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Remote learning options help educators navigate challenges as they deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

5 workable scenarios for flexible pandemic learning

Remote learning options help educators navigate challenges as they deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

We all thought and hoped we were out of the COVID woods, but the rise of the Delta variant left school districts, parents, and teachers rethinking their back-to-school plans. The first wave of the coronavirus left children fairly unscathed, but this new variant is something different.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants and current evidence suggests it might cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people. This is particularly worrisome for parents and educators because children under 12 have not yet been allowed to be vaccinated.

During the first shutdown, schools learned a lot about how to effectively deploy remote and hybrid learning set-ups. According to the Center for American Progress, in the 20-21 school year, 74 percent of the 100 largest school districts in the U.S. chose remote learning only as their back-to-school instructional model. This impacted more than 9 million students.

One of the key items consistently seen as a critical element to help maintain a semblance of continuity for both teachers and students has been the use of video and audio. While it doesn’t replace the experience of being in person, in the classroom, video can enable the teacher to be seen and heard and use the teaching style they are used to. Video is also extremely important for younger students and those who struggle with working memory who can have trouble understanding a series of written instructions.  

According to, video gives remote learning options for students with different learning styles to engage in a topic. For instance, the teacher might allow students to read an article about gravity, attend a live video lesson or watch a pre-recorded video lesson.

Pre-recorded video can remove barriers to learning in many ways, including:

  • Students who need more processing time can pause and rewind the video.
  • Students who benefit from repetition can watch it as many times as they want.
  • Students can take notes as they wish at their own pace.
  • Students who are deaf or hard of hearing can read the closed captioning.
  • Students who benefit from being given notes can review a transcript.

Flexibility is clearly ingrained in any viable solution. There are essentially five workable scenarios that encompass most in-person, hybrid, and distanced learning situations.

Scenario 1: Smaller rooms, larger screens, fewer students.

This scenario allows for social distancing within smaller spaces. It’s important to have 4K technology so students far away can see the screen and those in close can also clearly see the content without any pixilation issues.

Scenario 2: Larger rooms, larger screens, socially distanced students.

This scenario calls for half the number of students to be in the classroom for social distancing. Larger screens and projectors with greater brightness and long lamp life are needed so students in the back of the room can see the content clearly.

Scenario 3: Personal spaces, personal screens, remote students.

This is a pure virtual learning situation where students and the instructor are all completely remote. The display technology that is needed to optimize the experience includes cameras, desktop monitors, large LCD monitors, and projection systems of various sizes. Again, bigger is better. The reason is small laptop screens add to a growing concern called computer vision syndrome for both students and teachers. According to the American Optometric Association, computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, which describes a group of eye- and vision-related problems, can result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. If students have a larger screen, their eyes do not have to work so hard to see, read and comprehend the information.

Scenario 4: Mid-size room, multiple screens, present and remote students

This is a hybrid situation that is most similar to traditional environments. Screens are mounted or projected to the back of the room. The instructor can stand at the front of the room and still see the faces of all the students in the class. Of all the scenarios, this allows the teachers and professors to maintain their teaching style, enable continuity and quality of instruction with the greatest amount of natural, personal interaction.

Scenario 5: Mobility for as-needed convenience

Sometimes a flexible, mobile solution is called for. Many schools have implemented an a la carte, “on a cart” approach using 65-inch, 4k monitors. The monitors are installed on a wheeled cart with a camera and stand-alone PC to use among several rooms. When video conferencing is needed, the cart can be rolled into the classroom and learning can commence.

Technology can help

The pandemic made the world pivot in a number of unexpected ways. One of the core lessons learned is that our society is up for the challenge, but it will take a great deal of flexibility to make things work in a positive way. This is shown in how some classrooms are providing synchronous, real-time learning through videoconferencing, while others are leveraging not real-time, at-your-own-pace learning with recorded videos, worksheets and other online assignments for at-home learning.

Whatever the approach, there are challenges, but because of today’s technology, schools can overcome the obstacles brought on by the global pandemic and remote learning so educators can teach and help prepare the up and coming generation to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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