Recent Food and Drug Administration approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds means that thousands of children who have continued to learn from home will dust off their lunch boxes and climb onto the school bus, destined for in-person instruction once again.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools indicates, students benefit from in-person learning, and face-to-face should be the primary method of instruction. Still, eLearning has earned its place in education, and smart educators welcome the addition.
Two are better than one
Although eLearning became the classroom standard out of necessity during the pandemic, educators and parents now recognize its long-term merits. Most students still need to learn primarily in person, but those lessons can be reinforced through eLearning.
The simple truth is that classrooms will likely never look like they did pre-COVID-19, and that’s not such a bad thing when it comes to student engagement. Leaders in education believe that a hybrid model of traditional, in-person instruction and eLearning tools will offer the most benefit to students.
For example, incorporating artificial intelligence tools into eLearning can help identify the concepts students struggle with most, identify specific students who need help, and produce personalized content plans for individual students. The drawback to AI, of course, is that it can’t manage a classroom full of students. But equipping a strong teacher with the eLearning tools AI has to offer creates a structured yet forward-thinking learning environment.
AI can support both students and teachers. For teachers, AI can help generate, grade, and record tests and quizzes; organize student data; and flag areas of concern by student, group, or other teacher-selected criteria — among other tasks. For students, AI can generate specific assignments tailored to their needs, adjust assignments based on a student’s responses, record grades and improvements from one academic year to the next, and perform other helpful functions.
This is only the beginning
Even before the pandemic, most school districts embraced education technology and AI to some degree. Google Classroom was already standard fare for the average teacher and student. Transitioning to virtual learning would have been much more painful had students not known the basics. Still, the widespread adoption of the digital classroom and eLearning tools has accelerated since the pandemic altered in-class dynamics.
The digital classroom offers more than just distance learning. Tools like virtual reality allow teachers to craft lessons to improve student engagement and adapt to various learning styles. “VR creates an infinite set of possibilities that people can experience,” writes Nick Babich, a software industry writer.
From helping people learn by doing to engaging them on an emotional level, VR is a game-changer in education. In integrating VR into their classrooms, teachers will transition from being content deliverers to content facilitators. In fact, VR in education is projected to become a $700 million industry by 2025.
The smart teacher knows
Teachers have always brainstormed different methods for how to keep students engaged, but the pandemic forced even more rapid change within K-12 education technology. Here are three ways educators can get the most out of a digital classroom to complement in-person instruction:
1. Overworked teachers welcome new tools if they improve student engagement and achievement. Some students learn better online because they’re able to progress at a pace that suits their skill level, while others need the constant redirection of an in-person teacher. Both methods should be an option, even if all students are present in class.
With eLearning, students can also collaborate through online discussion boards and apps that they can access any time. Teachers can post quizzes, tests, and other assignments they create through tools and give students agency over how they will complete them.
Even as students return to the classroom, homework delivered online can continue to teach and motivate students and has been shown to increase student success.
2. Incorporating eLearning tools into their curriculum allows teachers to give students access to written, audio, and visual learning materials. This digitization of content decreases or eliminates hard copy texts, assignments, projects, and other supplementary materials. Students no longer have to worry about losing assignments or other class essentials, and teachers have easier access to all of their instructional material in one place.
3. Student absences become far less onerous when lessons and resources can be accessed and completed online. That way, the student can keep from falling behind or can easily catch up when they’re feeling better.
Virtual learning removes the traditional restrictions of the classroom, even without a pandemic shuttering the doors. COVID-19 sent educators scrambling to find new methods for how to engage students when both teachers and students were working from home.
Those methods of engagement broke barriers that won’t be rebuilt, so now when students get sick, have a conflict, or struggle with in-person school–or when inclement weather causes school cancellations–eLearning tools and virtual learning will provide a means for learning to continue outside the four walls of the classroom.