Stores have closed their doors, flights have ground to a halt, and people have hunkered down at home. History will remember 2020 as the year the world shut down. By March 16, nearly 30 million American school children were at home because of COVID-19. As of now, this number is significantly higher. These closures will have a significant impact on learning outcomes this academic year, and many students will have to play catch-up when schools open their doors again. This is what’s called the “COVID-19 Slide.”
In the interim, it will be crucial for administrators and educators to minimize learning loss in the short and long term.
What Schools Can Do Now
COVID-19 has transformed the educational landscape, with more schools forced to move classes online. For schools that do this successfully, students can still achieve learning outcomes. Teachers can still teach. Students can still learn. Things are just different.
Digital tools, like video conferencing, bridge the gap between the classroom and the living room, providing students with opportunities to problem-solve, communicate, and collaborate, albeit from the comfort of their own home.
There have been teething problems for many schools: A lack of coordination between administrators and educators has created a digital divide — or “coronavirus confusion.” Schools can avoid this problem with these best practices:
- Use a reliable video conferencing app. Some schools have criticized Zoom because of security concerns, but there are alternatives — Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Blackboard Collaborate, to name just a few.
- Focus on active learning, with discussions, visuals, and collaborative tasks. Long lessons and lectures are best kept for a traditional classroom environment.
- Keep group sizes small, where possible. Larger groups make collaboration and discussion more difficult.
- Create common online lessons for teachers to use instead of requiring teachers to create their own assignments. This will prevent lengthy delays in learning.
- It’s a stressful time for children right now, so get creative outside of the curriculum. With so much time at home, encourage students to explore their artistic sides by creating a digital photo book, card, or calendar.
Not all students have access to the internet, especially in rural areas and low-income communities. Some schools have adopted a different approach to digital learning, swapping out video conferencing for a more conventional medium: Television.
This is a great option for combating the COVID-19 slide because even with no internet, nearly all households in the U.S. have a TV. Schools have partnered with local public access stations to broadcast lessons for different grade levels at different times.
This is a confusing time for parents and caregivers, and many will face financial woes as the economy stutters. Make life easier by providing families guidance on how they can support children with informal learning activities.
Communication is more important now than it’s ever been — 47 percent of parents like to receive school updates as soon as decisions are made — and administrators should provide the following information via email, SMS, phone and, where schools have an app, push notifications:
- School closures and re-opening measures.
- Safety/cleaning procedures.
- Learning resources/reading lists.
- Assignments and homework.
- Grading policies/updates on child’s progress/performance.
- Curriculum descriptions.
- A calendar of virtual events and meetings.
- Education program changes.
What Schools Can Do In The Future
Expand Summer Learning Programs
It’s unclear, at the moment, when schools will reopen, but administrators should make plans for the rest of the academic year — and beyond. By expanding their summer learning programs, schools can reduce the effects of the COVID-19 slide. It will take more teachers and resources to make this happen, but there’s still time.
Adjust the School Calendar
Research shows that, in a regular year, students can lose one or two months of academic growth during the summer vacation. With many schools operating reduced lessons because of technological limitations or staff shortages, student learning could be at serious risk. One way to counteract this problem is to adjust the school year, where necessary.
This might include:
- Starting the next semester early
- Introducing longer school days, or
- Offering year-round schooling.
Educators can cover missing academic material from this year in the first few weeks of the next school year, for example.
Now that schools need to overcome a much larger gap in learning next year, it will be essential for students to have extra support for staying on top of tasks. Planners are a great resource to help students not only keep track of deadlines but prioritize assignments and set personal goals. The act of physically writing down something helps students remember information better and they are much less likely to get distracted, like they would on a laptop or mobile device.
What next year will look like is still unknown. But, implementing planners is a shrewd step educators can take to ensure their students are able to keep up with a heightened workload and/or faster pace.
It might be tough right now, but the situation will improve, and things will eventually get back to normal. In the meantime, administrators and educators need to minimize learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 slide in both the short and long term. The tips above will maintain performance, improve communication, and encourage a successful learning environment.