As COVID-19 swept across the nation, school districts all over the country turned to remote learning as a safer alternative to in-classroom education. Although this seemed like an effective way to avoid problems related to the pandemic, many schools faced challenges when offering a fully remote learning experience.
To start, school districts struggled to obtain the parts and equipment needed to transition to an online learning environment. Although cooperatives like the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies had contracts in place to help schools quickly receive equipment, internet access remained an issue. Many students did not have adequate connectivity in their areas.
Additionally, many students found it difficult to focus when separated from their peers and teachers in a remote-learning environment. Not everyone is able to learn independently, as many students depend on individualized teacher instructions and peer-to-peer interactions. It’s difficult to achieve this level of communication when students can only interact through their computers.
Understanding the Homework Gap
Given the challenges that students faced, many schools experienced a “homework gap” where students struggled to complete their work due to internet problems, communication issues, and a lack of quick feedback. Students who didn’t possess basic technology skills and were navigating remote learning without internet fell behind drastically on their schoolwork. This caused significant disruptions in their education.
Recognizing the digital divide in schools, many districts decided to implement a hybrid learning system, which helped create balance for students by incorporating more traditional learning experiences into students’ remote environments. Switching to a hybrid system also helped combat other remote-learning challenges for students.
While a fully remote system requires students to remain at home 100 percent of the time, a hybrid education approach enables students to go to school part-time. Implementing hybrid learning was a game-changer in a lot of respects. Students experienced many benefits: Better internet access, tactile learning, better feedback, social interaction, consistent lunches while at school, and more time outside of the house so parents and guardians could return to work.
The Challenges of Hybrid Learning
Still, some students who were able to utilize the hybrid schedule continued to struggle with inconsistent internet access and completing their work at home. In the United States, more than 6 percent of the population lacks adequate access to internet services. These days, adequate internet access is a necessity — especially when it comes to the education system.
Simply put, students need to be connected in order to learn in both hybrid and remote environments. The internet also helps students better engage with peers across the globe and increases their interest in learning new things. School districts must address issues with internet connectivity and remote communication now to better prepare for the future of learning.
The author, Lisa Truax, is the procurement solutions coordinator at Cooperative Purchasing Connection, a multi-state purchasing consortium for schools, city and county governments, and nonprofit organizations.