How can school support an effective online learning environment for every child?
Q&A for education managers and officials to prepare for online learning
1. What should school do to roll out a successful online education program?
School managers can create a plan for online or remote education considering the situation of your school. Specific quality requirements on the course resources, ground rules for online teaching and learning, student performance evaluation, and other administrative measures should be implemented to ensure the quality of teaching. School need to take an active role in determining and supporting teachers’ new ways of working with distance learning modalities and helping build their capacity to do so.
It is also important to monitor teachers’ mental health and well-being and provide support and changing strategies when needed. School managers are also responsible for contingency planning when strategies do not work. Furthermore, they need to be aware of the additional risks faced by girls, and the gender digital divide, so that they can effectively address this.
2. Which remote or online education platforms should school opt for?
While making the decision, school managers should consider the actual needs of teaching and learning, such as the virtual classroom settings, number of students, and the digital literacy and accessibility of the students. In general, online platforms that offer a wide range of functionalities and support various learning activities are preferable. That can save the teachers and students from hopping between different platforms.
However, the most marginalized children – including those with disabilities, struggling learners, poor children, children from ethnic minorities, children on the move and children in the most rural hard-to-reach and poorest communities, and girls are least likely to be able to access and benefit from online learning opportunities. School managers should therefore consider approaches to reach the most marginalized children include rolling out low- and no-tech learning modalities, translating and adapting materials to a diverse set of mother tongues, closed captions and live signing interpretation in video/television lessons for children with hearing impairments, and ensuring materials are culturally appropriate and do not reinforce negative gender stereotypes.
3. How can school engage parents and communities?
Schools should communicate the importance of continuity of learning needs to parents and caregivers, along with guidance on online learning modalities (e.g. what time, which platform). Schools can develop learning projects, which require family-school collaboration, such as parent-child reading programs and seminars for parents, to facilitate communication among students, parents, and teachers.
It should be taken into consideration that many children are first generation learners, whose parents did not complete their own education and may be illiterate. Written guidance may therefore not always be helpful. Many families will also have minimal resources to work with. When resources are required for learning activities, they should focus on those that are widely available – like stones, sticks, common cooking ingredients or are nonspecific. Additionally, collaborative learning communities can be created to facilitate stay-at-home learning by involving the learners, the educators and the parents through online platforms or SMS where experience and challenges can be shared.
4. How can school ensure the quality of our online education program?
Distance learning modalities maybe new and often unfamiliar to many teachers, students, and parents. To facilitate effective online or remote learning, training aligned with the learning modalities they are engaged in is important. Even the use of familiar technology requires training: not necessarily in the use of the technology, but in the pedagogy of teaching through these methods.
It is also important to bear in mind that both teachers and students need time to adapt to the new normal and schools should allow flexibility to adjust their teaching plans. Schools may encourage teachers to carry out virtual home visits to understand students’ learning progress and adjust the teaching content based on their findings.