By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University
The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on education. K-12 teachers who were in the classroom before spring break are now finding themselves at a computer at home, transitioning to the “new normal” of online learning. Extending the remainder of the school year using virtual learning may even have an impact when schools are expected to reopen at the end of the summer.
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Online Learning for K-12 Students Has Had Various Issues
For many teachers and K-12 students who have never experienced the online learning environment, this transition has brought about many challenges. They include technical issues, unfamiliarity with online classes, and a lack of resources such as computers or adequate Internet access.
For example, many schools are attempting to maintain communication with students via Zoom. However, some students find Zoom lessons distracting because of unproductive discussions among students in the chatroom feature.
Another problem is that sometimes students will forward the Zoom link to other students who are not in the class. There have been incidents when these students have entered the Zoom classroom intent on being disruptive and, in some cases, being obscene.
In response, schools have attempted to restrict access via access codes. While this security measure is well-intentioned, the need for an access code creates a problem for students who do not have the correct code and miss important class sessions.
Also, some students say taking notes in this new learning environment is challenging. This is especially true for elementary and middle school students who are accustomed to having a teacher in the classroom, pointing out the important concepts that should be learned.
Other students report that they feel like they are being assigned busy work, because other students are having difficulty with what is being assigned online.
Stay-at-Home Restrictions on Families Are Creating Learning Challenges for Students
At-home distractions are creating learning challenges, most likely due to stay-at-home restrictions that have resulted in entire families remaining indoors.
The inaccessibility of teachers has been challenging too, which is likely to occur when students and teachers are not online live at the same time. Delays in receiving answers to questions or assignment feedback that is too vague can frustrate students. In particular, it can be discouraging when students don’t receive feedback that provides clear guidance on how to improve on the next assignment.
Strategies to Improve Online Learning for K-12 Students
There are some strategies, however, that can improve online K-12 learning. One recommendation is to standardize how subject matter is formatted and presented among different subjects. This tactic would enable online students to focus more on learning the actual material than having to learning different online formats used by different teachers.
If the general online tools and resources are standard in each class and only the content changes by subject, students are more likely to remain focused and succeed. Instead of having different teachers deliver online content on different formats, many school districts require content to be delivered in only one online format, such as Blackboard.
Another strategy in effectively transitioning from traditional schooling to the online format is to learn from schools that are already successful in facilitating online K-12 classes. For example, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is an internet-based public K-12 school that has taught 4.6 million semesters since opening in 1997.
Recognizing the need, FLVS has developed an online learning community to support educators, schools and families who have transitioned to online learning as a result of COVID-19.
No one knows how long we’ll have to deal with this pandemic. But the longer it lasts, online learning will continue to grow in acceptance and value. That’s one good thing that can come from the worst pandemic in a century.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Public University. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, police stress management, contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.
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