When millions of students and their teachers were suddenly thrust into the online learning environment, one thing became abundantly clear—typical learning platforms simply didn’t allow for the engagement and management that students, teachers, and administrators needed.
Fortunately, many quickly discovered opportunities to expand—and improve—virtual learning through new technology and processes for empowering students to learn in varied formats. Use of virtual classroom tools like Class, built to leverage the functionality of Zoom specifically for learning environments, is one notable example.
Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, But It Opens Up New Opportunities
It’s fair to say that, even after almost two years in an entirely remote or hybrid learning environment, nobody has completely “gotten it right.” And that’s okay. As Sarah Clancy, an online educator with Laurel Springs School points out in an article for eSchool News, when it comes to virtual student-centered learning, there’s no need to strive for perfection. Instead, she advises educators to “embrace mistakes and funny moments as you build community and relationships that support student-centered learning.”
Today’s online learning technology is built around engagement and interactions—human interactions, which are far from perfect in any setting. However, when students are engaged in improving the online learning experience, Clancy says, they thrive—“students feel included and needed in their school space and will flourish in an online environment.”
That engagement, interaction, and involvement all go a long way toward accelerating virtual effectiveness.
Jane Ferris, assistant head school at Laurel Springs agrees. “When learning online, students are empowered to actively engage in the learning process,” she says. “Technology can provide ways to support students’ time management development and self-advocacy when communicating with faculty. By empowering students to use their voice and choice, students are more engaged and have ownership of their learning.”
Of course, teachers and administrators can’t do all of this on their own. Research supports the need to fully leverage online learning tools’ potential with technology partners.
Technology Fuels Innovation in Online Learning
“Prior to 2020, absolutely no one in education would have proposed ‘give a teacher a Zoom login in the middle of the school year and a few days’ notice and then host all classes remotely for the foreseeable future as a suggested way to implement technology in the classroom, but that’s where we netted out,” says Brian Galvin, Chief Academic Officer at Varsity Tutors.
Now, Galvin says, after having had some time to learn and reflect, “the way to implement technology is to think about what issues and opportunities you’re looking to address, and then find the technology that fits.”
For example, he says, “one thing that emerged in the early pandemic was access to world-class field trip opportunities held online.” That opens up opportunities not only to connect kids with museums near them. Now they can “interact with astronauts or get up close to dinosaur skeletons or sketch along with professional animators”—from the classroom or their bedrooms.
Students themselves also point to the efficacies and possibilities of online learning. For instance, Otto Dean, a 16-year-old high school student, activist, and musician in Michigan, says he is “currently forming a group in my community to address some of the issues we see on a day-to-day basis as high school students.”
Dean says he is a “strong believer in what philosopher Ivan Illich calls ‘deschooling,’ which is the disconnection from school to learning.” Learning doesn’t require rules or even teachers, Dean says. “Learning is an individually experienced activity, and therefore the idea of deschooling is to ‘purify’ learning, in a sense. In the context of gradually shifting towards better education, this means to prioritize topics students are interested in and to encourage independent learning while still being goal-oriented.” Virtual learning, he says, is particularly suited to this “because of its focus on engagement and independent work.”
Those involved in education, though, recognize that they can’t get there independently. They need partners and collaborators to help them most effectively leverage the new technology options available.
Partners Drive Adoption, Efficiencies, and Best Practices
A study conducted by Stride, Inc. reveals that “79% of teachers said an education technology partner could help create a more effective online learning environment.” Teachers are experts at learning theory, instruction, and assessment, but partners can help them bring that expertise to a virtual environment.
It’s not just the instruction and interaction elements of education that technology partners provide. It’s also functionality related to administrative tasks like tracking attendance, participation, and grades—and the safety, security, and privacy issues that are important in any online environment. Much of this happens behind the scenes and may not be overtly visible to teachers or students, but that functionality is as necessary as tools that drive engagement and interaction.
Students, teachers, administrators, and others see the vast potential that virtual learning can offer and find new ways to accelerate virtual effectiveness. Technology partners like Class are poised to help them in these efforts.
View the on-demand webinar, How to Choose the Right Virtual Classroom, for practical tips on evaluating virtual classrooms to promote connection, community, and engagement to accelerate virtual effectiveness.