This week my children, a high school freshman and a senior, were quarantined at our home and instructed that all classes would be delivered in an online format. This would be an adventure for our children and I was excited to witness them learning in a new modality. But would it all go smoothly? Would teachers be able to get everything online? And would my children be able to access what they needed?
The old saying goes, “We love technology when it works.” We have all had those frustrating moments when just at the critical moment you need technology to work, it does not.
Day 1: The online education adventure begins
My children sat at their respective desks waiting in both anticipation and anxiety for their classes to begin. The schedule was set up so they did not start class until 10:00 am. Extra sleep and a block schedule already started the opportunity out on the right foot. The reminder alarm went off at 9:50 am for them to login and be prepared. (As someone who works from home and interacts with colleagues and clients remotely, I had given them this advice.) This gave them time to solve any connectivity issues, etc. if they did not enter the online classroom right away.
As the minutes drew closer to 10:00 am, the circle of death appeared. You know, the one that keeps spinning while you are waiting to be let into the online environment. My daughter looked up and gave me a look of panic and said to me, “Now what do I do”? Calmly, I went into troubleshooting mode: Was there a strong WIFI signal? Do you have your mic turned on? Can you hear others? Can you hear the presenter? Is your chat box working? As we went down the list and ticked off the troubleshooting items one by one, the class start time came and went. The minutes were passing by quickly on the 20-minute session for this class. It was evident through the chat box the students were all confused. Finally, 10-minutes into the class, the presenter entered a message indicating they were having technical problems on their end and to “hold tight.” Unfortunately, the problem was not fixed for this class or the subsequent two classes for that day’s schedule, meaning no instruction and no homework.
Some tips for schools and institutions, straight from a mom
My children’s first online classroom experience, thanks to COVID-19, was a 2 on a 5-point scale. Keeping positive, I shared with my children these things happen and we cannot give up after the first day, or the second, or the third. The good news is the school knows there is a problem and they are working to solve it.
However, as I reflected on the first of many days of a two-week online learning experience, I wish I could turn back the clock and share some tips with schools. I know, hindsight is 20/20. But if this could be helpful to anyone still transitioning, here are some tips that might be helpful, from this mom’s perspective:
- Thorough training on all platform functions are essential (e.g. chat features, microphones, video, hand raising, voting/polling, etc.)
- Ability to troubleshoot real-time
- Communication to all (i.e. students, faculty, parents, etc.) is key
- Engagement of the participants through voting/polling, videos, etc. to avoid boredom or lack of focus
- Plan B if Plan A completely falls apart
As quarantine continues, I do hope that we will all come through this event with key insights. This experience could make a significant impact on students as they decide whether any form of online learning is in their future or not.
As a community of individuals in the education space, let’s encourage one another to share our challenges and how we are solving them. Let’s turn this COVID-19 virus into something that gives us positive outcomes.
Are you in the process of getting your courses online? Check out our guide to assess the technology, design your course, and stay sane.