The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives in many ways. And for those who aren’t a fan of change, these adaptations can be challenging. Daily routines looked much different, from heading out to work, managing health and wellness, sending kids off to school, and social plans like a night out at the movies or dinner with friends.
As workplaces became virtual, so did health, e-commerce, and education. Change that should’ve taken years to work towards became exponentially accelerated. As trying as some of these times were, COVID-19 has opened our eyes to a world of difference in the education sector.
From learning the critical role schools play in education and learning and as a place of connection—an environment for security, belonging, and safety—to not all learning needing to be confined to a traditional classroom setting to be effective.
The last couple of years has taught us that there’s more to education than what we can find in a textbook, how to be more independent, patient, and connected. We saw firsthand the strength and resiliency of our children, the importance of supporting our teachers and educators, and just how precious our way of life can be.
Keep reading to learn more about the invaluable lessons in education that COVID-19 brought us and how these lessons can affect your children’s future.
Addressing Mental Health Issues
After two years of roller coaster school closures, social isolation, and disruption of a routine, children (and adults) are showing signs of trauma and stress.
Students were quickly thrown into virtual learning, some without proper access or adequate digital tools to stay afloat. They were suddenly ripped from their friends, routine, and regular school schedule. Being stuck at home, feeling alone, isolated, and out of sorts was in its place.
Many children needed a calm voice to guide them through their days as they didn’t understand how to work with technology or get started on a remote assignment. Teachers stepped in where they could, but support for mental health issues became less available with reduced daily interactions.
Parents quickly became overwhelmed with trying to balance work, daycare closures, and their child’s remote learning schedule—all while trying to keep everyone safe from the threat of COVID-19.
Teachers and admin staff were being pulled in all directions. Balancing remote learning, trying to communicate quickly and efficiently with parents, and trying to navigate the world of EdTech throughout a world of unknown. Feeling already unsupported, teachers had new rules, regulations, and restrictions to follow, which were all changing as quickly as they were being administered.
It’s safe to say that stress and anxiety became a part of daily life for all. But over time, things got a little easier. Nobody likes change, but as humans, we learn to adapt. People started new routines while making the best of a bad situation. We hugged our households a little tighter and realized the fragility of life.
In the education setting, it became quite apparent that some students were doing better than others when it came to remote learning. The obvious answer was the students who had some support at home, were the ones getting the better grades. Parent involvement and engagement became an important topic of discussion. And school districts adapted to making communication between parents and teachers more exclusive through EdTech tools.
The Key Lesson Learned
Acknowledging the wellbeing and mental health of your students, teachers, and parents alike are important and the emotional and social benefits that schools offer shouldn’t be understated. Teachers, support workers, and friends play an important role in supporting and alleviating mental health issues—children feel too isolated being away from their peers for an extended amount of time.
Educators and Families Should Be Equal Partners
When schools first realized that mental health issues were on the rise, they shifted their focus from a strict academic regime to a more community-based atmosphere. Their learning environments became a place where parents and families were welcomed as partners in their children’s education.
Communicating, listening, and collaborating with parents and families about everything from education to emotional and physical needs through various forms of communication—text, email, messaging platforms, and phone or video conferencing—ensured that no parent or family was left out. Not only were they included, but they were encouraged to be more involved in their child’s education.
This inclusion and awareness with deeper involvement and engagement from parents made a world of difference for their children:
- Higher grades
- Less stress and anxiety (social, performance, and generalized)
- Higher respect for others
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- Positive self-image
- Increased social interactions
Being actively involved, creating supportive learning plans, and collaborative learning between teachers, families, and students is the way of the future. To keep this momentum going, schools need to continue to bridge the gap between the home and school learning environments, realizing that both are important. To emphasize the value of working collaboratively, schools should continue offering accommodating methods of communication, so all families can continue their involvement with their children’s education.
So what does this look like? With the right EdTech platform, the opportunities are endless:
- Sharing learning strategies through email
- Creating learning plans through collaborative educational platforms
- Scheduling regular conferences via phone or video conferencing
- Having students document school and home learning through personalized learning plans
- Easily send reminders about daily school activities
- Participate in-class activities and field trips remotely
- Data integration tools keep parents up-to-date on their child’s progress
- Digital portfolios offer easy cloud access from anywhere
Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning is Key
COVID-19 quickly introduced new equipment, devices, digital tools, technology, and platforms to the classroom, marking the beginning of remote learning. But these tools weren’t only beneficial for remote learning—we now know that EdTech has actually enhanced in-person classroom learning and can play a part in improving students’ mental health. Having the right technologies in place provides many benefits for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Benefits of Synchronous Learning
Using live lectures, phone conferencing, live chats, or video conferencing, some benefits of synchronous learning are:
- Increased student engagement
- Students can ask questions in real-time
- Fostering a greater sense of community
- Stronger collaboration
- Greater connection when students can learn together
- An immersive learning center
- Instant feedback
- Consistency of content
- Enhanced learning retention—students (on average) remember 25-60% more by learning online rather than in-person
Benefits of Asynchronous Learning
Asynchronous learning is typically done through PowerPoint slides, recorded lectures, or assignments that students do on their own time. Some benefits of asynchronous learning are:
- Students can learn at their own pace
- Easy accessibility with on-the-go learning. With Edsembli’s all-in-one platform, students can receive lessons and updates delivered straight to their digital device, anytime, anywhere!
- Easy access to supplemental resources
- Students become more responsible for their learning
- Stronger collaborative learning opportunities
- Scalable learning
Unfortunately, we also learned that asynchronous learning is only as good as the technology used. It wasn’t until classes resumed that we learned the effect that poor technology had on the asynchronous learning experience.
Connectivity with poor WIFI signals made synchronous learning rare and almost impossible. 2 out of 5 households didn’t have adequate internet access to support remote learning—their internet speeds didn’t meet CRTC targets and these students struggled to keep up. They had to learn mostly on their own, with no interactions with their peers. These children had the hardest time relearning to socialize once schools reopened.
The Key Lesson Learned
There are 2 here: employing a healthy balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning is a must-have if there ever is a return to remote-only learning. And it’s always better to stay up-to-date with technological advancements than to suddenly realize you don’t have the right infrastructures in place to meet every students’ needs.
Revised Grading Systems Enhance Grades and Student Morale
A school district in Oklahoma revised their grading system to help boost its struggling students’ morale. Kids were learning from home due to COVID-19 and there were many who struggled with their grades—whether it be from a lack of understanding or not having access to technology, or household distractions like not having a dedicated learning environment or feeling the stress of parents fighting or not getting along.
The concerning problems resulted in incomplete work assignments and assignments being neglected completely, at no direct fault of the student.
Since family dynamics played a huge part in why kids were not completing their assignments, Superintendent Jason Simeroth of the Oklahoma school district took drastic measures to make things easier for his students. He implemented a 50-point grading scheme meaning 0 was no longer a score that could be handed out. In its place was 50%—the lowest mark a student would receive if they didn’t complete or submit assigned work.
This grading scale made it much easier for struggling students to climb up. Going from 50% to a higher grade was much more attainable than having to start from 0. Those students who would’ve normally given up started putting in more effort and had improved grades.
“Parents and guardians will still see a 50, and while 50 is still failing, it’s easier to come back from a 50 than a zero,” said Simeroth. Under the old system, “you can have a solid B student who may get a 10 on an assignment or a 28 on a test. But that number doesn’t give them an opportunity that we adults think they deserve.”
The Key Lesson Learned
Student morale has jumped since the new grading system was implemented. Increased engagement, improved participation, more assignments being turned in, and overall higher grades are a direct reflection of it.
Flexibility to Change
The pandemic threw a lot at everyone, but the changes that occurred within schools were on another level. These accelerated changes were new. No one had experienced being thrown into digital learning before. Not this drastically. We went from frequent and proper handwashing to mask-wearing, social distancing and cohorts. When COVID-19 took full control of the situation, the world was thrust into remote learning.
This leap didn’t come easy for many unprepared school districts. Digital tools and equipment needed to be quickly bought and distributed in the districts that had the means. Not all families had internet access so accommodations needed to be made so no student was left behind—families had to either share their Wi-Fi or schools had to purchase hot spots. Students who weren’t tech-savvy had to rely on their parents or siblings to teach them how to navigate this new intimidating world.
Parents and teachers quickly learned that the curriculum needed to be flexible in order to meet the ever-changing emotional and physical needs of their students. This meant teachers had to learn a whole new intimidating world themselves—blended learning. This would be the best way to allow each student to learn at their own pace during the chaos happening around them.
As students accessed materials in different ways, at different times, their learning plans became customized to their interests, needs, and feelings. Simply put, students had the opportunity to learn about whatever piqued their interest—with no time constraints or topic restrictions.
The pandemic forced change, but change is what led teachers and school districts to think outside the box. With proper support and sufficient training, teachers are no longer afraid to try new things. The whole trial and error process has shown students that it’s ok to make mistakes. You just have to keep going and try to do/be better.
Bill Chapman, Texan Superintendent of Palacios Independent School District says that school leaders should always practice being flexible to change. The pandemic just took the flexibility to a new level.
“We had to do handstands,” Chapman said. “But it also showed our students that we can mess up and try again. “This has allowed our teachers to try more things, and it’s not just about technology, but different instructional methods and our communication methods, too.”
The Key Lesson Learned
It’s important for school districts, teachers, and staff to remain flexible when dealing with change. They need to adapt to what’s needed to provide and be the best they can for their students. Having a solid technology plan in place can alleviate some of the stress of being able to adapt. As you’ve already learned, throwing a technological plan together in the middle of a pandemic is not beneficial for anyone involved.
The Classroom Setting is Not For Everyone
One approach that worked well throughout the pandemic is the hybrid learning model. Many teachers and school districts want to continue this learning strategy post-COVID-19 as this approach blends in-class learning with at-home learning. Hybrid learning gives students more independence and accountability for their at-home learning while allowing teachers to put more focus into working with students who need extra help.
High school teacher, Stacey Robinsmith says; “they (the students) need to learn to manage their own time. Perhaps they want to start at 10 o’clock in the morning? On the day they’re not in the school building they don’t need to be up at 8:30 in the morning working on calculus. They can start later in the day when they are ready after they’ve woken up and got their brain functioning again.”
Like all learning strategies, some students excel with hybrid learning. But not all kids have enough self-discipline to benefit from independence. Different learning styles, technological skills, and at-home support could be some of the underlying conditions on why some students do better than others using different models.
The Key Lesson Learned
Your teachers, combined with both remote and in-class learning, are vital to ensuring your students’ growth and success. COVID-19 gave us a stark reminder of the importance of building a foundation for students full of not only knowledge, but the creative, critical, and problem-solving skills needed to learn, work, and thrive in a world that’s constantly evolving. Combining remote and in-class learning gives your students the best of both worlds and empowers them to grow and succeed in life.
Moving Past COVID-19 But Keeping its Lessons Close
Being able to not only adapt, but thrive in challenging situations, paired with persistence, knowledge, and strength has been recognized as being equally important life skills as reading, writing, and math.
The methods we use for teaching and the classroom experience look a lot different than they did just two years ago. Learning has evolved and can continue changing for the better as we bring the best of what we learned from COVID-19 forward and continue to innovate and grow collectively.
Are you looking for the right EdTech partner to guide you through the key lessons we learned from the pandemic? Edsembli is there for you. We provide solutions for the many challenges that surfaced with remote learning. Helping you not only to overcome them, but to provide you with a powerful future-proof platform that keeps your students, teachers, and parents engaged and connected.