The sudden shift to online learning in 2020 raised myriad issues that educators, parents, and students had to work together to solve. One of those issues was how to give students who had learning disabilities or who had simply fallen behind and needed remedial work the support that they needed in a strictly online environment.
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning
For a long time, the only online school option was the modern equivalent of correspondence courses. Distance learning was entirely asynchronous, meaning that students and instructors didn’t interact in real time. Asynchronous learning involves students accessing coursework digitally and completing it on their own time and at their own pace.
Nowadays, more schools have implemented virtual classrooms wherein students and teachers engage in synchronous learning. Online synchronous learning looks a lot more like a traditional classroom, in that it involves a live lesson with an instructor and peers in real time. Platforms like Jigsaw Interactive and many others enable synchronous online learning.
Advantages of Virtual Classrooms for Remedial Learners
Asynchronous learning is disadvantageous for students who need remediation. The fact that they have fallen behind due to learning differences or circumstances means they need more support than on-demand learning offers. These students need personal attention, modifications, and accommodations; how can we expect them to fare when left largely to their own devices?
Virtual classrooms structured around synchronous learning are a far better fit for these learners, as they provide the benefits of:
- Social Support
- Instructor Availability
In a synchronous learning virtual classroom, instructors set clear expectations regarding assignments, activities, and work processes. They control the pace, keep the class on track, and encourage participation.
This structure keeps remedial learners from falling behind. It helps them to pace themselves appropriately and gives them a well-defined path and steps to follow that they might struggle to find on their own.
The Learning Disability Resources Foundation asserts that, “Peer-to-Peer programs for students who have … conditions that make learning difficult… have proven to be extremely helpful.”
In other words, social learning breeds success. Students who need help catching up and keeping up are much more productive when they can interact with peers and teachers and turn to them for support.
Aside from the fact that virtual classrooms help make remote learning feel less remote, they also provide opportunities for the kinds of small group learning activities and collaborative teamwork that foster engagement.
With synchronous learning in virtual classrooms, students can ask their teachers to explain or clarify a point at the moment they need it. This accessibility goes a long way toward keeping them from becoming frustrated when they don’t understand the material. It also allows the instructor to give them some one-on-one time if necessary when the rest of the class breaks into small groups in the breakout session rooms that are available through the Jigsaw platform.
Learners who need extra support don’t have to attend specialized remedial classes to get the kind of personal learning experiences they need. Their needs can be met online, through virtual classrooms that engage in synchronous learning.