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Virtual Learning: the New Pillar of Education

by Eddie Rayner

by Derek Devine, Senior International Business Development Manager at Edmentum

As the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world, the challenge for teachers and parents alike has been finding ways of engaging students with curriculum content remotely, so their progress can be accurately measured and their education doesn’t fall behind. Eight months into the global shutdown, it is clear that virtual learning has played a critical role in facilitating learning and minimising disruption during this challenging time in many educational institutions.

 Although many countries reopened schools in September, the impact of the Coronavirus continues to be felt across educational communities – with many children (and in some cases, whole year groups) self-isolating due to exposure to the virus, and others in high-risk groups remaining at home to ‘shield’. Additionally, schools have been faced with rapidly widening attainment gaps and losses in learning, whilst simultaneously struggling with the unpredictable education landscape presented by Covid-19.

Since March 2020, edtech and virtual learning provisions have been uniquely placed to support teachers and pupils throughout this pandemic and will undoubtedly continue to act as a lifeline for lost learning into 2021. 

Personalised learning 
Edtech is uniquely placed to provide a personalised curriculum to young people, whether they are learning in the classroom or working remotely. With blended learning set to form a foundational part of the curriculum for the foreseeable future, it is vital that students are able to embark upon personalised learning plans, whether at school or home.

This provision allows teachers to feel confident that each pupil has access to a high-quality, curriculum-aligned education that is specifically tailored to each child’s needs, wherever they are learning from. Unlike offline learning provisions, edtech can track the progress of pupils and help identify and work on the pain points in each pupil’s learning – so teachers are not only able to consistently monitor pupil attainment but also know pupils are receiving targeted academic support.  

Personalisation is always important – pandemic or no pandemic – as young people learn in different ways, at varying speeds, with individual strengths and weaknesses. If young people are being taught material that is either above or below their ability level, this can jeopardise their engagement with their learning path. However, if they are being taught material that is directly targeted at their ability level, they have a much greater chance of remaining engaged with their learning at their own pace, and in turn, have a better chance of thriving academically.

Targeted instruction and diagnostic support
In these uncertain times, it is all too easy for pupils to fall behind, even when provided with high-quality learning. Sadly, it is even more likely this will go unnoticed when schools are having to tackle the problems that come with navigating this pandemic. This is where edtech can step in, as the right sort of learning technologies will offer targeted intervention and support as soon as a pupil is displaying signs of struggling with, or even withdrawing, from their learning. 

Teaching and learning is a two-way process that involves instruction and feedback on the amount of learning that is taking place. Real-time formative feedback is embedded into many packages, which enables teachers to evaluate the learning that has taken place and adjust their instructional strategies appropriately.Through utilising edtech programmes to help monitor pupil engagement, teachers can stay informed of where any gaps in learning might be, how serious they are, and what measures might be implemented to help close them. In addition to prioritising attainment levels, these features also help build a sense of community in this strange new digital world – as well as freeing up valuable time for teachers to do what they do best: teach.

Unsurprisingly, the use of edtech has increased significantly through schools across the world and looks likely to have won itself a more permanent place in the classrooms of the future. This is a positive step, as we have not seen the last of the pandemic disruption, and all schools have a herculean task in addressing the long-term issues this will cause for both teachers and pupils. Thankfully, with personalised learning and targeted intervention provisions, some of the burdens can be lifted from the shoulders of teachers, and pupils can feel reassured that they will not be left behind as a result of this pandemic.

Derick Devine, has been working with international schools for over eight years, including running workshops on how assessment data can enhance teaching and learning in the classroom in the UAE. More recently, Derek has been focusing on supporting schools with the implementation of hybrid learning models.