Education has slowly made inroads to the digital world for the last decade or so. Many universities offer free or affordable programs, and many others offer entire degrees for students studying at home. However, with the pandemic, the industry of online education has become a mainstay.
For instance, it now involves elementary programs teaching kids at home, and this practice of public education for children and adults of all ages is something that is now in a somewhat messy state of affairs.
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For instance, teachers must grapple with the best ways to teach children as parents attempt to find a way to manage child supervision while also holding down a traditional or remote job.
Overall, this industry of online education is doing better than many people might have predicted. However, the process of educating someone online requires a greater understanding of the goals in mind and the best ways to reach those goals because educating people remotely is vastly different than educating them in a traditional school room.
In order to both understand the new practice of online education, students must be differentiated between K-12 students and college-level students. With these two basic categories established, it is important to focus on the following categories that apply to both.
- types of online education
- managing a class
- free programs
Regarding the programs for adults, this industry is fairly mature. It involves the following.
Regarding programs for children, these programs have been developed in a rushed manner. Although the subject matter remains the same for these programs, the traditional teaching style that teachers use in traditional schools needs to be supplemented with other methods that work well with online classes. These supplemental methods include the following
If educators approach online environments as if they are simply traditional environments, much opportunity to really engage and teach students will be lost.
Obviously, the goals behind online education involve increasing the knowledge and skills of the students. However, as in a traditional setting, the goals involve keeping people safe. Moreover, unlike a traditional setting, safety involves privacy of information and privacy in terms of connection.
Keeping children safe, of course, is difficult. In a traditional setting, officers are often posted on the grounds. Online, however, there is less danger from shootings than there is from hacking. As a result, the connections between students and educators need to be secure, but the process of sending people sign-on security codes to enter an online class can result in that security code being swiped. When this happens, a classroom can be hacked and disrupted. This type of classroom bombing is becoming common enough that a greater degree of attention must be placed on the security of entry codes.
Although it is not mandated, one solution is to ensure that online classrooms use HIPAA-compliant connections as they are secure enough for insurance companies and designed to keep information private.
Supervision is lacking in any online class. Proper supervision ensures students remain focused on the task or subject matter. For adult-level classes that are isolated and taken in a self-paced manner, this lack of engagement, supervision, or community can lead to lack of progress and procrastination. For children, this supervision can result in horseplay, such as texting during class.
The solution for adult-level classes is better engagement via group activities, multi-media, and one-on-one interaction. The solution for K-12 classes can be as simple as requiring two cameras. One camera should be on the student's face. The other should be placed above the student such that it focuses on the desk and hands. This solution, however, is not viable as teachers would become something akin to a surveillance educator, having to watch multiple screens. Additionally, the technology does not yet exist to accommodate such needs. Consequently, the problem of adequately supervising children must be done by somehow partnering with parents and babysitters to ensure no phones are allowed during sessions.
For any student or teacher, preparing for an online class involves meeting the minimum technological requirements. It also means setting up the camera and microphone ahead of time. Other tech-based prerequisites include adequate lighting and sound management.
In terms of subject matter, educators of children need to practice focusing on visual cues that are more difficult to manage online. These elements include the following.
In terms of technical requirements, educators should be adept at uploading files, sharing desktops, and using online whiteboards. Depending on the type of video-conferencing software being used to run the class, teachers must also become adept at switching between student cameras. For instance, many remote-conference hosts only show three to six feeds on the screen at any one time. Depending on the video-conference hosting software, an educator can then scroll through the student cameras. As the educator scrolls through students, the feed changes, and the student's face is visible on the classroom's teleconference feed. Educators need to become adept at scrolling in such a way that they both balance the need for a stable visual environment and the need to engage all students.
Obviously, each person has a role to fill. However, depending on the situation, these roles need to be enforced to varying degrees. For adult courses, the student's role is a self-motivated participant capable of remaining focused on the subject matter in such a way that he or she can complete the course in a reasonable amount of time, usually two to four weeks.
In terms of online classrooms, a child's role is much the same as it is in a traditional classroom. The desired role, of course, is for each student to be a willing participant in his or her own learning. However, the role is too often an unwilling student that needs lots of supervision.
In terms of online education, the role of the educator is multiplex. An educator must be at once a teacher, supervisor, and an authoritarian. However, he or she must also be a friend and personal coach or cheerleader capable of motivating children to do their best work.
However, the one role that an educator must fill that encompasses any online task is that of a feedback provider. Via feedback, an educator can increase engagement and help to increase recall of material.
Parent or care provider
The role of the parent or care provider is to ensure proper technological set up before and during class. The role, of course, also involves keeping the child safe and focused. When the parent or caregiver serves as a friendly taskmaster, online education really reaches its peak potential.
The secondary role of any parent or caregiver is to help a student bridge the difficulties involved with online education. These difficulties include motivation, stress, and boredom.
Of course, these roles intersect with the need to reach goals, and the best way to do achieve the desired goals is by imbuing students with enough in-home supervision to ensure focus while bolstering the home environment with engaging material that requires action on the child's part. As proven in a variety of online classes, using multi-media is the key way to engage children. Additionally, it is critical that educators adopt the best practices to increase learning.
The importance of identifying how each child responds to different motivators is key. For instance, one child might thrive on public praise. Another child might thrive on a simple private message that reads "great job!" Another child might thrive on being asked to find information online for the class. One of the best ways to increase engagement is by making the online environment social. However, the overall practice of engaging students must be personalized, or certain children will not benefit.
In terms of adult classes, the best online programs are truly free. From individual courses to complete degree programs, prospective students have access to the very best information.
Over the years, online education for adults has reached a relative phase of maturation. Students are typically motivated and can succeed in a self-regulated environment. However, in terms of K-12 programs, the challenges of security of information and personalized motivation are ongoing challenges to any program's success.