Leveraging tech can help address roadblocks to equitable remote learning

Solving 3 remote learning challenges


Leveraging tech can help address roadblocks to equitable remote learning

But more work is needed to ensure equitable remote learning opportunities. With a greater and more collective focus on equity, these opportunities truly become inclusively accessible mechanisms that help individuals identify, engage in, learn from, and apply skills gained. For remote learning to successfully meet users’ and stakeholders’ needs and goals, there are several challenges that must be addressed. Three challenges are identified below.

Meeting remote learning challenges head on

Devices, connectivity, and training: To source, participate in, and optimize remote learning and workforce development opportunities, individuals must have adequate and relevant equipment and devices and high-speed internet connectivity. To bolster access to devices and internet connectivity, higher education facilities may be able to leverage public-private partnerships, now, and in the long-term. With combined sponsorship from internet providers and local governments, learning institutions, or community organizations, these partnerships can create more equitable approaches to internet access.

Devices and internet connectivity are not enough to sustain remote learning opportunities, as they are not substitutes for the ongoing support that enables individuals to optimize and personalize the power of remote learning. Therefore, education and training must be available to individuals, such that when combined with partnerships and access, this support provides the foundation upon which individuals can build to optimize how they work virtually, contribute to economic development, and create resilience. According to Kate Wittels, Partner at HR&A and advisor on workforce training, “Through strategic investments in high-speed internet, comprehensive training, and accelerated adoption of virtual technologies, more Americans could have the option to work virtually, allowing them to better withstand future shocks and enabling a more just and resilient path forward.”

Engaging learning cultures: Classroom culture that promotes a sense of togetherness is integral not only to in-person learning, but also to remote learning. Educators must feel empowered to build engaging online learning cultures and promote equity and accessibility, so all students can contribute to and engage by connecting with peers and instructors. To build this engagement and these connections, investing in strategies that enable individuals to establish and communicate their identity and ideas, as well as showcase their achievements and successes, is paramount.

Further, secondary schools, higher education institutions, and workforce training programs are places where learners develop social and emotional skills, as well as academic and professional ones. As these programs shift online, educators and administrators must continue to meet students’ social and emotional needs in virtual classrooms. Training on how to recognize signs of struggle or disengagement in remote learning environments and how to promote emotional intelligence and mental health (e.g., telehealth and teletherapy) is crucial.

Balanced course design and instruction: The sudden shift to online education this spring, and potential move to blended education in the fall, highlights the importance of being able to pivot instruction across learning formats while simultaneously engaging students and meeting stated learning outcomes and objectives. A primary consideration in the evolution of online education is how to balance instruction, active learning, assessment, and student workload: How much is too much; what might be too little; and what is optimal? Further, what metrics help us design and instruct courses that consider this balance and meet student outcomes?

This is where applications like INTERACT123 can provide educators with critical insight to seamlessly reposition course design and instruction while balancing engagement and workload to support student success across all learning formats.

The way forward

These three challenges are just a few of the barriers to developing and deploying accessible, equitable, sustainable, and scalable remote learning opportunities. With challenges come opportunities for collective action that drives us toward a better understanding of what it means to be a learner, participate in a course or program, or earn a credential.

Remote learning opportunities broaden the landscape for education and training for learners of all ages, but only if these opportunities prioritize end-users’ and system-wide stakeholders’ needs — especially the needs of students who are most vulnerable. Educators and administrators play important roles in closing the gaps in understanding how access to, engagement in, and optimization of remote learning opportunities can be sustainable.

Other organizational stakeholders, such as IT departments and early adopters of technology, are crucial experts regarding the equitable, successful, and sustainable implementation of remote learning opportunities: IT departments can help develop a comprehensive plan that includes usability and data security and privacy, while early adopters can provide insights on needs and roadblocks on the path to scalable adoption.

Additionally, community stakeholders can add immense value by providing existing resources. For example, General Assembly offers a range of bootcamps and classes, including pre-class information sessions and scholarship opportunities. These courses can help educators amplify their teaching and instructional strategies and empower learners to develop knowledge and skills at their own pace.

While the pandemic forced a swift shift to remote learning opportunities in many higher education institutions, prompting a broader acceptance of remote learning, there are still many for whom remote learning is not adequately accessible. As educators, administrators, and other stakeholders strategically examine remote learning opportunities, we must understand who the users are and their individual barriers to access, participation, and optimization. With purposeful planning, proactive support and training; thoughtful creation of online learning cultures and communities; and balanced design and instruction, we can take the lessons learned during the emergency transition and apply them to improve remote learning opportunities for all.

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