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As transformative events often do, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many rapid and dramatic adaptations to our current educational structures. And as we move into the new normal of schooling, many of these emergency additions are sticking to offer a more supportive learning environment over the long term. The question of learning continuity for a disrupted system has proven applicable in a slowly-stabilizing world, and educators are applying the concept for better educational access moving forward.

What is learning continuity?

As articulated by Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Superintendent for the Alexandria City Public Schools, cultivating learning continuity means “[creating] an environment which is conducive to learning for students.” This is especially true if learning is interrupted by an illness or other disruptive event, prompting an adaptation to typical methodology.

In the context of disruption and adaptation, learning continuity can be thought of in different spheres:

  • For individual students, learning continuity means they will have access to the same quality of education as their peers if they cannot participate in synchronous or in-person instruction.
  • For student cohorts, learning continuity means they will have access to the same quality of education if a widespread disruption necessitates a shift to an alternate classroom environment or delivery method.

Teachers, administrators, and education designers are responsible for collaborating to build anticipatory and in-demand learning continuity for all students. As many families choose not to return to in-person schooling after the pandemic, many emergency adaptations are reforming as long-term innovations to a shifting educational landscape. And it is now our job to ensure those innovations continue to support the needs of learners worldwide.

7 best practices for applied learning continuity

Here are a few research-backed best practices from educational leaders that help educators and school administrators provide consistent, high-quality learning to students of any age.

1. Engage in cross-departmental collaboration.

Dr. Hutchings stresses the importance of cultivating a sense of cohesion and mutual responsibility to help educators move through challenging situations and continue delivering the same quality of learning their students need. Cross-departmental solidarity helps make resources stretch farther, encourages teachers to ask and receive the support needed, and helps all instructors be on the same page when transitions occur.

2. Move away from whole-group learning strategies.

If individualized learning is incorporated into your day-to-day education strategy, disruptions will have less of an impact on individual educational experiences and progress. Microschools, pod classrooms, self-guided learning programs and one-on-one sessions often yield better reception for individual students while creating a more flexible and resilient overall strategy.

3. Assemble your bench team.

One strategy Amy McGrath, COO at Arizona State University, mentioned is to put together an on-call team of subject experts who can help individual students or small groups keep up with classwork if unable to participate in whole-group instruction. This means the primary instructor won’t have to burn out providing equivalent education to a split group in multiple disparate sessions.

4. Let teachers do less.

And by less, we mean so much more. Thomas Arnett, Senior Research Fellow at the Christensen Institute, advocates for intentional inclusion and use of pre-existing technologies to bear the brunt of the instructional weight. This might include vetted instructional videos, interactive programs, reading, gaming, etc.

Having better relationships with students is a critical factor in ensuring learning continuity and quality education more generally. For example, if teachers lecture less, they can put more work into leading person-to-person aspects of a lesson and supporting the students who may need extra help.

5. Avoid reinventing the wheel.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred a variety of educational innovations, however you should feel welcomed to bring with you the aspects of traditional schooling that work well. The idea moving forward should be to incorporate successful elements of the past with emerging elements to provide a more supportive learning environment for all your students.

6. Incorporate SEL.

Your students’ social, emotional, and physical wellbeing can have an enormous impact on how much they take away in an academic setting. This is one of the benefits of taking instructional responsibility off a teacher’s plate: they can better provide social/emotional support and instruction to their students, an invaluable aspect of an environment conducive to learning.

7. Leverage technology.

This means supplementing lessons with self-guided instructional material such as videos, audio clips, and interactive programming. But it also means incorporating supportive educational platforms into your teaching strategy so you can better manage your classroom, track students’ projects, and communicate efficiently. Programs like Class are designed to incorporate into already-familiar programs like Zoom but give you more control and flexibility to build a better learning experience for your students.

What’s next?

A robust learning continuity strategy can help your students access to quality education, whatever the future has. Learn more about learning continuity from experts in the field in our exclusive webinar: Ensuring Continuity of Learning.

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About Sidra
Sidra is head of Education Marketing at Class, and has worked in education for almost 10 years. You can find her doing yoga, drinking espresso, and watching F1 on Sundays.