Updated article originally published December 10, 2020.
Distance learning on its own is not a challenge. However, with students going completely remote, a global pandemic, and no precedence for this fully remote teaching and learning style to guide instructors, it is normal to experience frustration or anxiety.
However, some teachers and students manage to stay afloat and do quite well despite distance learning challenges. Institutions, educators and students themselves are embracing the online classroom. Throughout the school year, schools have managed to find success despite the teaching experience being challenged with learning and studying from home.
This post will look at some of these examples of success in online education and online classes, insights to learn from, and how a tool such as Crowdmark can help make distance learning more successful.
University of Delaware
The University of Delaware is a prime example of what can happen when school administrators quickly and effectively implement distance learning protocols. Various administration and faculty members and directors of school departments collaborated and coordinated to move entire course sections online.
Among them was UofD’s Information Technologies department and the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning. Their combined efforts allowed 6,422-course sections to be moved online between March 16th and March 30th—a mere two weeks.
Although some students and instructors had some personal challenges with the migration of courses to online platforms, the overall response was positive.
Jung-Youn Lee, a plant and soil sciences professor, was initially anxious about the move, but her experiences were better than she had anticipated:
“My first class was successful—my students had no background noise issue and could hear me clearly,” Lee said. “In short, everyone was swift in helping in my department and college, which reduced my anxiety so I could focus my attention fully on adjusting assignments, course content and assessment and connecting more with my students in a new way.”
Fullerton California School District
Several schools in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District in Orange County were able to transition smoothly into virtual classes. Much of their success stems from their early adoption of Wi-Fi hotspots for students without internet access at home. Students lacking the required connections at home could pick up their Wi-Fi hotspots at school on March 16th, a full two weeks before distance learning commenced on March 30th.
Initially, the district planned to have live virtual lessons during each class period but decided to alter this plan after hearing students’ concerns about its feasibility. They decided to give teachers more flexibility with deadlines and instruction modes, such as incorporating a mix of live video instruction, pre-recorded lessons, and hands-on projects appropriate for many teachers’ distance learning.
Fullerton Joint Union also understood that students watching the same live video at the same time were often competing for bandwidth. Relaxing the rules and encouraging students to watch the recorded class on their own time meant less lag and more opportunity for students to find a quiet place to work at home. This protocol has been incredibly helpful for low-income students who may not have internet access during live classes.
Carnegie Math Pathways / State University of New York (SUNY)
Math instructors at the State University of New York (SUNY) use the Carnegie Math Pathways system to teach their students mathematical concepts. Carnegie Math Pathways employs a holistic approach to math instruction, and its use at SUNY has proven to be useful for distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
Karon Klipple, executive director of Carnegie Math Pathways, spoke more about the challenges and opportunities of establishing distance learning during the pandemic:
“Because the move to online learning was so sudden and unplanned for teachers, a lot of the support upfront has been triage,” says Klipple.
In addition to facilitating collaboration and offering resources and guidance, Klipple and her colleagues have “helped with setting expectations—what are some realistic goals for transitioning to distance learning on a dime in the midst of a crisis.”
Instructors work with an adaptive learning platform, which adjusts the lecture content to each student’s particular needs and progress. These instructors can also schedule regular student check-in surveys to let faculty monitor students for their content knowledge, confidence, and self-efficacy.
The initial results of the program shift have been promising. Pilot testing of the online courses showed slighter better results than the face-to-face Pathway courses.
A silver lining in distance education during COVID-19
Many teachers and students at all levels of schooling feel disoriented now that the pandemic has uprooted their traditional grading methods.
Crowdmark is a vital asset for any virtual classroom. Like some of the higher education examples mentioned above, Crowdmark provides real-time insight into grading activity so that students can access grades quickly. Instructors can grade with ease, with even the ability to automatically grade up to 200 multiple choice questions in a class assessment.
Distance education does not have to threaten a student’s learning and progress. With the right tools and processes in place, students and instructions can still meet their objectives even in the absence of a physical classroom.