COVID-19 leads to rapid e-learning growth in K-12 education
Tuesday, April 07, 2020
According to Education Week, the spread of the coronavirus has forced the closure of at least 124,000 K-12 schools across the country, and learning has gone virtual.
Now, all schools will remain closed for extended periods to combat the spread of the virus. 46 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the Bureau of Indian Education have canceled testing for the 2019-2020 school year. One state has postponed testing, while four states are currently seeking a waiver to do so.
St. Louis' public education system, like others, is gearing up for more than COVID-19 — the long break from school if the quarantine extends into the summer. Teachers and administrators are working to make sure that students do not lose academic progress made during the school year. Parents are joining to partner with teachers and prepare students for virtual learning.
In the last few years, we have witnessed heated debates about teacher shortages and how to tackle them. There has now been something of a shift in that area, and we see a rising demand for qualified teachers who are proficient in virtual teaching.
While K-12 educators are trying to shift to e-learning in record time and continue teaching, they, along with students, are receiving a lot of help from the K-12 tech industry. Major education technology companies are making their paid services free through the rest of the school year and are even adding premium features to those. Adobe, Discovery Education, Follett, Girls Who Code, Google, Otus, Math Nation, Microsoft, and K12 Inc., are some of the firms included in this group.
K12 Inc. recently announced that it would be offering free resources for families at home with their children during the school year. The 6,000 teachers they employ will work with local and state officials for virtual schooling needs.
They will also ensure that the full-time online public schools and programs they serve will remain operational during this time. Their virtual education options over the summer for all will be extended, too. Their efforts will keep over 120,000 students nationwide in school without disruption. Their free sharing of their extensive experience in virtual education will act as valuable aid during these uncertain times.
A coalition of the nation's large urban public school districts, the Council of the Great City Schools, touched upon the challenges urban schools are facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. While most urban schools with resources have coped well, and started developing plans and sharing strategies early on, rural and low-income areas haven't fared as well. The gap that educators have tried hard to bridge may grow larger yet, and that is a huge concern for the nation.
There is also a concern about incomplete learning when students go back to school next fall. This is primarily a worry with struggling learners, students with disabilities, the homeless, and English-learners. Some school districts have transitioned well to virtual learning; some are distributing hard copies of lessons while many others are using a combination of the two methods. States like South Carolina will rely on Google classrooms for their e-learning plans.
California is determined to address the issues of equity and access instead of blindly plunging into e-learning. The state’s authorities and educators have entered into a partnership with public television to allow every student to continue learning — even students who don't have an internet connection at home.
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