As the pandemic progresses and cases continue to rise, school districts are evaluating how to keep moving forward. As we approach flu season, districts have found themselves questioning, “Do we continue with in-person classrooms or move to a fully virtual or hybrid model of teaching?” Some classrooms have already had to quarantine, while others have had no confirmed cases. With circumstances different around the state and country, we started looking for insight to better help make the school year better for everyone.
In September 2020, we surveyed parents and teachers across the State of Michigan. We asked how virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning was going. We gathered information on current processes in place and technology used to facilitate online learning. The challenges discussed by teachers, students, and parents have helped us better provide assistance and additional resources to make virtual learning a truly interactive experience for everyone involved.
Challenges with Virtual Learning – From a Parent’s Point of View
Making Sure My Child is On Top of Assignments
It’s and adjustment adapting from a traditional classroom to virtual. Being home is a different pace for kids. Motivation to complete assignments and stay engaged in the class becomes challenging. Creating structure and helping students with time management can be helpful, but because the in-class accountability is missing, assignment deadlines get missed.
Technical difficulties were the highest challenge on the list of feedback we received. Low video and sound quality, poor virtual hardware setup, and inadequate infrastructure can lead to unengaged students and low collaboration.
Lack of Student Interaction & Engagement
When posed in a virtual learning, hybrid, or partial in-person environment, there’s no easy way to position students for group success. Unless there is a collaboration tool in place for small groups to interact together, students and parents feel the frustration. In addition, virtual students are not receiving the same valuable social knowledge as their in-person peers. Lack of interaction can hinder children’s development and cause social withdraw.
Challenges with Virtual Learning – From an Educator’s Point of View
Virtual learning for teachers can be very overwhelming if not properly trained with new technology. Furthermore, teachers are expected to become experts in IT, develop and implement virtual friendly assignments, and keep up their usual workload. Also, teachers cater to different learning styles, such as students learning at their own pace and some require more collaboration or peer to peer connection than others.
When new technology is provided, the expectation is the teacher (and students/parents) are properly and effectively trained to reduce the learning curve and increase success. If training is not provided or teachers are left with questions and no support, it can be very frustrating for all parties involved.
If a teacher is left to troubleshoot during an active class, engagement can be lost. Because of this, students can become frustrated. It’s a lot of pressure put on teachers without support.
Suggestions for a Successful Virtual Education Experience
- Host several education sessions for teachers, students, and parents to familiarize them with the new process and technology. Training should be on going and technology sessions should be incorporated into professional development days.
- Make sure the teachers are accessible at the hours needed most. Have virtual office hours and schedule times if your student needs one on one care.
- Create a support line directly to the vendor who deploys your technology or IT staff so that they can assist in trouble shooting to decrease overwhelm.
- Ensuring each student has a reliable means to log in from home – whether that is assisting with resources for home networks or providing laptops.
- Try to meet in small groups (virtually) as often as possible to increase peer-to-peer engagement and inclusion.
What has your experience been like this school year? Have you noticed anything positive? Can you relate to any of these challenges? In the event of another shutdown, do you feel your school district has a concrete plan in place? Are the resources adequate? If there’s more you’d like to discuss on this topic, we’d love to hear from you!