Online Learning Will Be The New Norm
COVID-19 has plagued the world for the majority of 2020. It has caused businesses to shut their doors temporarily while many small businesses had to shut down for good. Local governments issued stay-at-home orders to keep their communities safe and slow the spread of this virus. As you can imagine, these regulations and the potential danger of COVID-19 also impacted schools.
Millions of children across the country had to leave their classrooms. Many schools ended their school year early, while others moved their learning online. As summer has come and gone, children are heading back to school. However, the threat of the coronavirus still looms. As kids go back to school, many schools have switched to online learning.
Online learning will be strange for all parties. Teachers and students, especially young students, have little to no experience with virtual learning. Parents, students, and teachers are going to go through a learning curve, trying to figure out the most effective way to learn online.
With nearly 56.4 million students set to attend elementary, middle, and high school this fall, and 19.7 million set to attend college and universities, teachers must adapt to ensure that they can do their job well during these difficult times. Many of these schools will be adopting online learning, either full or part-time. But what does this type of learning look like?
Throughout this time, Tech Critic has also had to adapt. We have kept our ears to the ground, looking for the most efficient ways to operate during this pandemic. That also means keeping a close eye on how other industries are responding, even schools.
Fall vs. Spring
COVID-19 quickly began spreading around the world in early 2020. By then, schools were in the process of winding down their school year. With only a few months to spare, however, the virus spread swiftly. In response, schools worldwide made some difficult decisions. Many closed their doors, letting children finish the year online or stopping the school year early.
Worldwide, there were more than 1.5 billion children in 186 countries that were affected by the pandemic. At the start of September 2020 (around the time most children go back to school), more than 800,000,000 saw their schools affected.
In the spring, schools had to respond swiftly to protect their staff and students. Most school districts had little time to prepare a thorough and efficient response to the situation they faced.
However, as the 2020-21 school year gets underway, these schools have had more time to come up with a more thought out and effective education plan. A key element in these plans includes some level of online learning. However, even that comes with some obstacles.
This school year will be unlike any other. We are entering uncharted territories when it comes to education. Teachers and schools have had to rapidly and dramatically alter how they teach. Unfortunately, remote learning looks different for each classroom.
There is not an established way to teach remotely yet, so many decisions are being made from school to school. Many teachers do not have any experience teaching remotely, which means many will run into issues.
Most versions of online learning involve video chats (on platforms such as Zoom, Google, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc.). Remote classrooms include live-streamed lessons, encouraging participation from students. Some also include prerecorded lessons students can stream on-demand.
Schools still expect students to follow a bell schedule to maintain some level of normalcy. Virtually all schoolwork will be completed and turned in online. In many states, such as Texas, they are pushing to treat this year as a normal one, ordering schools to take attendance, resume grading and teaching new materials, and continue with standardized testing.
Students are expected to do all learning and work on a computer. They will need to turn their assignments into online applications for grading. Unfortunately, that is where many issues lie.
The Technology Gap Between Students
Before the pandemic, teachers would assign homework that required students to have access to the internet. As you can imagine, not every student has reliable internet access or access to a computer.
Now, as schools start the fall semester remotely, students are running into the same problem but on a much larger scale. Beforehand, even if children could not complete an assignment because of a lack of reliable internet access at home, they still could come to the classroom.
Now, as schools switch to online learning to start the fall, these children don’t even have that anymore. According to a Pew Research Center poll, around one in five parents with homebound children stated that it is very or somewhat likely that their child will not be able to complete their schoolwork because of a lack of access to a computer at home. Or they will need to use public Wi-Fi to complete assignments because they do not have reliable internet access at home.
Low-Income Families’ Struggles
As you can see, remote learning will be a struggle for many children, especially for children in low-income families. Roughly 43% of parents with low incomes say it is very or somewhat likely their child will have to complete their assignments on a cellphone, while 40% say they’ll need to use public Wi-Fi. Another 36% say their children might not complete their schoolwork at all because of a lack of computer access or access to reliable internet.
However, according to Pew Research’s poll, only 37% of U.S. adults say that K-12 schools have the responsibility to provide all students with a laptop or tablet to help them complete schoolwork. Furthermore, just 43% believe that schools have this responsibility but only to low income families. Overall, the majority of Americans (80%) believe schools have this responsibility for at least some students.
In a RAND Corporation survey, 75% of teachers feel that the lack of access to a computer or reliable internet connection will be a major obstacle when it comes to online learning. Without this technology, they are unable to educate their students properly, nor will their students be able to learn or complete assignments. The current pandemic has only strengthened the technology divide between students.
Online learning may be the norm moving forward for many schools this fall. Teachers and schools will struggle to create effective lesson plans. Even with months of planning, remote learning will be a struggle for everyone.