Covid19 is taking a terrible toll on our community and schools are on the frontline. As we work toward the end of term 1 our teachers, school leaders, administrators and staff are doing everything they can for our kids – whether their schools are open or closed.
At Education Horizons Group we are working with our school partners first to navigate these next few weeks, and then to plan for what comes next. Schools are telling us they need new ideas and practical systems to prepare to remotely manage student wellbeing, parent engagement, administration, student absences and, perhaps most challenging of all, ongoing teaching and learning.
No one planned for this coronavirus epidemic. But distance education – the ability for schools and families to work remotely – has been on our radar for some time. That’s why each of our edutech services include remote function capabilities across school administration, asset management and teaching and learning.
Some of our school partners were utilising these capabilities before the current emergency. But today every school is exploring options for sharing information, managing their operations and continuing to deliver high quality education in the classroom and at home.
Some of these needs are practical. Ongoing school maintenance with a skeleton staff. A pipe bursts in a school that is shut down. Student absences and movements when the school is open, but individual families are dealing with their own disruptions. And if, as the Prime Minister said recently schools could close for up to six months, helping every student move through their curriculum ready for next term or next year.
For student wellbeing and admin, schools are looking for a reliable data source and systems to deliver up to date information to parents and staff when they need it. Physical asset management requires remote visibility of every part and piece of a school community in real time.
Challenges of Distance Learning
Distance learning brings perhaps the biggest challenge of all – recreating space for teachers to structure their lessons, work with the whole class and still be able to monitor and engage individually with each student when they need it. Differentiated learning, individualised planning and personalised education: these approaches are central to modern teaching and learning. And the major challenge of distance education is to maintain this connection when teachers and classes cannot be together in the same room.
At a basic level distance learning involves sequencing curriculum content, learning activities and assessments – supported by teacher instruction videos or livestreaming. Most schools and students in Australia have access to widely available tech products for this type of approach.
Beyond this foundation most schools are exploring options for more interactive online learning. This goes beyond watching videos, completing activities, and then emailing work or questions through and waiting for a reply. This means online spaces where students access instruction, begin their own work and can discuss with teachers as they progress. The gap between basic level distance education and this type of approach is like the difference between email and video conference.
Accelerating Learning with Distance Education
But at its highest level, online distance teaching and learning offers more.
Genuine multifaceted student teacher interaction means real time, two-way communication and engagement; real time monitoring of student progress; wherever, whenever learning led by the student; and personalised feedback from teachers available when it can do the most good for each student.
As always, the core of this approach is human connection between teachers and students. But to achieve this in a distance learning environment requires systems which integrate all of this information for whole class groups and for individual learners that progress at different speeds. And these systems must present this information in a way which is visible and useful for teachers.
This means distance education systems must be available in intuitive, comfortable and engaging formats where schools and teachers can tailor, adapt and update online spaces and content as required. And this means having the human resources available to work with schools and teachers as they confront problems and build their practice.
myEdOnline – Differentiated Distance Learning Platform
At Education Horizons Group our myEdOnline program was designed for exactly this capability.
We think it’s the best available but there are other options out there. As we move to the end of term 1 and begin planning for term 2 and beyond, every teacher and school leader will be exploring how these options help them offer the highest level of distance learning possible.
At Education Horizons Group we aim to become the world’s leading edutech provider. The enormous impact of Covid19 has not changed that. Because we know that our school partners will make it through this emergency and come out the other side.
Current instances of innovative distance learning will become more common. More and more schools and teachers will push the boundaries of what is possible today – because they have to. Together we will drive the next generation services of tomorrow. And when we come out the other side our education systems will be stronger and better positioned to prepare our young minds to meet challenges like the ones we face today.