There is building evidence that remote learning has its advantages.
The shift to remote levels the playing field for low SES students; if they have access to the basics of internet connection and devices, students from less well-off backgrounds have been able to access better feedback more often and receive more one-on-one attention.
Information gathered by LMS provider D2L in conversations with its users has exposed other positives around remote learning in improving visibility around learning, the development of soft skills and competency with a technology enhanced way of operating.
Regional Director of D2L Tony Maguire is in regular contact with users of the LMS and has witnessed a range of benefits around going remote.
Maguire says that a school principal in Victoria indicated that after the first challenging period adjusting to remote, the feedback the students were receiving was more personalised and specific to the assessment or the activity that the students were engaged in.
“Whilst you're not getting that visual feedback that you are getting in class every day, you are getting focussed and specific feedback around the task specific to mastering content or understanding process,” Maguire says.
It seems that with an online delivery, teachers have sufficient time to focus on the process of learning that is occurring rather than the outcome alone.
“As teachers have moved online they have had to think about the way they are creating and sharing activities,” he says.
For schools that are in less advantaged areas, leveraging delivery with technology has streamlined the process and freed up time for teachers to give more attention to students.
“When we think about low SES schools we think about the additional resources that need to be brought to bear. What the teachers are finding is their quality time with those students is enhanced and it is tied to more specific areas a student needs to be working on.”
“It goes back to the fundamental question whether students who are disadvantaged or come from tougher circumstances need more support.”
And for schools that have engaged with Prof John Hattie’s Visible Learning program, the enhanced feedback and data available through heavy use of an LMS has helped to create a better picture of what is happening with learning in the school.
“A colleague told me that as a Visible Learning school they were interested in what are perceived to be the challenges for students. They thought that they had improved visibility in some areas and while students might be remote they were not necessarily going to be disadvantaged.”
Another school, Wodonga Middle Years College in Victoria, moved its curriculum online two years ago which gave it a head start on remote learning.
“When we can deal with inequity, the challenges will be more manageable. Principal Steve Fouracre from Wodonga Middle Years College, where they were contesting with curriculum renewal, found the equity issues they were able to deal with levelled up the staff and it levelled up the students,” Maguire says.
“You want to make sure there is a much more explicit linking between learning outcomes and the content and the assessment instruments that are being used.”
One of the side benefits that are coming from remote is that students are being exposed the sorts of skills that they will require when they move into the workplace in the next five, 10 or 15 years.
“Think about that lifelong learning journey, think about the soft skills and think about the kinds of professional abilities that they will need as they move into a more technology enabled future, the students are already using Teams, they’re using a variety of tools.
“In workplaces today you’re using Teams, you’re using SharePoint, Youtube, a whole variety of chat-based knowledge construction and collaboration tools,” Maguire says.
Image by Julia M Cameron from pexels