The first full school year of remote, in-person, or hybrid model of instruction during the COVID-19 era is finally behind us. Now that the dust is settling on that tumultuous time for students, teachers, parents, and administrators, we need to reflect and dissect the cases of perseverance and success and how they came about so that we can be ready to grapple with the challenges that we will surely meet going forward. Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned from the past year, but possibly the most critical is the need for school systems in every community to have a plan to deliver technology-enabled instruction to students.
Leveraging technology to improve student outcomes is not a new concept but it is a practice typically done in isolation and at the maximum comfort level of the teacher. Many instructors to this day reject the full capabilities of what advanced technologies can provide in favor of a twentieth-century model of manual computing and labor because that is “how it has always been done.” In reality, new and innovative technologies, coupled with the ability to digitize and deliver content remotely, has expanded the capabilities of teachers to personalize instruction based upon a student’s interest, learning style, aptitude, and countless other factors because no two kids are the same. In essence, the traditional paradigm has been flipped from “students go to school to learn” to “learning goes to students wherever they are.”
A May 2020 study examining the impact of school closures on student learning demonstrated that students in schools using technology-enabled instruction, in this case a reading software that helps teachers differentiate instruction for student in grades 2-12–Achieve3000 Literacy, continued to attain similar levels of reading growth during school closures as they had earlier in the year.
Shai Reshef, president of University of the People, an online, non-profit, tuition-free, American-accredited University, says: “Ready or not, COVID-19 has forced higher education online. Universities were ill-prepared to fully switch online and are all understandably frustrated at having to do so in just a few weeks, and even more so now that there is a possibility of remaining online until 2021.”
Reshef says that a big problem many universities are facing right now is that they have been forced to go online before they are ready. But moving to online instruction is tricky and if not implemented properly, instead of succeeding, the online classes may backfire and create major disappointments.
“Quality higher education online is more than just a live zoom class. Developing content and technique that works online takes time, and creating a quick fix for campus closures is going to be difficult,” he said. “At University of the People, we didn’t need to suddenly adapt to an online environment – we’ve been doing this for the past decade and have the infrastructure in place, and the pedagogy and experience in remote learning. For example, our instructors are experienced in teaching online, and are trained on how to address the unique challenges students will face, such as motivation, self-discipline, and the ability to learn alone.”
According to a University of the People/Harris Poll, nearly a third (31%) of Americans have experienced frustration with online schooling systems since the stay-home orders went into effect.
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.
By Melinda Kong, director of instructional design and learning management system, Nyack College
As we emerge from the last few months of the sudden online teaching shift for courses intended for classroom settings, there are a few glaring lessons learned that will help propel educators forward into the future. While much is still unknown for what the next several months will hold, it is certain that online classwork will be a predominant feature in education.
The methods of online teaching will look different within each education context from K12 to higher education, but one thing is certain; online learning is here to stay and we must adapt to the needs of current and incoming students.
We will likely see a mix of three offerings when thinking about the new normal of distanced learning; the continued implementation of hybrid courses, full fall terms taught online-only, and even HyFlex courses, in which students will be able to be in either face-to-face classes or join virtually when needed.
As educators, it’s important to look at what happened as courses were quickly moved online and learn from what was able to be accomplished. Understanding what worked well and what didn’t will help all educators grow and adopt better pedagogy for online instruction.
Foundationally all courses, despite their delivery makeup, involve diligent planning. All teachers, whether in a face-to-face classroom, online course, or a mix of the two, plan extensively for their courses.
Response from Kaine Shutler, managing director, Plume.
Schools might be presented with a unique challenge in the short term: creating an e-learning platform, populating it with content etc. But long term, this system will provide students with more learning opportunities and we see this benefitting both the academically engaged students, but most importantly, the students who have struggled with classroom learning.
For parents, we hope that they’ll be more active in their child’s learning and we believe this will strongly improve caregiver/ student relationships, as well as student’s confidence as they engage with independent learning opportunities.
Despite these merits, elearning will not replace classrooms; schools provide a safe place for students where they can be mentored by teaching professionals and gain valuable social skills. All in all, we think elearning will support classroom learning, independence and will strengthen student/parent relationships as they play a more active role in academic development.