As citizens across the country continue to practice social distancing guidelines for the foreseeable future, every industry will undergo unprecedented rapid change. The K-12 education industry is no exception.
As schools adapt to the new learning landscape, we must prioritize every child’s academic, emotional and social growth. There are many just concerns about what’s next for our nation’s students. Many parents are scared their children will not be able to adjust smoothly to learning outside of school. Others are worried their children will lack the resources needed, or that they will fall through the cracks. However, we must not let our fears hinder the potential for student progress and innovation. A new world awaits parents and students as they wade into the area of on-line learning.
While there is no simple substitute for the traditional instruction that takes place between teachers and students in the classroom, there are many high potential options for families to choose from in the virtual learning arena. Of the many clarities this crisis will bring, one is the abundance of online resources and tools that are now available for students and families. This realization of educational resources that have been developed, tested, and proven over the last 20 years will likely jolt us into a revolution in personalized learning.
I expect many families, students and educators will learn these facts among others: students can learn in many ways outside of the traditional school model that has dominated our educational landscape for generations. They can learn at their own pace and go as fast as they are able or as slow as needed to achieve mastery. They can be taught according to their learning style and how they best learn. They can customize their curriculum around their interests and needs. They can create flexible schedules around times when they best learn. Best of all, they can learn in a way that doesn’t confine them to an artificial grade based upon how old they are.
Of course, we have seen the headlines: Governors issuing stay at home executive orders and closing school buildings for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. In many cases, this decision is absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. But that does not mean the learning should cease. School buildings may close, but the creativity and innovation does not have to come to a halt.
In times of uncertainty, we often take the safe route and shy away from risks and challenges. However, now is an opportune time to show we as a nation will do everything we can to support our children’s learning—they deserve nothing less. Kudos to the schools that are creating a productive learning environment leveraging some of the many resources available on-line during this situation. It may not be perfect. We will make mistakes. But, these mistakes will build resiliency and new knowledge. A brighter future for students and schools will come out of this if schools can leverage this “experiment” and find more and better ways to use on-line resources to enhance each student’s success. Many traditional schools have started down this path already. However, post COVID-19, the adaptation of these tools will only increase in speed. Parents armed with new knowledge and experience of these on-line, personalized learning opportunities will increasingly be asking for more.
At iEducation Group, we have embraced the uncertainty. When COVID-19 posed a threat to our face-to-face student learning across our 76 physical schools, our 2,000 teachers across the U.S. rose to the challenge. In just a few days, they rapidly transitioned from teaching in our one-to-one classrooms to provide nearly 30,000 classroom sessions of online learning and instruction per week. Our school leaders and teachers seamlessly executed the switch on a national scale without compromising the critical social and emotional support we provide to our families. We also launched Fusion Global Academy, a virtual school that allows students to experience our personalized learning model from anywhere in the nation and even the world. We’re just one example of the many incredible transformations that have occurred to accommodate the new normal.
Despite the challenges this crisis has brought, we all must remember this: our teachers and students are strong. Our communities and schools are capable. In the face of the pandemic, we must turn our fear into courage. The American education system can and will prevail. It will have to change, but it can be stronger than ever before. By adapting to the new state of personalized education available in many forms, we can conquer and overcome the challenges COVID-19 poses, allowing our students to triumph.