discussion. This is a great task for those early finishers who complete the stations quickly and need something else to do.

I like this option better than both options in #1, simply because of the commenting feature and the way the responses are visually organized. I find it much easier to grade question responses this way, instead of opening up a Google form’s spreadsheet, reformatting the cells to see everything, and grading down the columns/rows. Once again, it’s a matter of preference. I encourage you to try different methods out to see what works best for you and your students.

Slides + Google Classroom questions
Using Google Classroom “questions” is a simple, efficient way to streamline online learning stations. Pssst: This is one of my favorites! (Pictured: Why You Should Read Learning Stations)

5. POST GOOGLE SLIDES + BUILT-IN ANSWER SLIDES

If you want your students to see and complete everything in one spot, then this is a great option. For this to work, you will need learning stations in the form of Google slides. To create built-in answer slides, simply add a new slide and create a text box that says “Type here.” You can also add a slide or two at the end of the slideshow, and create a “Type here” table where students can record all of their responses. To assign this to students, create an assignment on Google Classroom, attach the slides, and set it to “make a copy for each student.” This way, each student will be editing their own copy of the slideshow (not your original version).

This option is user-friendly and efficient, but I find it a bit more time-consuming to grade, because you have to open up each student’s slideshow. It doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but it adds up. However, if you are assigning the stations as practice work and not formally grading them, this option is perfect!

Slides with built-in answer slides
If you want to make your existing learning stations digital, upload them to Google Slides and add built-in answer slides at the end of the presentation. (Pictured: Pre-Reading Learning Stations for Any Novel)

6. CREATE INTERACTIVE GOOGLE SLIDES MENUS

This idea is just like #5 but with a super fun and surprisingly easy twist: an interactive “menu” to guide students through the learning stations. Once you have your stations in Google Slides, add a new slide to the beginning of the slideshow. From there, insert rectangular button shapes (one per station) and link to the corresponding station slides using internal links. Include a “Submit answer” button (linking to a built-in answer slide or a Google form) and a “Return to main menu” button on each slide for easy navigation.

Interactive menus are engaging and innovative, but they do take some extra time. I would recommend trying these out after you’re familiar with some of the easier options listed above. When you’re ready for these, they’re easy to create! For more information on how to create your own interactive Google slides, check out this tutorial by my friend Shana aka Hello, Teacher Lady.

Interactive Google slides menus
If you want to elevate your Google Slides learning stations, try using interactive clickable menus! (Pictured: The Great Gatsby Pre-Reading Learning Stations, available in my Gatsby bundle)

7. JIGSAW YOUR LEARNING STATIONS WITH GOOGLE SLIDES

Depending on your students’ needs, the time you have, and the complexity of the learning stations, you may not want to assign all learning stations during distance learning. (A good rule of thumb is that work will take twice as long online as it does in the traditional classroom). If the entire activity isn’t feasible, jigsaw your station content and assign each station to a different group (or number of students). Then, have groups/students become experts on one station in order to report back to the whole class. I’ve done this through collaborative Google slides before. You can read more about that idea and other tech tools here. If that isn’t an option, you can have students report back via a Google Classroom question, Padlet, Flipgrid, or another platform. 

Another option is to give the students choice. Instead of asking for submissions for all 6 stations, ask them to choose 2-3 and post their responses via a Google Classroom question. This way, all students can be exposed to the information once they post their responses and read their classmates’ answers.

Jigsaw Slides
If assigning 5-6 stations sounds like too much online work, jigsaw the stations and assign each to different groups/students. (Pictured: Poetry Learning Stations for Any Poem)

8. CREATE A HYPERDOC

If you’d like to house all of your station content, links, and student responses in one accessible, easy-to-grade document, consider using a hyperdoc. As its name suggests, a hyperdoc is a Google doc full of hyperlinks to other resources, websites, forms, videos, assignments, etc. A hyperdoc is a one-stop-shop for student learning, so it makes for a great way to structure your next set of digital learning stations. To create a learning stations hyperdoc, create a 2-column table; in one column, include instructions and links, and in the other, provide a space for students to answer questions. Another option is to link to a Google form for answer submissions. For more information on hyperdocs, check out this blog post.

If you and your students prefer the familiarity and ease of docs, a hyperdoc is a great option! Hyperdocs are organized, appealing, and efficient for teachers and students.

Hyperdoc
To house all instructions, links, and responses in a one-stop-stations-shop, use a hyperdoc to structure your online learning stations. (Pictured: Pre-Reading Learning Stations for Any Novel)

9. CONVERT STATIONS TO A WEBQUEST

No time to create a hyperdoc, form, or any of the above options? No problem! Consider an old-school webquest, you know, the assignment we all did when going to the school computer lab was a rare treat.  (Oh, how the times have changed…) If you can, copy/paste your stations content to Google docs and give students a “Type here” space to record their answers. It’s as simple as that! If you’d like to give students more choice, give them freedom to explore the internet for answers instead of providing them with specific links and instructions. This kind of inquiry-based approach will likely lead to more ownership, connections, and learning!

Webquest
No time for a hyperdoc? Trust the classic webquest to get the job done! (Pictured: Why You Should Read Learning Stations)

10. MIX & MATCH TOOLS & PLATFORMS

If you want to make your learning stations more dynamic, consider blending different tech tools and platforms for student responses. For example, maybe one station requires a Flipgrid video response, while another directs students to a Google Classroom question. When you “mix and match” your station tools, you can align each station task with the most effective platform. Keep in mind that this approach, while engaging, may be intimidating for teachers and students new to online learning. I would recommend this only after you’ve become familiar with stations in the online setting. Here are all of my ideas for mix and match stations:

  • Google Classroom question
  • Google form (short answer or multiple choice)
  • Google doc/slide
  • Flipgrid response
  • Padlet board
  • EdPuzzle (for a response to a short video)
  • Recorded audio response
  • Digital game (Kahoot, Quizlet, Quizziz, Gimkit, etc)
  • Upload of a hand-drawn creative response
Mix and Match Stations
For a dynamic approach, considering mixing and matching different platforms and tools to create engaging digital learning stations. (Pictured: Analyzing Theme Learning Stations for Any Text)

And that’s a wrap on all of the different ways to structure learning stations in Google Classroom! That is, until I think of an eleventh way to digitally design them. 🙂 Please keep in mind that all of these ideas WORK, and one model is not necessarily better than the other. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: what works best for you and your students. Don’t feel compelled to try out every idea on my list, but do feel free to experiment with the structures that make the most sense to you and your classes. While you’re testing out these different station ideas, I would LOVE to hear your feedback. What’s working well, and what’s not? Let me know in the comments!


IF YOU LIKED THIS POST…

If you liked this blog post, you may be interested in these:

Don’t forget to pin this post if you want to keep a record of these ideas. 🙂

Feel free to pin this image to save this blog post for later! 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Alison
    April 10, 2020 / 5:56 pm

    Thanks so much for writing this up! I love all of these ideas and am always looking for more ways to digitize station work. I teach High School Science and really look forward to station work. Love your ideas. Keep it up!

    • writeonwithmissg
      Author
      April 16, 2020 / 2:12 pm

      You’re so welcome! I hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *