I am Tanya Sheckley, founder of UP Academy, a progressive elementary lab school for the inclusion of students with physical disabilities in San Mateo, California. As a small school, one of my many hats is head of IT.
Our school is small, creative and flexible in our teaching and our methods, we employ the feedback of our educators, students and parents as well as new research and ideas in education all the time. This nimbleness allowed us to pivot quickly to online learning.
We began with a split schedule, we have young learners and didn’t want them online for hours a day. Our educational method is individualized and uses technology sparingly, we believe individualized education should come from individuals. We had 30 minutes of Zoom educator time, 30 minutes independent work and a break in several cycles a day. We wanted to break up screen time with independence and play.
Lessons learned: Too little screen time does not allow for connection. Too many sign on/offs was difficult for parents and students.
Iteration two included weekly emails for parent preparation, adding school wide morning meeting time and parent feedback meetings and weekly staff meetings to discuss issues.
Lessons learned: To be successful the program must work for families philosophies and new challenges of timing and working from home (ours wasn’t). While morning meeting added a time to connect with the school, it wasn’t enough for students to get to chat with each other. Students need to learn and have time to talk, just like in school. Google Classroom assignments was sending 20 to 50 emails per week to families, it was overwhelming.
Iteration three: We turned off Classroom notifications, we changed our schedule to learning blocks and flexible learning time, we added a longer lunch break and more educator interaction on project work. We added a 30 min 1:1 session with each student and educator to talk about whatever they wanted — it could be school work or math questions, or it could be sharing a favorite book or talking about coloring the millenium falcon — the goal is the students mental health and knowing they had another adult, besides a parent, to connect with and talk to.
Responses by Dr. Yair Shapira, CEO and founder, AmplioSpeech.
What did school-based speech-language therapy look like before COVID-19?
More than 10% of all students suffer from speech-language deficits, and require therapy at some point during their K-12 journey. Until recently, most K-12 schools relied on in-person speech language therapy sessions with Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) hired and trained within the school district. Students would meet either individually or in small groups for face-to-face instruction and SLPs would track and measure progress using their subjective judgement; however, this can often lead to an inconsistent picture of students’ progress and performance.
These school-based SLPs often do not have access to speech-language-specific technologies, but instead utilize the district’s existing resources and the same technologies adopted in traditional classrooms. School-based speech-language therapy has always lagged behind traditional education when it comes to technological adoption, and there hasn’t been a widespread push by school districts to introduce novel technologies and platforms for speech-language students.
How has the pandemic changed the way schools approach speech-language services?
With the recent shift toward online learning caused by COVID-19, K-12 districts are now turning to speech language technologies and platforms such as AmplioSpeech to fill technology and organizational gaps in their speech-language services.
AmplioSpeech is a leading digital speech-language therapy provider that equips SLPs and their students with an AI-based platform for online and onsite therapy, to accelerate students’ progress, reduce SLPs workload, boost IEP compliance and automate documentation. The platform includes a library of smart and engaging practice materials and tools for self-monitoring, measurement, assignment completion, and more. Additionally, AmplioSpeech empowers SLPs to become intervention leaders and clinical decision-makers.
Speech-language students require targeted solutions to continue their progress in the shift to online learning, and are often ill-served by general-purpose services such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. In a current example, AmplioSpeech’s recent partnership with the Texas Education Agency has allowed SLPs across more than 100 Texas school systems to better service more than 10,000 speech-language students in the state while they stay home.
Noah Teitelbaum, executive director of Empowering Education spent years training teachers in how to deliver a best-in-class live online instruction and helping move in person courses online. He is currently the executive director or an education nonprofit that is pivoting to help K-12 teachers deliver social-emotional learning lessons.
Here are three tips for delivering a great virtual classroom experience (with a focus on live online delivery):
Stop looking at yourself. It can be tiring to look at yourself while teaching and it can diminish our ability to connect to students (imagine trying to connect with someone at a cocktail party while looking at yourself in the mirror the whole time).
After making sure you have no spinach in your teeth, shut off your view of yourself. Some platforms (e.g., Zoom) allow you to turn off the picture of yourself while still showing it to students. For those platforms that don’t allow this, pick up a PostIt note and put it over the square of yourself and get focused on your students. Encourage your students to do the same.
End the tyranny of the fastest. Remember when there was that one kid in class who always had the answer and would shout it out, leaving you uninterested in participating? That also happens online, especially if the teacher relies on the chat window for student participation. One way to avoid this is to have everyone type in their answer without hitting enter — then have everyone hit enter on the count of three. (Take the class culture up a notch by having participants read and comment on one another’s answers.)
Another option that is particularly useful if you’re going to call on one student to answer a question is before calling on a student, give everyone time to jot down their thoughts or answer on a piece of paper. Then ask everyone to listen to the person you then call on and to consider how that student’s answer is different from their answer.
Move around. Many teachers move around when they teach in-person and so it can be helpful to pull back the camera, set up a whiteboard or easel, and give yourself the ability to move your arms and write on an actual board. Similarly, students appreciate moving. Have students use hand gestures to react, or have them write answers in large print on paper and show it. With younger students, give them assignments to retrieve some sort of item from their house and then show it on camera.
One of my biggest challenges in transitioning to online learning is maintaining consistency for students. They signed up for an in-person class at the beginning of the semester not an online class, so I tried to keep it as close to the in-person format as possible. Many of my colleagues have been using voice-over with Powerpoint slides or writing on a tablet, but I find that a bit too impersonal.
I have also been using an educational tool from Osmo called a “Reflector”–it is basically a mirror for my webcam. Right when classes started going online, Osmo came out with a free Projector App for iPad that allows their Reflector to be used as a projector [of my desktop]. This way, I can take the Osmo Reflector off of my camera and speak to my students face-to-face, then I can put it back on and write notes, answer questions, or pose problems for them to do. [i.e. They won’t see the professor’s writing notes as “backward writing” on the wall, like when you do using Face Time.]
Furthermore, I use 3-D models in my chemistry course, and I wouldn’t be able to utilize these if I were only in a Powerpoint or tablet format. The Osmo Projector App makes online interactions feel more like a normal class, and many of my students have commented that it made the online transition much smoother than other courses.
In terms of adjustments I had to make in the transition to online teaching, I have had to omit certain assignments from my course because of the online format. Since I teach biochemistry lab, there are some experiments that the students simply cannot do from home.
Instead, I give them “fake data” and challenge them to write lab reports as if they had done the experiment themselves. Regardless of any changes, I still have high expectations for my students. The courses that I teach are preparing them for more challenging courses, and they will be expected to know this material in future semesters.
By Matt Guenin, chief commercial officer, ElectrifAi.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education institutions are now facing increasing challenges to attract students and grow student enrollment. This challenge has been magnified by the financial crisis with a large number of students reluctant to begin or return to school this fall, especially as concerns with growing unemployment spike record numbers.
Colleges and universities face unprecedented challenges to ensure full classes of qualified and promising students, and traditional recruitment tactics are proving ineffective.
Institutions must find a better way to define their target student and optimize enrollment in a more competitive market. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is offering higher education an innovative way to do this more effectively.
Momentum building to drop test-based admissions scores
Up until recently, schools have used SAT/ACT/GMAT/GRE scores as a key measure of qualification for admission. But even before the pandemic hit, there was much debate over the efficacy of how these scores could predict academic success or even career potential. Now, with online classes and virtual testing adding another layer of uncertainty to this process, major university systems like California have dropped this requirement given concerns about fairness.
Many more schools are considering dropping test scores entirely and several institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, and Marquette University, have already moved to a test-optional policy to help attract a broader range of college applicants.
The University of Rochester, which generally receives a high number of applicants, found that having a “test flexible” period made it evident that test scores added little value to the admissions decision process. Marquette chose to drop the requirements for test scores as part of a campaign to attract a more diverse student pool.
The impact of the COVID-19 on student enrollment
While numerous higher education institutions have worked for years to compete more effectively given declining enrollment trends, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Lower enrollment is forecasted this fall as a result of financial disruption, social distancing policies, and concerns with shift to online learning.
Many universities also must face loss of international students given latest restrictions. Essentially, pent up concerns that have been building for years regarding the admissions process for higher education are being exasperated by COVID-19, paired with travel and social distancing restrictions – we’ve created the perfect catalyst for a year of enrollment unlike any before.
Admissions departments will face increasing challenges and disruption given these structural and macro issues in higher education, resulting in a cascade effect across the system covering Tier 1, 2, 3, down through the community colleges.
We will have to learn new ways to make admissions decisions in the face of uncertainty and increased competition by other schools, of which will require largely different approaches for large state schools, regional universities, or small private colleges.
Responses by Nick Schiavi, vice president and global head, high education, Unit 4.
Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?
The conversations we’ve had lately with our customers, from our people in the field who are leading projects, and those who are in touch with the macro-responses by the global industry, are pointing to a couple of things:
There will likely be more effort spent on planning for continuity of operations. Ensuring that education can still be delivered and institutions can continue to operate without being fully dependent on being in an office is likely to be a focal point.
There is likely to be a focus on faculty enablement and the operational support around them to help them be more comfortable delivering courses anywhere and anytime.
I doubt in-classroom education will go away for good. Will there begin to be a sea-change? Potentially yes, considering all the ways we learn today, during any phase of life, there is a combination of in-person instruction and training; experiential and immersive learning; and self-paced knowledge consumption.
From what I’ve been reading and hearing from educators and other vendors, this situation could create a time to re-focus on curriculum design and delivery methods to increase student engagement. Having family members who are educators, I know the rigors of transitioning instructional design and faculty enablement to effectively deliver online courses can be substantial but enduring them is important to be successful in that transition.
What might institutions need to do to attract and retain students in a climate where supply may begin to outpace demand?
This is an interesting question since enrollment and retention have been common challenges for a long time, even prior to this pandemic. Ultimately I believe that institutions will double-down on their interest in differentiating themselves from their peers. Competition for fewer enrollments may occur in the near term; however, this also offers opportunity for institutions to create more demand for education from a wider age-range of students.
Many institutions already look at “traditional vs. non-traditional enrollments” but this situation may be a catalyst for every institution to focus more on how they can engage new segments of the population as students. I suspect it will provide an opportunity for institutions to become more creative as marketers – potentially even thinking of themselves as product managers seeking to understand their target segments more deeply and re-packaging their offerings to attract new enrollments that are the best fit, which should also help with retaining those students.
How do you continue to support the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, and staff with everyone distributed remotely?
I look at this from the angle of prioritization of the urgent-important items first. Imagine if all of our customers lived, worked, and ate in our offices – day in and day out – and they also happened to be young adults not yet accustomed to being on their own. In that scenario during a pandemic crisis I’d first look at how we transition all of our customers back to a safe and protected place, how we monitor and account for their successful transition, how we handle the same monitoring and accounting for our own staff, and only then start looking at basic operations and service delivery needs which in many cases include providing equipment and communications tools to staff that they don’t currently have.
So on top of accounting for everyone, you need to ensure you have the supply chain moving to equip them all. That’s the type of scenario institutions are facing around the world right now – it’s a version of Maslow’s Hierarchy where everyone is reset to ensure the basic needs are met first. Only after that phase, which I suspect many US institutions are emerging from now, can they look at continuity of operations and academic delivery beyond the immediate term.
In the long run I suspect this increases the prioritization of digital transformation and organizational change management but those cycles can only happen after the first layers of the Hierarchy are addressed.
A new online math learning program from McGraw Hill makes it easy and affordable for students and adult learners to prepare for their math placement test, get extra help over the summer, or refresh their skills before returning to college.
ALEKS MathReady is a direct-to-student version of McGraw Hill’s personalized ALEKS program that is used by millions of K-12 and college students to accelerate their math learning and help them succeed in their courses. It is $9.95 for the first month, $24.95 for three months, and $19.95 for each additional month after that.
For students entering college, math placement and college level math courses can be a challenge and are among the contributing reasons that students fall behind or drop out. College math courses often have high failure rates, largely because many new college students lack the foundational math skills needed to be successful. For some, a trusted tutor is a proven model for learning math and reducing math anxiety, yet the high cost of tutoring and scheduling tutorial sessions are barriers. ALEKS MathReady is an affordable alternative for those who are looking for math support.
ALEKS MathReady is a self-paced, online math learning program that is rooted in research and analytics. ALEKS efficiently guides learning by identifying what topics students don’t know and then focusing them on practicing topics they are ready to learn next. With this personalized learning approach, students learn and retain topics efficiently with real-time feedback to keep them motivated and engaged, while reaching their goals.
Even prior to COVID-19, online tutoring had become the norm. However, many students and parents were still hesitant. Now 100% of lessons are happening online, with all the real-time interaction that you’d experience in-person.
COVID-19 has changed the way that school is taught in America, at least for the foreseeable future. Online classrooms, parent-assisted homeschooling, and academic “dips” are just a few of the challenges that teachers and students face today. Now, more than ever, educators and parents have discovered a need to be armed with strategies to engage students to not only keep their attention but help them navigate this seismic change in learning delivery methods.
What lessons have we learned from the transition to virtual learning?
As schools begin to consider plans for reopening across America, parents, teachers, students and administrators are looking to evaluate what worked when schools closed this past spring, and what didn’t. What they find will help to inform decisions around how to incorporate social distancing and online learning into traditional K-12 education in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that the transition out of the classroom and into virtual learning has taught us about how kids learn, both in the school building and online.
There isn’t one style of teaching that works for every student
Rather than choosing only one method of teaching, it’s important to consider each learning style to create an environment that boosts the value for all types of students. In a virtual learning situation, teachers find that using tools such as digital breakout rooms for group discussions, having a real-life whiteboard to write on versus a slide show, adding videos, using interactive polls, and group activities can help connect and engage students who are used to face-to-face interactions.
Virtual classrooms can help teachers connect with every student
One unique opportunity in the virtual classroom is making interaction easier for shy and introverted students who may not normally participate heavily in person. Educators can use a roll-call system to call on each student to respond to a prompt and make sure each person is involved. Virtual classrooms and technology allow teachers to connect with students in innovative, new ways that can increase engagement, an important step in helping kids retain the information that is being presented.
Students need encouragement and empathy to keep them engaged
In normal times, teachers create lesson plans that are delivered to kids face-to-face. Now, these same lessons are being delivered virtually and often there is a gap between the teacher-created information and the child’s ability to comprehend the material. In traditional classrooms, this would be handled by the teacher. In the virtual learning space, online tutors have stepped in to help fill this void with supplemental materials and a personalized approach to learning that can help a student continue academic progress, even away from the traditional school building.
Higher education is struggling to adapt to the current pandemic in unprecedented ways. Campuses across the country are shut down, students have evacuated their dorms, and instructors are scrambling to move their classrooms completely online.
It’s not just about homework and assignments — teachers are trying to engage students while re-imagining the entire classroom experiences in real-time. It begs the questions: What does the classroom of the future really look like? And how can parents, educators, and students best understand and prepare for this new reality?
It starts with the obvious: remove the barrier of physical location with remote learning options. Next is community. Foster student engagement and maintain support systems to ensure digital classrooms are still just as accessible as they are effective.
The classroom of the future will have to meet students where they are, building on basic remote operations with inventive, interactive curriculum and accessible financing options designed so that diverse communities can succeed in this new normal.
The classroom of the future is live, interactive, and entirely online.
In 2016, nearly a third of all students took an online education course, and in the past two decades, the technology needed to offer full courses online has improved significantly.
Online learning offers flexibility and often complements in-person courses or lectures. For many students, however, remote learning is the only option. It opens up access to students who would otherwise be out of reach. In particular, students who are their family’s primary caretaker, those who live far from brick-and-mortar institutions, or those with disabilities are sometimes excluded or discouraged from enrolling in higher education without online options. Remote instruction, by design, brings more students into the fold.
Online instructors, though, have a challenge to meet: creating a learning experience that extends beyond a recorded lecture. To ensure student success long-term, student engagement and community building within a virtual classroom is critical. Impact can be easily lost behind a screen, but if you focus on live and collaborative instruction versus static recordings, students feel empowered and held accountable to play an active role in their experience.
Specifically, maintain smaller group settings, no matter how large the lectures are. Have students start and end days in breakout peer groups, where they can have deeper 1:1 discussions and opportunity for collaboration. One way we’ve utilized this at Lambda School is by using Zoom’s breakout function to seamlessly split students off into virtual small-groups during larger lectures. We also facilitate regional student meet-ups in person as well as peer-to-peer communication via Slack to maintain a sense of student body unity.
It was an early Sunday morning in late February at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, the venue for TechOlympics 2020, the nation’s largest student-run conference that promotes career pathways in information technology to Greater Cincinnati high schoolers. Some 16 students were lining up for a workshop hosted by Abre, an education management platform company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The workshop focused on giving student attendees an opportunity to build education software applications using the platform and leveraging the Abre Appathon framework. Abre has previously held Appathons for local student and educator groups, and this was the second time we hosted one for Cincinnati’s premier tech event for students.
The app development session was an opportunity for students to define problems within their school and develop their own Abre apps as solutions. This session walked students through what Abre is, how Abre works, and how to design and wireframe an app using free online tools.
Rolling in prior to start time, enthusiastic students introduced themselves to Abre team members and made LinkedIn connections. Another student excitedly shared that he’d already attended an Abre Appathon at his school and was even sporting an Abre t-shirt.
Soon after 9 a.m., we were ready to get started. The students sat in small groups of 2-3, which was perfect for the group work they would be doing later in the workshop. Chris Rose, Abre co-founder and VP of Product, Zach Vander Veen, Abre co-founder and VP of Instruction, and I introduced ourselves and shared our current roles and past experiences working in schools. The students shared their names and where they went to high school. Then, Chris and Zach took the lead to dive into the workshop.
Zach opened with a question: “What kind of learning tools do you use at school, to complete and turn in assignments and see where your teachers post your grades?”
Students called out a handful of education technology tools. “There are literally thousands of technology tools that exist,” Zach continued. He discussed how the more software schools use, the more complex managing the software can become, with multiple passwords to recall and poor integrations between the different software. It can sometimes result in a digital overload for users.