Today, as more students learn online than ever, improving the remote learning experience is crucial to the future of education worldwide.
Beyond an emergency solution, the ‘remote classroom’ provides increasing benefits for students, schools, and institutions. Online learning offers opportunities to enfranchise diverse and global learners, redesign institutional access and success, and support schools with gaps in administration, among other things. But like all changes in education, for the next era of learning online to be successful, students must come first.
So how can educators and administrators improve the remote learning experience for students?
Remote learning offers significant opportunities in education, including greater flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility for students who cannot attend in-person classes. However, despite these opportunities, remote learning is not without its challenges.
Addressing these challenges will be crucial in ensuring that remote learning continues to be an effective and viable option for the future of education. Here are issues common to remote learning experiences that teachers, administrators, and technology designers are working to improve.
Remote learning can make it harder for students to stay engaged and focused
In-person classrooms offer a controlled environment both physically and programmatically. Remote learning environments, however, are commonly self-monitored and self-paced, which can drag engagement. For example, one study from the Colorado Department of Education reported that 30% of teachers in K-12 schools experienced issues with participation, engagement, and attendance while teaching online during the pandemic. And staying engaged in remote classrooms may be especially hard for students who need extra support.
Still, schools and districts are increasingly designing hybrid learning systems where technology integrates alongside traditional in-person offerings. That includes leveraging online synchronous learning to expand class offerings in K-12 schools. Increasingly, K-12 schools are using blended learning systems that tailor combinations of online and in-person modalities to fit their needs. Blended learning systems can help invigorate remote learners with the classroom belonging they need to stay engaged.
Lack of connections between students and teachers in remote learning environments
Digital learning spaces may not facilitate the same connections and interactions as in-person classrooms, especially for peer-to-peer or student-to-teacher relationships. For example, one study from the Asian Journal of University Education found that virtual learning spaces may not provide the interactions necessary for peer review and group work.
Similarly, students may feel cut off from help and social connections they would otherwise need or ask for. And it’s more difficult for teachers to keep an eye on students to assess if they are having problems with materials, understanding, or relationships.
With a lack of interaction, collaborative group work like discussions, peer review, partner work, and games may be tricky to facilitate in remote settings. Yet technologies exist–like Class.com’s virtual learning platform–to drive interaction and support these learning methods online. Increasingly, educators report that they are more comfortable using new digital tools in their instructional practice.
Distance learning may not adequately build community
The rise of online education has asked educators to consider how online classrooms build communities, especially at the school or district level. Can online classrooms create the communities and networks traditional in-person education has offered?
In remote classrooms, students can connect without restrictions on time and space through web conferencing tools. That means they may not be acquainted or live close to one another. While this brings diverse perspectives to classroom work and discussion, it also can create distance.
To enhance the online learning experience for students, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of their challenges.
By leveraging innovative technologies, strategic pedagogy, and customized activities for online learning, educators and educational professionals can make significant strides in improving student outcomes. Such improvements benefit not only students but also schools as well. A better student experience can lead to increased engagement, higher success rates, and other important advantages that support overall academic achievement. By prioritizing the needs of online learners and creating solutions that address their unique challenges, schools can unlock the full potential of online education and empower students to thrive in virtual learning environments.
Balance synchronous and asynchronous learning in remote settings
Finding the right balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning is essential to achieve stronger student outcomes.
Synchronous learning offers institutions and districts an opportunity to scale learning. And while asynchronous instruction has offered self-paced methods in isolation, synchronous learning can help foster the connections and interactions these systems lack.
For example, a high school science class might spend one synchronous day–either in-person, virtual or both–on a lecture learning about plant species. Then designate another day for an independent, outdoor field study with asynchronous classwork, like discussion boards or an essay project.
Work with students to improve their remote learning set-up
Not all students have a private area or personal computer to access online classes and resources when needed, even though access to digital tools and resources for students is increasing. As education increasingly relies on technology, it is becoming apparent that the responsibility to provide technology rests with schools and social institutions.
To help bridge the technology gap, administrators should scope their online classes and programs to the means of their school or district. Then, allow students access to the technologies required, perhaps through technology subsidies. Another consideration is providing transportation to students to public libraries where they can check out technology and other resources.
Use engagement as a metric in online learning classrooms
Student engagement is crucial to any optimal student learning experience, especially in an online classroom. The first step is to determine metrics of engagement that can be used to evaluate and quantify student performance. In an online environment, engagement could be measured by hand raises, talk time, chat responses, or sharing links to external resources, which should all be tracked. Once metrics are established, educators should prioritize opportunities for engagement in lesson plans and course designs.
Lecture-based learning may not inspire the participation needed to use engagement as a metric of student achievement. Instead, teachers need to align instructional methods with assessment benchmarks online. For example, consider small group work that uses breakout rooms to split students into groups at different times so they can teach the material to each other. Or use check-in polls and quizzes to ask questions that keep students engaged and tracking against their peers. Try active learning strategies, including gamifying lessons, to make them more interactive. And use data analytics–like Class.com’s teacher dashboard–to track student engagement and performance and make data-driven decisions to improve your instruction.
Make sure teachers have great remote learning tools to work with
Typical video conferencing solutions may not sufficiently support an optimal student experience for learning online, but the technology needed to support a better remote learning experience for students is increasingly available and improving. Beyond technology, instructors should have access to all the materials they need to deliver an excellent and engaging class experience.
Improve the learning experience online with community-building and ice-breaking activities
Keep your learner community at the heart of your online classroom.
Start and finish every lesson with a game, check-in, or other activity that allows students to be seen, heard, and interact socially with their peers.
Fun questions at the beginning of each session can help foster community and allow students to get to know one another (and educators to get to know their students). And not all of these prompts have to be lesson-based. For example, “If you were a potato dish, what would you be, and why?” Or, “What’s your go-to karaoke song?”
Necessity is the driver of ingenuity. Educational professionals are revolutionizing remote learning to give students a better and more impactful experience online. And with the proper pedagogy, insights, strategies, and technology, online learning can get closer to the quality of education traditional in-person systems have offered.
Class has the remote learning tools you need to improve the student experience
Class is a remote learning solution designed to enhance native Zoom features for a personal and rigorous online learning experience. Designed for K-12, Higher Education, and professional and government teams and organizations, instructors can do more with Class in their toolkit to help learners stay engaged and make the meaningful connections they need for learning to matter online.