To deliver optimal outcomes long term, secondary and tertiary institutions must start viewing and doing things differently, writes Jamf Senior Education Account Executive, Francesco Garbellini.
Last year’s COVID crisis forced the local education sector to increase its dependence on digital technology dramatically across the board. Overnight, it became a lifeline for schools, universities and vocational institutions, enabling them to continue instructing and examining their students remotely.
Levels of preparedness for this new pedagogical model varied widely. In schools where technology was already deeply embedded, teachers and students were able to make the switch to remote learning with relative ease. Other institutions found themselves caught on the hop. Ensuring students had workable devices and access to the internet at home was the primary challenge for some, while others were forced to give educators a crash course in Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and digital content creation.
A year on, life and learning have largely returned to normal. But all signs indicate that hybrid learning – a blend of face-to-face and online instruction and assessment – is here to stay. If it’s to work well as a permanent arrangement, rather than merely as a stopgap measure, education providers will need to make a number of adjustments to their policies and practices. Here are a few of them.
Usage policies for devices
Requiring students to learn via mobile devices can raise misgivings for parents and teachers alike. What if they spend the day playing games or posting on social media rather than using their iPad or tablet for educational purposes? It’s a legitimate concern, given the younger generation’s collective and unwavering enthusiasm for screen time. During COVID, many schools switched to digital learning without developing and implementing usage policies, but in the long term, they’re a must if students are to be kept on task during school hours.
Flexible learning materials
Classroom learning is inherently inflexible. It takes place at set hours, in a central location. Conversely, digital lessons can be consumed at a time and place of the student’s choosing. To enable classes to learn flexibly, schools and educators must provide access to engaging and relevant content, including pre-recorded video lessons and tutorials.
Engagement with parents
While some parents have always taken an active interest in their children’s education, remote learning made them an integral part of the journey. Under a hybrid model, they’ll remain so. To maintain their buy-in and support long-term, schools will need to take the lead, engage with parents, formulate and agree on shared goals, and assist them in managing the learning process at home. Providing tools that ensure devices are used for work, not play, during learning hours will be key.
Not all teachers are tech-savvy and know their way around the myriad of platforms and programs that can be harnessed for teaching and learning purposes. Many were thrown in the deep end by last year’s unplanned pivot to digital. Picking up tips and tricks on the fly allowed them to carry on teaching during lockdowns, but ongoing professional development will help them become more proficient in the use of digital tools – and provide an understanding of how they can be incorporated into classroom practices more effectively. Peer learning and mentoring also have a vital role to play. Institutions that want their teams to become successful hybrid educators should be encouraging staff to share ideas and successful practices with colleagues.
The right tools
Without technology to maintain and monitor equipment and software, the best-planned hybrid learning program will grind to a halt as soon as there’s a technical hitch. A mobile device management solution can automate the process of configuring, updating, securing and managing multiple laptops and tablets, making it simple and cost-effective for schools to take control of their digital fleets. Solutions such Schoolwork, an iPad add that assists teachers, can support enhancing student potential and save teachers time.
Smarter teaching and learning in 2021 and beyond
The way education is delivered in Australia has changed since COVID and hybrid learning appears to be here to stay. The onus is on providers to ensure teachers, students, and parents have the skills and tools they need to make the model sustainable and successful in the long term.
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