The one discovery everyone in education made this past year was that the transition to virtual learning during the Covid-19 pandemic would be anything but easy. With so many new challenges presenting themselves daily for teachers, parents, and students alike, it’s no wonder that online learning was largely a failure.
For teachers, the biggest struggle came from the lack of time and proper training. In the rush to close schools and keep people safe, teachers were given almost no warning before having to convert all of their lesson plans from in-person to virtual learning activities. Most teachers lacked the proper training on successfully running a virtual classroom. And, in many cases, teachers had never even seen the programs their districts were now providing.
Another huge hurdle for teachers was not being able to use regular formative assessments to gauge student learning while the students were practicing new skills. With the unforeseen shift to virtual learning, many teachers struggled to utilize formative assessments online, making it difficult to know which students were actually learning and whether they should move forward or reteach concepts in a different way.
And teachers weren’t the only ones struggling to get all students to learn. Parents found themselves suddenly balancing careers and home life all while trying to tutor their children in subjects many hadn’t studied in decades. Most parents had never been professionally trained in instructional methods, and they had the added pressure of trying to get their kids to stay engaged while distracted at home and to turn assignments in on time.
Of course, the students had to face their own issues during virtual learning as well. Many did not have access to computers and the internet at home. And once they did have access, they struggled to learn new software while bouncing between many virtual classrooms, programs, and websites throughout the day. So students fell farther and farther behind academically while also grappling with the sudden lack of social interaction with their peers.
But the truth is that online learning during the pandemic only failed because of the lack of preparation. Virtual learning is an amazing educational tool when teachers have the time and training to set up interactive virtual classrooms, personalized assignments, small group learning opportunities, and regular assessments. Educational technology companies are innovating new products every day, and virtual classrooms can be both dynamic and highly successful when teachers, parents, and students are properly prepared.