The pandemic effectively displaced 1.2 billion students from receiving classroom instruction in 2020. Coronavirus caught many schools and instructors by surprise. Consequently, many institutions received little time and resources to support the shift from in-class training to online. This isn’t saying that technology in education, specifically remote learning, is a new concept for schools, but most schools had to come up with a plan to change their mode of learning from in-person classroom to fully remote.
How did different technologies help this rapid transition from traditional to virtual classrooms? What are the limitations of popular remote learning tools? And, how can a fully-featured classroom management solution, like Radix TeacherView, help resolve these issues?
Using technology in education usually meant juggling between apps
Remote education isn’t just a video conferencing tool and an open book. Both teachers and students often switch between apps multiple times during a session.
Most students associate online learning with joining a videoconference session as one of the small squares that comprise the entire class. However, efficient online learning needs more than just an online meeting room.
At the minimum, an effective teaching session requires three platforms for the teacher; first, a classroom management solution that gives the instructor the authority and the tools to keep students in check and maintain their attention. The second is video conferencing software to serve as the primary means of visual and audio communication. And lastly, a learning management system (LMS) to manage the cloud storage for school and study-related documents. This includes school and student records, course syllabus, subject materials, activity books and other data.
A typical day in a virtual classroom
A typical online class session involves the teacher multi-tasking and handling multiple tasks and challenges at the same time. This includes ensuring all students are present and accounted for, making all course materials and activities ready for the sessions, managing the classroom, minimising disruptions and running the video conference meeting. Given the limited class hours, teachers are fighting a losing war with technology in education. Instead of devoting most of their teaching hours to educating, online sessions often mean more time spent managing the technology and making sure everybody stays connected.
Then, there’s the matter of managing students’ devices. In an ideal world, the prevailing technology in education means each student reports to the class using the same laptop that the teacher uses. In reality, issues in infrastructure and the limited availability of affordable computing machines mean varying network quality and device types. At the minimum, a class session connects all kinds of gadgets such as Macs, PCs, mobile phones, and tablets. With the variety of devices come a variety of operating systems — iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, and maybe even ChromeOS. Unless the system works seamlessly with various devices, a lot of precious school time goes to waste trying to get everyone on board and everything to work.
What is the future of remote learning?
While the future is still uncertain, most school systems are expecting a surge of students in the classrooms within the next few years. But what happens to remote learning when the pandemic dies down? What happens to the sizeable investments made by schools transforming their learning systems? Once students start trooping back to schools, what happens to their investments in remote technology?
The choice of remote teaching systems becomes crucial once schools realise that they will have to accept new methods of delivering classes at some point. In particular, schools can benefit from a flexible system that can be used for in-person learning, remote instruction, or hybrid classes. The latter means some participants are physically present in the classroom while some are connected remotely.
Investing in a learning system that can handle all three methods definitely provides the school the advantage of being ready for any situation. In addition, having a unified system lessens the learning curve and ensures both teachers and students find it easier to grasp and understand the system.
Current remote learning technology in education
The rapid spread of coronavirus necessitated the need for a quick solution, so most schools compromised with the readiest solution available: a mix of LMS and videoconferencing software with chat and screen sharing. By doing so, schools were able to transition classes faster to online learning. However, the gaps started showing up after months of conducting remote classes.
Limitations of standalone videoconferencing software
Standalone video conferencing systems often relegate the
majority of participants to bystanders.
Videoconferencing software provided an inexpensive, convenient way to connect entire classrooms via voice and video. The ability to share screens became a popular replacement for the whiteboard as well. Each participant also gets a small space of his own to show participation.
A standalone video conferencing software’s limitations become apparent when instructors try to manage a full classroom, engage each student, and facilitate simultaneous activities. Additionally, teachers are ‘blind’ when it comes to student activities during online classes. Most videoconferencing solutions only allow one participant to share a screen at a time; teachers have to rely on their students’ honesty and dedication when it comes to in-class activities.
Data security concerns
A crucial issue that took a back seat during the early days of the pandemic is data security. School administrators need to ensure that students’ data are kept secure and confidential. With online classrooms, data keeps flowing back and forth between participants with minimal network protection. On top of that, teachers require continuous access to school records that contain private information.
Teachers are already burdened trying to make the technology work in their classrooms. Managing school and student data privacy is the last thing they need to add to their tasks. Ideally, the teaching system should be compliant with existing policies regarding student data privacy, such as the provisions listed in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Both parents and teachers can feel better knowing that the cloud software used by students is FERPA-compliant and ensures secure connections during every session.
Advantages of modular and flexible learning systems
Optimised online learning systems work well across all devices, especially in cases where students need to make do with using smartphones due to the unavailability of PCs or tablets.
In most teaching systems, the learning management system is where the class syllabus, activities, schedules, records, and materials are stored and managed. It’s designed to ensure that students and teachers alike have access to data anywhere, anytime. While LMS features an efficient way to manage information, it often does not provide an embedded communication system that teachers can use to talk to their students; hence the need for a separate video conference software. This tool adds to the instructor’s already busy workday, who must learn how to deftly switch between the LMS and the video conferencing system to help students in case of questions or requests for additional instructions.
A modern approach to education in technology involves integrating the functions needed by instructors to successfully conduct an online class. This means providing a cloud-based distance learning platform that combines classroom management and video conferencing capabilities and access to learning management systems. Having a singular system that covers most of the online classroom requirements means less time tinkering with the settings and more time teaching eager young minds.