Around the world, many parents are being asked to make a very difficult question - “should I send my child back to school full time or resume online learning?”. Unfortunately, this question is unnecessarily challenging. For many parents, their first exposure to online learning for an extended period of time was in the midst of a global pandemic. Many school districts were faced with the monumental task of rapidly changing their delivery model from in-person to online within a very short period of time. Despite their best efforts, online learning did not meet expectations.
For parents who need to make this decision within the next several weeks, here is some advice on how you can request that your educational institutions step up their online learning game.
While many districts will brand remote learning as version 2.0 to signal an improvement, if the following elements are not included then there is still some work to do between now and the start of the school year.
1. Instruction Must Be Live-Streaming
While live-streaming is definitely more challenging, it is one of the best ways to simulate the in-person experience. Children need to see their teachers and their classmates. Although there are other models that are more easily delivered online like recorded video, tutorials and worksheets, that’s just not good enough for the vast majority of students.
Once we recognize the necessity of being live for instruction, we also have to recognize that there is a learning curve to successfully deliver live-streaming. This will require teachers to learn how to successfully navigate video-conference tools like Google Meet & Zoom. These software tools add an extra layer to an already complicated challenge of imparting knowledge to the next generation. But, without the opportunity to engage socially, school is not really school. In addition to learning the software tools, school districts will need to invest in updating their technology infrastructure.
If teachers and their kids are live-streaming, that might be more than the home internet of most instructors can handle. To help mitigate this concern, schools should provide teachers with hotspots that will allow them to have a dedicated internet connection for live-streaming. Not only does this reduce the burden on their home internet but it also makes it more likely that they will have a stable, high-quality connection while teaching.
2. Technology Must Help Students Become Semi-Independent Learners
Despite having live-streaming classes, there is still going to be a lot of learning that students will have to take on themselves. The lecture format can be extremely challenging for a large group especially when you can only see a limited number of students and how they are engaging.
Without the verbal and non-verbal clues that are abundant during in-person classes, it is far too easy to lose students with attention issues or those who simply tune-out. In addition, it’s difficult to facilitate small groups in the same way that can be implemented in the physical classroom.
Despite the challenges, investments in technology platforms that facilitate semi-independence must be made right now. These technology platforms will help guide students through the lesson while reducing the already increased educational load on teachers. In addition, these technology platforms should help track student progress so that teachers can better assess the necessity for interventions to get students back on the right track.
With the right technology platform, teachers can be freed up to do the more high value work such as explaining a concept differently or helping a student get unstuck.
3. Parent Communication Must Improve
Since most students will use technology devices to access instruction, it is essential that parents be looped in early and often about what their kids on working on a daily basis. Oftentimes, parents will be engaged with the work streams for their jobs and will need to understand how they can support the online learning environment from both a teacher and student perspective.
Whether it’s understanding how engaged their child was or if the instructor noticed that they had navigated over to another website to play a game, parents will be essential for modeling and reinforcing acceptable behavior for the next iteration of online learning.
For those students who have really leaned in and are thriving, parents should also know that their child has adjusted well so that they can know if they should take a step back and focus on their other children who may not have figured it out yet.
The initial iteration of online learning was an impossible task that was handled with the best intentions and efforts. However, it would be unreasonable to assume that how online learning was rolled out and delivered during the initial months of the pandemic is acceptable based on what we learned during that time period. There is no doubt that everyone wants to have a healthy and safe educational environment for our children. A big part of the modifications for online learning will center on improving the efficacy of these tools.