How COVID-19 has changed K-12 education
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Online learning has never been as important as it is now. The COVID-19 crisis has made online learning tools popular with teachers.
Over 55 million K-12 students have been affected by school closures across the country, impacting 124,000 U.S. public and private schools.
Students previously used a blended format for learning, which evolved over the years. Traditional schoolwork and classroom learning were supported by a digital infrastructure and tools like iPads. But in a matter of days, everyone had to shift to 100% online learning.
For teachers, this has been an even harder challenge to overcome. They had no time or training to prepare for this drastic shift and suddenly faced an immense responsibility to teach as usual, but online.
They must communicate and keep students connected and engaged. Teachers are required to assign work, make sure students turn the work in, and then grade assignments on time. It is no surprise that online education curriculum tools and advanced infrastructure have become teachers' pets amid school closures.
Industry analysts say that the online learning trend will accelerate and gain traction with school-age children due to the COVID-19 crisis. There will be a new appreciation for online education by K-12 schools. Schools are using existing technology providers, such as learning management systems and videoconferencing; they are now poised to explore more tools to enhance the experience for their teachers and students.
Some of these tools gaining rapid traction include Schoology and Google Classroom. Anti-plagiarism software is witnessing demand with so many students online and vulnerable to attack, especially with the latest hacking reports for Zoom.
Even smaller companies are witnessing a high volume of sales as the education industry sees deeper penetration of online tools. Integrating online exams from home within the school's learning management system is a focus as well.
Districts whose students have access to laptops or iPads are coping better than underprivileged communities. Inner-city districts that lack access to technology or broadband internet are finding it hard to deal with the learning gap. Some schools send packages of printed materials home to parents, but that's hardly a sustainable solution or a scalable one.
Entire states show discrepancies in learning. It has now been more than a month since K-12 learning shifted to its current online mode, but teachers say that overall participation has been subpar. Ohio and Utah, for example, have reported that only a fraction of its students are accessing and participating in online coursework. With the technology available at hand, teachers are unable to identify students who are missing out and the reasons behind their absences.
Kentucky and Indiana stated that close to 35% of their teachers had reported participation in the 0-25% range. Nationally, 34% of teachers reported that only 1 out of 4 students were attending remote classes.
Michigan, North Carolina, and California all reported critical attendance issues, too. New Jersey and Texas had better news to share, with more than half of their students attending remote classes.
Many other aspects of schooling have been affected alongside the regular learning schedule, with exams being one of them. The next scheduled nationwide tests of both the ACT and SAT have been canceled.
The College Board announced that high school students preparing to take Advanced Placement exams this spring could take them via computer, tablet, or smartphone. The organization is in the process of developing a secure, online exam for each AP course.
States like Indiana have also taken teachers into account. They will allow more flexible teacher evaluation requirements and conduct teacher evaluations using either last year's evaluations or provide a flexible and new assessment this school year.
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