A to Z’s of Early Childhood

The Science of Child Development and Learning

V is for Virtual Learning

Supporting Young Children’s Development and Learning From a Distance

Virtual learning environments involve the use of technology. When adults learn virtually about using effective practices—actions or behaviors that support young children’s development and learning—we refer to this as virtual coaching. Virtual coaching allows those who are coaching (“coaches”) and those being coached (“coachees”) to interact using devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, laptops) and video conferencing platforms across school, home, and community settings. For example, an early intervention provider could use a video conferencing platform to help a caregiver learn strategies to include their toddler in reading routines at home. Understanding how to use technology effectively as part of virtual coaching leads to an impactful learning experience.

Tips for a Successful Virtual Coaching Experience

Successful coaching experiences (virtual or in person) involve:

  • Gathering and sharing information about effective practices that will support children’s development and learning.
  • Developing shared practice goals and action plans to guide coaching and always confirming that the goal and action plan reflect the coachees’ practice priorities.
  • Focusing observations of interactions between a coachee and child(ren) in their everyday routines and activities as the coachee is using the practices related to their goals.
  • Sharing reflection and feedback about practice use as well as children’s development and learning in response to practice use.

To enhance these coaching experiences, follow these technology tips before and during the virtual learning experience.

Before the Virtual Coaching Experience

During the Virtual Coaching Experience

  • Make sure devices are plugged in or fully charged.
  • Always use secure (e.g., password protected) platforms and portable devices (e.g., tablets) for sharing files and videoconferencing.
  • Place devices on stable surfaces and use external microphones (e.g., USB microphone) so the coaches and coachees can see and hear each other clearly.
  • Wait for the other person to respond when having a conversation. Sometimes there is a delay when using the telephone or videoconferencing platforms, depending on the speed of the Internet connection available.

Click on each step of the practice-based coaching process to find helpful tips you can use during your virtual coaching experience.

Gathering and Sharing Information About Practices

Adults who are engaging in virtual coaching should gather and share information with each other about effective practices that can be used to support children’s development and learning. For example, a caregiver might want to learn effective practices for supporting a child’s communication skills and may ask the child’s early interventionist for useful information.

Tips for Virtual Gathering and Sharing Information About Practices

  • Share information about the purposes and processes of coaching and agree on which technology platforms or applications will be used.
  • Encourage coachees to gather and virtually share relevant information and observations from other adults in the child’s life (e.g., a pediatrician).
  • Use a videoconferencing platform for virtual face-to-face conversations about prior knowledge and experiences.

Developing Shared Goals and Action Plans

Once the practices adults can use to support young children are gathered and shared, the coaches and coachees work together to develop shared goals and action plans. These goals and action plans ensure everyone understands the focus of coaching and how they will work together to achieve the goal(s).

Tips for Virtual Goal Setting and Action Planning

  • Use technology, such as communicating via email, to share goals and action plans before virtual coaching sessions so coachees and coaches can see and refer to it during coaching interactions.
  • When using video conferencing to write or review goals and action plans, use screen sharing so coaches and coachees can look at goals and action plans together.

Doing Focused Observations

During a focused observation, the coaches see the coachees using effective practices with children related to the coachees’ goals and action plans. Videoconferencing and video technology can be used to conduct focused observations. Consider which type of virtual observations (recorded or live) will be most effective.

Type of Virtual Observations



Recorded Video

(The coachees record themselves and share video with the coaches)

Ability to rewind, pause, or fast forward video for more in-depth observations and feedback

Feedback about practice implementation is not immediate

Live Video

(The coaches watch the coachees live)

Immediate feedback and support about practice implementation during everyday activity or routine Often not able to review practice implementation after the observation is completed

Tips for Virtual Focused Observation

  • Use a video camera and a secure file sharing platform or virtual coaching platform for coachees to share video with the coaches.
  • Use videoconferencing with a portable device like a cellular phone, webcam, or tablet to review coachees’ use of effective practices during everyday activities and routines to make coaching support more meaningful.

Sharing Reflection and Feedback

Shared reflection and feedback help coachees use effective practices confidently and consistently. When giving feedback, describe what coachees said or did during the focused observation. In virtual coaching, reflection and feedback can happen in a variety of ways (e.g., telephone, videoconferencing, online virtual platform, email).

Tips for Virtual Reflection and Feedback

  • When using video or online coaching platforms, identify specific times in the video as part of reflection and feedback.
  • Discuss specific examples of what coachees said or did during the focused observation and allow time to review video related to those examples.

    What We Are Doing

    The Anita Zucker Center and our collaborators are supporting projects that use practice-based virtual coaching and caregiver virtual coaching in home, school, and community settings. We work with our collaborators to use these evidence-based virtual coaching practices and to examine outcomes of virtual coaching.

    Learn More About Practice-Based Coaching

    Projects and Partners Using Virtual Coaching

    • Embedded Instruction-California
      We are working with the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, on a statewide project to support preschool teachers’ use of Embedded Instruction for Early Learning practices with young children to support their development and learning. Coaches in local school districts provide virtual practice-based coaching to preschool teachers, some of whom are providing instruction remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Florida Embedded Practices and Intervention with Caregivers Early Steps Professional Development
      We are working in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health, Children’s Medical Services, and Early Steps program on a statewide project to support early intervention providers’ use of caregiver coaching practices focused on embedded intervention to improve children’s developmental and learning outcomes, especially their social-emotional outcomes. Early intervention providers use face-to-face or virtual coaching to support families as they provide learning opportunities for their children in their everyday activities and routines. Moreover, coaches who have advanced knowledge and skills in practice-based coaching, embedded intervention, and social-emotional development and learning provide virtual coaching to the early intervention providers in their program.
    • Transformative Professional Development
      The Anita Zucker Center is working alongside the CHILD Center and the Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County to provide comprehensive professional development to early care and education providers. The Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County is providing virtual practice-based coaching to early care and education providers.
    • Unified Early Childhood ProTeach Program—University of Florida
      The Unified Early Childhood ProTeach Program is a 5-year undergraduate/master’s degree program that unifies preservice preparation for early childhood education and early childhood special education programs of study. Virtual practice-based coaching is being used to supervise students during their practicum and internship field placements.
    • Practice-Based Coaching Data-Informed Decision Making (PBC-DIDM)
      Through support from the Office of Special Education Programs in the US Department of Education, we are working in partnership with model demonstration sites to support their decision making about coaching efforts and effects, including the use of virtual coaching.

    Center Resources

    Other Resources

    Publications by Center Members and Collaborators

    • Bishop, C., McLeod, R. H., Artman-Meeker, K., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2020). Using technology to support practice-based coaching implementation. In P. Snyder, M. L. Hemmeter, & L. Fox (Eds.), Essentials of practice-based coaching (pp. 163-178). Brookes.
    • Snyder, P., Hemmeter, M. L., & Fox, L. (Eds.). (2020). Essentials of practice-based coaching. Brookes.


    1. Bishop, C., McLeod, R. H., Artman-Meeker, K., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2020). Using technology to support practice-based coaching implementation. In P. Snyder, M. L. Hemmeter, & L. Fox (Eds.), Essentials of practice-based coaching (pp. 163-178). Brookes.
    2. Conroy, M., Sutherland, K. S., Granger, K. L. Marcolouides, K. M., Huang, K., & Montesion, A. (2022). Preliminary study of the effects of BEST in CLASS–Web on young children’s social-emotional and behavioral outcomes. Journal of Early Intervention, 44(1), 78-96. https://doi.org/10.1177/10538151211018662
    3. Conroy, M. A., Sutherland, K. S., Granger, K. L., Marcoulides, K. M., Feil, E., Wright, J., Ramos, M., & Montesion, A. (2022). Effects of BEST in CLASS–Web on teacher outcomes: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Early Intervention, 44(2), 130-150. https://doi.org/10.1177/10538151211067544
    4. Granger, K. L., Conroy, M. A., Sutherland, K. S., Feil, E. G., Wright, J., Montesion, A., & Huang, K. (2021). Adapting an evidence-based early childhood tier 2 social-emotional learning intervention for web-based delivery. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 50(1), 112-133. https://doi.org/10.1177/00472395211016051
    5. Snyder, P. A., Hemmeter, M. L., & Fox, L. (2015). Supporting implementation of evidence-based practices through practice-based coaching. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education35(3), 133-143. https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121415594925
    6. Snyder, P. A., McLaughlin, T., & Bishop, C. (2018). Maximizing contextually relevant learning opportunities through embedded instruction. In P. A. Snyder & M. L. Hemmeter (Eds.), Instruction: Effective strategies to support engagement, learning, and outcomes: DEC Recommended Practices Monograph Series (No. 4, pp. 51-64). Division for Early Childhood.

    Receive Additional Support

    The complete 3R’s of Early Learning downloadable video recordings (including the A to Z’s of Early Childhood) for use in the field of childhood development to facilitate learning are available for purchase.

    If you would like to purchase these resources or speak with a member of our team for help in providing professional development, please complete this contact form.