What does online teaching and learning look like in a post-covid world?

Maddie Kilminster - 20 April, 2021

Category : Blog

What does online teaching and learning look like in a post-covid world?

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes to how schools run. Throughout phases of partial and full closures and local lockdowns, and government guidelines changing regularly, schools have had to adapt to flexible ways of working. Technology has played an important role in supporting schools to adapt, with cloud-based tech giving them reliable access to

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes to how schools run. Throughout phases of partial and full closures and local lockdowns, and government guidelines changing regularly, schools have had to adapt to flexible ways of working.

Technology has played an important role in supporting schools to adapt, with cloud-based tech giving them reliable access to school information away from the physical school site.

Top priorities have been ensuring key processes can continue as usual wherever staff and students are, from attendance admin, to finances, to day-to-day communications, to teaching and learning.

Online learning and the pandemic

As soon as the first lockdown hit, schools had to find a solution to virtual teaching and learning practically overnight. High on the agenda was making sure that students had access to high quality teaching despite classrooms looking quite different.

Many turned to Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Teams, benefiting from procurement and support grants, as well as other tools such as Class Dojo, to hold remote lessons, or to share and collect in class work. Some schools were more prepared than others, and the picture of remote provision started to look very different from school to school.

Even now in a more stable phase of the pandemic when most classes in the UK are back to face-to-face, the impact of the last year is still very clear. The loss of learning as a result of lockdown is a concern, but there are also more positive possibilities that technology has opened up. 

Check out advice from an EdTech expert on how schools can learn from the rapid changes in technology usage since Covid-19

Challenges of online learning

Inequality between schools

The shift to online learning has highlighted vast differences between schools in terms investment and training in digital technology. What’s more, depending on location, demographics and funding, schools have differing challenges and find it difficult to provide the same level of quality when it comes to virtual teaching and learning. Some might have the resources to live-stream a full programme of lessons, whilst others might be limited to uploading worksheets. Of course, every school will find the online learning style that’s best for them; the same approach for a large inner city secondary school will most likely not work for a small rural primary school.

Having a reliable technology setup

Those schools who already used a digital learning platform like Microsoft Office 365 before the pandemic found it much easier to transition to using it full time during the pandemic. For those who didn’t, it meant setting up accounts for students and staff from scratch. Without an integration with their MIS (Management Information System), setting up a new digital learning platform can mean time-consuming manual work entering student and staff data.

See Arbor’s integration with Microsoft Office 365 and Google Classroom™ below. 

The “Digital divide”

Online learning has also drawn attention to the levels of disadvantage that many students across the country are experiencing, which has an impact on how they engage with online learning. From home environments which aren’t fit to study in, to lack of internet or devices, to parents who are less able to support with school work, many schools have found it difficult to reach students remotely. 

Safeguarding issues

As schools have found during the pandemic, online learning can open up new issues around safeguarding. For example, when live-streaming lessons, Teachers have to think about the environment they’re teaching in, as well as what might be going on in the homes students are learning from. Many schools have created new rules and policies for online classes, including camera and microphone usage, uniforms, as well as ways of communicating appropriately. It’s also important to make sure there are clear boundaries between school and private life, as well confidential spaces for students to confide in Teachers outside of lessons. 

Behaviour and mental health

Remote education naturally means it’s harder for Teachers to be in touch with students and to sense how they’re getting on. It’s been clear, though, that some students have had experiences during the past year which have now put them into vulnerable categories which they perhaps weren’t in before, with many feeling the impact of trauma on their mental health. As a result, Teachers have noticed the varying mental states of students as they come back to the classroom bringing with it some new and challenging behaviour to deal with. 

Check out tips from Educational Psychologist, Dr Rob Long, on supporting students’ mental health in the classroom

The post-covid attainment gap

As a result of the challenges of learning from home for many students, schools have found attainment gaps have emerged between particular student groups. It’s now a top priority to identify students who are behind, and to put in place initiatives to get them back on track. However, due to the lack of consistency of provision from the past year, schools have also had absences of student progress data which presents a challenge to analysing their data.

Blended learning – the future of learning

As flexible ways of working are looking like the future of the corporate workplace, new uses of technology could also have a lasting impact on the way teaching and learning is delivered going forwards.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning means a combination of remote and face-to-face teaching and learning activities. This might involve part of the class joining remotely, or could be a mixture of digital and physical resources being used in the classroom.

Providing for learners at home 

During the pandemic, schools have become used to offering blended teaching and learning, having to provide remote education during lockdown, whilst maintaining face-to-face provision for vulnerable and key worker children.

Since the chance of students and staff having to isolate is still a reality, a blended approach to teaching and learning seems to be the new normal, at least for a while. This means it’s more important than ever to have a reliable virtual learning environment that staff are comfortable using alongside normal teaching, which you could also fall back on for full remote provision if you needed to.

The possibilities of EdTech (education technology)

Even though face-to-face teaching looks to be the default again, the investment schools have made in technology has not gone to waste.

EdTech brings lots of opportunities to rethink the format, pace and content of lessons. Research also shows that technology can increase students’ retention of knowledge, and allow for more interaction, creativity, student choice and motivation.

Here are a few ways blended learning can support the classroom:

  • Classroom games – Digital games and quizzes can support students to develop skills such as “fluency” in a range of subjects by providing them with frequent doses of personalised questioning
  • Homework – Setting and marking work digitally can save Teachers’ time, as well as providing new data on how students are engaging at home
  • Discussion – Having an online class forum where work can be shared and discussions outside of the classroom can increase a sense of community and boost confidence   
  • Virtual field trips – Arranging a virtual trip such as a tour of a museum can be a great way to give students the opportunity to have experience places across the world they might not otherwise be able to 

“If implemented in the right way, tech can improve and transform the way schools work so they can weather any storm.”

-Richard Martin, Special Projects Lead at LGFL

Read how LEO Academy Trust rolled our digital technology across their schools 

Discover the vision of Red Kite Learning Trust for a centralised and collaborative IT infrastructure across their trust

The most effective way to use a digital learning platform 

With digital technology here to stay, schools need a platform they can rely on, that not only makes it easy to run blended learning, but will also allow for a pivot to full remote provision at short notice if you need to.

Setting up your courses and classes from scratch in your digital learning platform (e.g. Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams) by manually entering all your student and staff data could take hours or days defending on how big your school is. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to have an integration between your MIS and your digital learning platform, so that your data is synced automatically.

Sync your data automatically with Arbor’s Microsoft and Google integrations

At Arbor, we’ve developed integrations with Google Classroom™ and Microsoft Office 365, which make managing online learning fast and secure for your school. With our integrations, all your student and staff information sync automatically into your Google or Microsoft accounts, saving you any manual data entry. What’s more, once you’re set-up, data syncs every 24 hours, meaning your information is always up-to-date.

Discover more about Arbor MIS

If you’d like to find out how Arbor MIS could transform the way you work for the better, join our webinar series, which includes live demos, as well as sessions walking you through how we move schools to Arbor and work with you to drive long term impact. Check out what’s coming up and book your spot.

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