What does learning in a post-COVID world look like? Will schools convene in person again, will they have to move back to online learning in case of new viral outbreaks, or will learning remain online for now?

Pandemic Planning for Distance Learning: Scenarios and Considerations for PreK–12 Education Leaders, a report from New America, asks just those questions.

The report makes clear that schools will need to have some kind of distance learning plans in place for the fall–and they’ll need to ensure students have reliable internet access. Authors Kristina Ishmael, Rebecca Heiser, and Jennifer Payne lay out four possible scenarios for PreK-12 schools during the pandemic and after.

Related content: District tech successes in the midst of COVID

Brick to Click Learning: Districts have resumed some traditional face-to-face classes, but have the ability to quickly move to distance learning if a new wave of COVID-19 emerges. District leaders work closely with local government and health officials to monitor health, CDC guidance, and reopening procedures. Teachers received PD in online learning over the summer in order to be prepared for a quick move to online learning if necessary.

Click to Brick Learning: Districts begin their new year with online learning and hope to return to traditional classes on a modified basis when safe. Summer PD for teachers focused on online learning and will continue throughout the year. In this scenario, academic instruction will continue online for the entire year, and when it’s safe, in-person learning will resume but may not be fully attended. When teachers are face-to-face with students, they’ll have limited time and may focus more on SEL and special services that are more challenging to provide in an online environment.

Blended Learning: Districts combine in-person learning in schools with synchronous and asynchronous online learning. Teachers received PD in blended learning over the summer, and schools in each district are able to select from a number of blended learning models–for instance, younger students may spend more time learning in person, while older students might spend more time in online learning environments.

Online Learning: Districts keep learning online and take a purposeful approach to this kind of delivery. Synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities are available, and professional development focuses on a structured approach to online learning. This approach requires all stakeholders to find ways to communicate and form bonds with students, because learning does not take place face-to-face.

There are a number of considerations to address at all levels and in all four of the possible learning scenarios. Here are just a few of the many topics to address:

Operational management and administration: How will you continue to work toward meeting mission, vision, goals, and strategic plans when education is delivered online? How will your school district administer, deliver, and sustain high-quality distance education that aligns with state and federal policy?

Professional learning: How can professional learning be better embedded in the week-to-week routines of teachers and made relevant to specific challenges they face in their virtual or in-person classrooms?

Policy, standards, and assessment: How will districts determine attendance windows for state reporting? How will educators communicate with parents regarding grading or lack of student engagement? In what ways can students show mastery of standards and skills expected in each content area and grade level? How are courses being evaluated for standards-alignment, rigor, and more?

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Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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