How teachers are adapting to online schooling



Published 2020-11-13 11:22:09
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The coronavirus pandemic started a crisis that is affecting many sectors of society, some of them unprepared to deal with critical situations. This is also the case of education, faced with a new challenge: the digital one. Almost overnight, teachers and parents or caregivers had to ensure school education activities without the formal school settings.

Following the closing of most school, education officials have implemented the online system without a minimum of tests and without ensuring equal training for all students. Yet, beyond the difficulties, lack of collaboration and decisions imposed overnight, there are schools that have successfully adapted to the new methods of online education, because they were already preparing for the school of the future.

The process was tested on the go, teachers adapted to the situation in a very short time, and students used their own phones, tablets or laptops, or those of parents, to follow online lessons.

The key points of adapting to remote education for teachers

Teachers often face challenging and uncertain situations, having to reinvent their methods in order to deal with classroom issues, with the requests of parents and the demands of principals. The ability to adapt plays a significant role in helping them meet the demands of their work, particularly now, when the coronavirus outbreak has led to unprecedented disruptions in education.

Apart from connectivity and technological access, social interaction can be limited. Distractions at home that students would have never encountered in school may also affect their ability to retain concepts. Teachers are taking creative measures to make online classes more engaging not just for their students but also themselves.

There are some key measures that teachers are taking in order to adapt to the new way of teaching:

  • Getting familiar with technology, by choosing a platform that is familiar to them and their students. Knowing the capabilities and limitations of the tools in use allows efficient use of time and good exchange of information.

>> Read our article: Home-schooling and remote work for students

  • Setting realistic goals, by managing student expectations on how much lessons they can cover. They understand that several factors, including physical separation and other distractions at home, can get in the way of getting to the result they are expecting.
  • Creating a positive learning environment outside the classroom, by encouraging interaction. The teachers use discussion boards for idea sharing, and shareable online documents to allow students to collaborate in small groups.
  • Keeping the student engagement up by segmenting lectures in short sequences and asking quick questions to check comprehension. And of course adding humour and creativity to lessons always helps.
  • Improvising with resources by blending traditional learning approaches with newer, more collaborative audio and visual tools. A combination of discussions, group work, video and audio clips (YouTube vidéos for example) and hands-on exercises are ingredients for a lively online classroom.
  • Keeping parents involved, as they are included now more than ever in their children's education. A close communication with parents is very helpful for keeping children on track.
  • Collaboration among teachers by sharing ideas and methods. Through collaboration, teachers can also identify what is working and what needs to be improved.
  • Working with feedback is probably the most important of all the measures, because it's the only way to make sure that this kind of education is working.

At George Lucas Educational Foundation they believe that feedback is key in the learning process. Here's what they say:

"Before we can get students to where we want them to be, we must clearly determine where that is and understand where each student is, beyond the daily target. Understanding this allows us to build a systematic approach to ensuring that we know what we want students to know and be able to do—and a systematic approach to infusing instruction with feedback at multiple junctures."

They say teachers should encourage feedback that is timely, authentic, and consistent, in order to be able to correct, support, and redirect students down the path of learning. They believe constant, supportive feedback is critical to making sure that students know where they are, what they need, and where they are going in the learning process, not just for transparency but also so they can develop ownership in the learning process themselves. "The learning doesn't come from the assessment, but rather from the feedback provided. We cannot lose sight of the importance of providing timely and specific feedback, especially when we may not have our kids in front of us."

The response of international organizations in the field of education

UNESCO published distance learning strategies in response to COVID-19 school closures - a set of sector-wide measures taken by government agencies and partners to continue students' curriculum based studies and other regular educational activities when schools and other physical educational institutions are closed. They say:

"For this to succeed, learning activities should be reviewed, and alternative solutions to providing learning programmes remotely should be planned and delivered with the support of teachers, the education community and in collaboration with students and their families."

Common issues to be addressed by distance learning strategies include:

  • how students can access remotely delivered content and communicative support;
  • how learners' rights and data privacy can be protected;
  • how are teachers supported in the transition to remote teaching;
  • and how financial and technological resources can be mobilized to sustain the provision for several months.

UNESCO has also published a paper in October, where they stress the importance of investing in the wellbeing of children.

"Investing in school health and nutrition programmes should be an education priority for all national governments and development partners."

UNICEF, WFP (World Food Programme) and WHO (World Health Organisation) call on all national governments and development partners to advance an equitable, inclusive and progressive approach to education that includes comprehensive, integrated school health and nutrition programmes strengthening school policies, outreach, curricula, environment and school health services throughout primary and secondary education, so as to ensure that all children and young people have the required conditions to learn and thrive and contribute meaningfully to the development of sustainable and healthy future of their communities and countries.

The four agencies stand ready to align efforts and to work with partners to ensure that this important issue is reflected in national, regional and global agendas, and that funding is mobilized to support the scale up of national school-based education and health and nutrition programmes.

Connecting Classrooms is a programme that the British Council has run since 2008 which connects schools in UK with schools from all over the world, so they can learn from each other. The programme has developed long-term, sustainable partnerships, supporting schools and the wider community in developing successful, educational partnerships between schools in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Nepal and schools in the UK, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to become active global citizens.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, their online professional development courses are open to teachers in all countries and they also have a guide to support virtual communication with teachers from partner schools.

Since most of the schools were closed, students, teachers, authorities and parents have been trying to adapt to the new reality, that of social distancing, in which the educational process must continue online until the end of the pandemic.


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Education

Author: Oana Tamas
I am passionate about life. Nature, people, art and everything that is making its magic on this beautiful planet, is worth our attention. I believe that communication is the key of life and wellbeing.
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