As President Biden works to reopen schools safely, the reality is that the way we approach in-classroom instruction has fundamentally changed. With new COVID variants swirling, and the future structure of education in flux (think no more snow days), remote learning is going to remain a key part of the curriculum for the foreseeable future, and schools will need to stay agile to keep up.
This does not, however, mean that the remote learning experience has to be sub-par. The proportion of students who were highly satisfied with their learning experience fell from 51 percent pre-COVID to 19 percent post-COVID, and 60 percent of instructors said they struggled to keep students engaged. To improve student success, institutions can apply learnings from the past 12 months to provide a higher-quality remote learning experience.
Here are some key lessons on how to make K-12 and higher-ed online education more empathetic, engaging, and productive as we look to build better remote learning and in-person classroom experiences.
Invest in personalization
Virtual learning should be seen as an opportunity to personalize the learning experience for students. The Jordan School District in Utah, for example, is finding that simply offering the possibility of online learning is giving certain students a chance to learn at their own pace and thrive.
To make online learning even more personalized, schools should focus on investing more resources in mentorship/tutorship and teacher connection to offset any lack of in-person classes. Traditional “office hours” are no longer an option, but there is an opportunity for teachers to offer personalized conversations via video breakout rooms and online classroom discussion boards.
Furthermore, with the right tools, teachers can give students more detailed feedback with recorded voice memos to supplement their written comments. This not only humanizes feedback for those looking for a connection, it also reinforces that students are not just a small square on a video call.
Adopt the appropriate technology
With many teachers now shifting to teaching both in-person and virtual lessons simultaneously, having the right technology in place is critical for creating a better educational experience.
Schools with better IT infrastructure and a higher IT support staff ratio will distinguish themselves from the pack. For example, investing in a chatbot can help students and parents find the information they need faster so they can focus on learning and not on troubleshooting. It can also free up administrators and IT support staff to answer more sensitive or complex needs, instead of handling simple or common questions.
Adopting appropriate technology also means communicating with students and families on platforms they’re already on. For example, WhatsApp, Twitter/FB direct messaging, texting, social media, and chat are all outpacing traditional email and web forms of seeking technological assistance. Giving students and their families a means of accessing IT help quickly and directly will help educators focus on delivering the best educational experience.
Dedicate a task force to improving online student success
It is imperative that schools invest in creating a specific task force to improve both short- and long-term digital strategies. As the task force gains a better understanding of areas for improvement, the team can create actionable measures to improve the student experience.
One area task forces are exploring is student success. Student success in this case refers to treating students as “customers” and giving them personalized information to improve their learning experience.
Chatbots, emails, and customized apps are commonly used to deliver students tailored content, offering not only self-help channels, but proactive solutions before customers have to reach out. These options make it possible for universities to still support students with key resources, while also freeing up more time to help students that need more support get back on track.
Beloit College is an example of an institution that has prioritised student success. After identifying external support as an area of improvement, Beloit College adopted a self-service model to help students find answers faster. The strategy not only promoted self-help as the first line of defense for incoming queries, but also helped change the culture for seeking information on campus.
As many schools across the nation continue to tackle the question of hybrid learning, they will need to continue to adjust their strategies to keep students engaged. While there is no formal playbook for remote education, focusing on these three key areas can help educators and administrators continue to navigate the evolving landscape of digital learning.
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