COVID-19 has not gone away, yet many schools are planning to return to in-person learning. In some places, cases have declined but many districts just view another quarter of e-learning as untenable. Most people have likely heard or seen the horror stories of online education or even experienced it firsthand. It’s this narrative that will quicken the return to classes on campus, and this is somewhat understandable. We should not ignore the hardship that e-learning has caused for some families. However, we should also acknowledge there are some positives that come along with e-learning as well, and we should attempt to keep as many of those as possible.
What are the aspects of e-learning that should remain in place when we return to school?
- Technology usage for work completion.
Hanging out at the copier is inefficient. Manually grading papers is inefficient. Lugging student work and materials back and forth is inefficient. So many inefficiencies are immediately fixed by one line of code in a computer program if schools are willing to use them. I have not enjoyed every aspect of e-learning, but I have enjoyed having some assignments auto-graded by Google or IXL.
- Online learning in place of traditional suspensions.
One of the worst parts of physical learning is what happens when schools decide they can no longer handle a student – out of school suspensions. Normally a suspension means students sit at home doing nothing productive. Doesn’t it make sense to use e-learning in these situations instead?
- Online learning in place snow days.
Snow days may be a welcome break in the winter months, but you usually have to make up those days during the summer. Wouldn’t it be nice in situations where the roads were impassible if students could just get online and do some work, check in with teachers, and legally count that as an official school day?
- Limiting of physical meetings.
If this pandemic has taught anything, it’s that a lot of these meetings could have simply been emails. The restrictions around gathering forced school administrators to come up with other ways to keep people informed, and for the most part, teachers didn’t miss a beat. Hopefully schools remember that and avoid going back to the status quo of unnecessary meetings.
Keeping aspects of e-learning isn’t just a matter of convivence for teachers and students. It’s also imperative that we prepare our students for an increasingly digital world. As mentioned in previous pieces about the skill-gap created by the digital-divide, remote working is only becoming more common. Mixing in some aspects of e-learning when students return in-person will be beneficial.
We might be returning to school on campus, but e-learning is not completely going away … or, at least, it shouldn’t be.