Schools worldwide face difficult choices as they try to balance student and staff safety with their educational mission during the pandemic. All-remote learning eliminates the risk of an outbreak at the school, but at-home education doesn’t provide the most productive learning environment for everyone, and it can put at-risk students at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons.
Schools and districts are making decisions about their approach by taking into account factors like virus prevalence in their area and student and family needs. An August 2020 McKinsey report notes that in the U.S., about 75 percent of the 50 largest districts started this school year on an all-remote basis. Others returned to all in-person learning, and some had to shut down again due to outbreaks.
Some districts have adopted a hybrid model where online instruction alternates with in-person teaching in classrooms that have reduced class sizes and social distance protocols in place. Hybrid education can help schools address the needs of vulnerable learners, including younger children who are difficult to engage online, as well as low-income and special education students, along with English-language learners.
Data Is the key to hybrid learning success
A hybrid approach can give districts the flexibility they need to safely transport students to school and provide in-person instruction at a safe distance. But maintaining two instructional models makes it more important than ever to monitor education data closely. Teachers and administrators need to collect and analyze data so they can identify trends and address problems to improve student success.
Critical data in aggregate form might include enrollment numbers, attendance, course completion rates, graduation rates, and demographics like age, race, gender, economic status, and special education needs across the student population. On a classroom level, key data can include grades on quizzes, tests, and education assessment instruments; engagement levels; and teacher observations.
Survey data from students and parents can be critical in building an effective hybrid program or making adjustments along the way. In a recent report on hybrid learning, Bree Dusseault of the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education recommends surveying students and parents to gauge preferences and maximize hybrid program effectiveness.
Establish a baseline and use data to monitor progress
Before educators can help students move forward, they have to understand their current academic status. Assessment tools like standardized tests can help. Once they have established a baseline, educators can use data to monitor progress toward educational goals. Analytics tools can also help teachers and administrators spot broad trends, such as a drop in grades during the post-holiday period.
With data that points to clear patterns, educators can take steps to address a negative trend, like providing additional instruction or enlisting parents in the effort to keep students focused. At-home education is tough on working parents, but more data on children’s performance can help teachers keep parents informed and indicate where a student needs extra attention.
Analysis of aggregate data can help educators gain insight into the needs of underserved groups and create more balanced educational opportunities. Surveying parents and students can help schools identify obstacles to at-home learning, such as broadband limits or technology barriers, so the school can plan accordingly and ensure that everyone has the resources they need.
Choose the right data-collection tools
Most educators have access to at least some district, state, and national data that can help them make decisions, but they often need more in-depth information. Secure, cloud-based data-collection tools can help teachers and administrators collect the targeted data they need to optimize hybrid learning and keep track of online and in-classroom activities.
For example, cloud-based forms allow educators to distribute online quizzes, collect signups for extracurricular activities or class registration, and distribute course evaluations. Educators can use online survey forms to gain valuable data from students and/or parents to better understand student needs. They can then use that information to design an effective hybrid program.
Although vaccine distribution is a hopeful sign that educators can return to more normal operations soon, schools around the world are going to be dealing with remote instruction for the foreseeable future, and hybrid arrangements may be here to stay. Schools that collect and analyze data to design a program that meets student needs will be best positioned to adapt to whatever comes next.
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