Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have released new data that explores how the pandemic has impacted K-12 education and identifies six key trends moving forward for U.S. schools. Positive shifts include teachers and parents becoming more open to new ways to teach and learn, and finding value in technology to stay connected.
Student engagement became the leading metric of student success, with 92% of educators calling it the most important factor. The data also underscores challenges in areas like equity, with low-income households more than twice as likely to report difficulty in helping their children remain engaged.
“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. ”At the same time, there is a lot of hard work ahead. About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”
The research revealed six key trends that parents and educators across the country feel are important to teaching and learning in K-12 education.
By Alan Goode, CEO and co-Founder, Global Teletherapy.
The only way a school system can truly excel is if the three main components are working in harmony, and each is holding up their end; after all, the triangle is the strongest geometric shape.
If the teacher, student, and parent are all working together, the results will be outstanding. Once this “triangle of trust” has been established, the potential to grow continues to grow even stronger.
The Role of Teachers
While the teacher’s primary focus and responsibility is the students, it would be a mistake for a teacher to define his/her role in such narrow terms. For teachers to help students reach their potential, a healthy relationship with the parents is beneficial, and frequently the critical ingredient that will enhance the student’s chances of success.
Teachers need to share their goals with the parents so they can work in tandem to achieve them. And they need to reach out to parents early in the year before there are problems. This outreach sends the message to the parents that the teacher cares about the students, and lays the foundation for future communication with parents.
The Role of Students
Students must accept that they are ultimately responsible for their education. No one can force them to do anything. It is up to the parents and teachers to support and encourage, not to carry the child’s load. Some students tend to put the adults in their lives against each other, but once they see that there is communication between parents and teachers, they will feel supported and most likely perform better.
The Role of Parents
Together with teachers, parents serve as the base of the triangle, securely supporting the student. Parents must feel comfortable enough to contact their child’s teacher if there is a concern. And at times, they will be called upon to become even more proactive in their children’s education, serving other functions as well to ensure that that their children derive maximum benefit from the education being provided by the school.
Hybrid Education Model
The Learning Triangle, while always essential, has become even more critical in the world redefined by COVID-19. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, most schools across the country seem to be looking at another year of distance learning, while a few brave school systems have declared their students will return to in-person school.
Still, others are working hard to offer students a mix of the two by creating a hybrid learning model. That’s an arrangement where students attend school a few days each week and engage in distance learning on the other days.
Both face-to-face and online learning have their benefits and weaknesses. The goal of hybrid learning is to combine the two formats to create a singular learning experience without weak spots.
If done correctly, a hybrid learning scenario can be beneficial for everyone involved. Aside from the importance of in-person learning for kids, the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills, get physical exercise, and have access to mental health support, regular meals, internet access, and counseling; another significant benefit of the hybrid model is the long-awaited socialization the kids will get.
Although “blended courses and “hybrid courses” are used interchangeably, there is an essential difference.
A blended course involves face-to-face class sessions accompanied by online materials and activities – primarily a “blend” of both live and online learning. A fundamental component of a blended course is that these online materials are not intended to “replace” face-to-face class time; instead, they are meant to be supplemental.
On the other hand, hybrid learning is intended to replace a portion of face-to-face class time. In the hybrid synchronous model, which will be employed in most schools, students interact online in real-time via Zoom or similar real-time meeting platforms. Hybrid learning will impact all three points on the entire Learning Triangle, in different and unique ways.
Leading a successful hybrid learning experience requires a different set of strategies than working strictly remotely or strictly face-to-face.
By Jeff Elliott, director of product management, Jenzabar.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities into a remote learning model for the spring semester. Now, most institutions are considering innovative models for their fall semester, such as a mix of smaller, in-person classes and online courses. Because even an optimistic timeframe for a vaccine is more than a year away, these hybrid models will last long past 2020, forever changing the higher education landscape.
Support for Remote Workers is Vital
Much of the COVID discussion in higher education has centered around online learning, which is fitting since their purpose is to educate students. However, institutions have numerous departments that support the organization’s learning mission.
While online learning is not a new concept, with many institutions using it before the pandemic, remote working for staff was often just an occasional offering, not a full-time work-from-home model. Like other industries, a lot of higher education administrators believed that staff working in the same space was a driver for high productivity, especially for staff who worked directly with students. Yet, the spring 2020 semester has shown that location is not the only factor for staff output; technology, communication, and collaboration play immense roles.
With the pandemic, entire campuses must be able to support online capabilities. In addition to students, staff across admissions, advising, payroll, accounting, and other departments must be able to work from home. For example, Penn State recently stated that it will bring back staff in phases. The last group to return to campus will be employees who can fulfill work responsibilities remotely. Meanwhile, some employees may continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
While many higher education institutions already had remote capabilities possible for staff, others had to quickly adapt when physical locations were shut down in the spring. Many institutions were severely hampered with outdated operational models in which nearly everything was managed on-premises and could not easily transition online.
Engaging Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom
The difference between schools that thrive in the COVID era rather than muddle though is the ability to engage students outside of the virtual classroom. Communicating with students is crucial to their success, especially during these uncertain times.
Students want and need regular, relevant, and insightful communications. Schools should utilize a mix of email, text, and online chat solutions that students can access via their mobile devices.
Chatbots in particular can be highly advantageous as higher education becomes more digitalized. Institutions can help students combat anxiety brought about by COVID-19 by offering 24/7/365 access to services or personnel that can answer specific questions about health procedures, financial aid, event signups, and more.
Meanwhile, granting students the ability to register for classes, pay their bills, connect with advisors, manage academic plans, and more from anywhere at any time can help drive engagement and satisfaction.
While communication is critical, many students also learn and gain experience outside of the classroom. Positive interactions with fellow students and staff and participation in extracurricular programs can support long-term personal development. Institutions that can find ways to improve student engagement in these types of activities will see a much greater level of success.