- The shift to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 will have a lasting impact on the way curricula and learning materials are delivered as new digital tools and practices adopted for that environment are adapted for classroom use, according to a national survey of 2,168 teacher and administrators conducted in March by Bay View Analytics.
- According to the survey results, 74% of teacher respondents were either in a fully remote environment or in a hybrid model, and 58% reported having no prior online teaching experience. Almost all respondents (97%) used some form of video instruction during the pandemic.
- The top techniques educators reported planning to continue use of post-pandemic include online polling or quizzes (41%), on-demand instructional videos (32%), one-on-one video meetings (25%), online tools to ensure academic integrity (24%) and project-based learning (23%).
The pandemic-driven shift to remote learning fast-tracked many districts' long-term plans to embrace 1:1 device programs and other digital initiatives, in addition to catalyzing efforts to close the digital divide and address the homework gap — in which students who lacked home internet and device access were left at a disadvantage when homework dependent on those tools is assigned.
With the digital tools adopted over the past year being integrated into curriculum in new ways, ensuring all students can connect will continue to be an area in need of attention. While the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program helps subsidize connectivity infrastructure for schools, it doesn’t help students who return home to houses without internet or computers. But $7.17 billion has been made available through the agency's Emergency Connectivity Fund via the American Rescue Plan.
As efforts to close the digital divide at the state, district and school levels, data also needs to be collected to provide insight into which tools are being used and what results they produced.
One resource currently available to help districts navigate this problem is the National EdTech Equity Dashboard, which shows engagement across different socio-economic and racially diverse groups. Research indicates districts with more than 25% of students in free- and reduced-priced lunch programs, as well as those with more than 50% of students identifying as Black or Hispanic, have lower digital engagement.
Now that significant investment has been made in that arena, it's up to schools to show that these tools can move the needle and provide a return in the form of student success and achievement.
Additionally, about 20% of districts have adopted, or are in the process of establishing, a long-term virtual school option after the pandemic ends, according to a RAND report. The report also highlighted concerns about learning disparities and student mental health in fully remote learning environments.