A version of this post was originally published in Education World, in March 2021.
Covid-19 has impacted the world in many ways, but it has also laid the foundations for astonishing transformation in education. While it has exposed the gaps in traditional public education, it has unearthed the many possibilities of online learning and the benefits of a flexible education approach.
There is no question that school closures and the transition to remote learning have been a challenge for many students and educators, especially for children without access to devices and internet connectivity at home. However, we have also seen how some of them have thrived with a more flexible online learning model which supports self-paced, personalized, and independent learning.
This has sparked a much-needed debate around the future of education. It has provided a unique opportunity to reassess how we deliver teaching and learning in the 21st Century. It has also highlighted the need to take alternative methods, such as online teaching and blended learning, more seriously when catering to a broader range of students.
The new age of personalized online learning
With much uncertainty remaining around schools reopening and variation across states, it is unsurprising that there has been a significant spike in schools offering hybrid learning and families seeking home-schooling options. According to a recent USA Today poll, 60 percent of parents with K-12 children said they were more likely to consider home-learning than sending their children back to school.
Of course, face-to-face teaching remains a valuable part of the education experience. Yet, the pandemic has shown how virtual classrooms can also provide an engaging, accessible, and interactive option for learners, especially those who struggle with traditional classroom teaching methods.
As any educator will tell you, each student is different, and a teaching method that works well for one child might not work for another. Some students will be much quicker to pick up new concepts, while others might need more time to solidify their understanding. Some students, for example, those with behavioral issues or medical challenges, might be better able to concentrate on their studies outside of the regular school day hours and without the distractions which come with the physical classroom environment.
Online learning can also provide students the flexibility and confidence to focus and thrive with their studies. For instance, many schools and universities find that students feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas when they don’t understand a topic in an online setting, which improves their engagement with the subject.
Teachers have greater scope for planning personalized content and timetables for students according to their abilities without impacting their workloads. Additionally, they can enable students to learn at a pace that suits them and benefit from individualized learning.
The flipped classroom concept
It is no secret that a one-size-fits-all learning model simply does not work for the majority of students. Covid-19 has accelerated the shift towards edtech to deliver a more flexible, dynamic, and accessible education experience.
We have seen that education doesn’t have to stop just because schools are closed. Traditional teaching approaches are not always conducive to nurturing well-rounded, independent thinkers. We live in a digital age with a generation of students who have grown up confident using technology and consuming content through digital devices.
Through harnessing edtech tools, we can explore new ways of reaching and engaging with children who might have been closed-off to traditional teaching methods. An increasingly popular method during the pandemic is flipped classroom learning.
Read more: Exploring 4 types of Flipped Learning
Whether used as a standalone teaching tool or as part of a hybrid approach, online learning lends itself to a fun and engaging educational experience. The flipped classroom method promotes independent and student-led thinking rather than a reliance on the teacher’s instruction. Students have access to learning materials and objectives and can complete any assigned tasks ahead of class. For example, a teacher might create a math quiz in the LMS for students to take before the lesson.
Lesson time, therefore, becomes a space for group discussion and collaboration, freeing up time for specific queries and feedback. Doing so encourages students to take ownership of their learning, to develop their independent thinking skills, and, more importantly, to self-reflect on their comprehension. These are all crucial skills that will stand young people in good stead for adulthood if developed now.
Of course, the flipped classroom model is most effective when combined with regular support from the teacher. For any parent or school considering an online learning platform, it is important to select one that facilitates teacher monitoring and assessment remotely.
Learning platforms that allow students to communicate with their teachers and classmates at any time. Sharing when they’re taking a quiz or if they have a query about the lesson can also help to replicate the social interaction benefits of a physical classroom setting. This element allows students to feel connected with their teacher while maintaining a sense of independence with their learning.
Read more: Teaching SEL skills in online education
All in all
Many educators have had to adapt quickly to new online learning platforms and video conferencing tools while figuring out new ways to keep students engaged and motivated. The flipped classroom can be a highly effective teaching method for online learners, providing them with the freedom to access learning materials and independent study while still benefiting from live teacher support. Using an LMS enables educators to get creative and plan flexible, personalized lessons, which encourage students to take charge and, more importantly, enjoy the learning experience.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and NEO. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author and educator.