Originally posted HERE
There is a lot not to like about low quality remote and distance learning. As a learner, it can make you feel lonely and distant from the learning. It can also create a dislike for the content being presented. It can spark confusion, extra work, and a general sense that you are just going through the motions. This has been the feedback that many educators have received from their students over the past few years when many were forced into learning through this method.
The explosion of low quality remote and distance learning that consumed the daily learning experience of almost every teacher and every student throughout the pandemic has created a negative connotation around all remote and distance learning. There is truly a black eye on remote and distance learning because it was designed and received in truly horrible conditions. We asked many teachers to attempt this type of teaching for the first time in their career. We asked many students to try to grow this way for the first time in their education careers as well. Coupling this with the technology concerns and constraints that many districts and households faced and distance and remote learning was set up to fail.
Articles abound that distance learning was a failure.That students lost learning because of the types of instruction that they received while they were at home. There was much celebration about bringing students back into the classroom we’re learning can “truly happen.” It is true that excellent learning happens in many of our classrooms on many days in many moments. It is true that both teachers and students generally prefer this type of social learning environment. This momentum for in-person learning was always working against those trying to build a robust and effective remote and distance learning environment for students.
This current reality is unfortunate though because there are many instances when remote and distance learning can be a very effective way for some learners to grow in some subject matters, some of the time. Unfortunately our last iteration of remote and distance learning was all students all of the time and in all subjects. This was not an effective way to tap into the potential of this type of learning.
This is also not a new type of learning. There are many students around the country that are experiencing high-quality virtual instruction from high-quality instructors that understand how to design and implement this type of learning. Some students flourish in this environment, so it is not an environment that we can ignore if we want to serve all students.
It is important that we reboot the possibilities of distance and remote learning quickly. If we have years of people saying that this type of learning isn’t what students need, then there will be a lingering black eye on pandemic learning which is what was really happening over the course of the last few years when students were sent home in mass to learn remotely? How do we begin this reboot?
We should begin by studying what works. We have many students that have exceptional experiences with online learning because of the amount of learning science that has been put into the design of their remote and distance learning experience. We need to use that to scale. We need to use that information to train our teachers that are going to begin to integrate this into their systems of teaching over time. Even teachers that teach students face to face on a daily basis use some platforms that need to be well designed to support their daily instruction. We can learn from best practices in remote and distance learning.
We need to see distance and remote learning as school choice. High-quality opportunities for students to grow should be available and promoted in all schools. There is no reason a student anywhere in this country shouldn’t be able to take a course because their school doesn’t offer it. This course choice coupled with schedule choice should be promoted by all schools as a way to increase student engagement and focus in the classroom. There are many students that have acute and chronic medical conditions that can benefit from high-quality remote learning as well. Too often these students are packed into distance and remote learning that is low quality and is all about jumping through hoops and collecting points. This can’t be the future of this type of learning.
Now more than ever we need more paths and paces for students to excel. Even though the recent past has shown us that the worst of the remote and distance learning may be one of the the worst options, we need to lean into the fact that this was truly not by definition high-quality distance and remote learning. We need to rebrand the best of this method of learning in a way that allows educators to innovate and change, so that the needs of all students can be served.