By Melany Stroupe
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically disrupted the education system for all involved: teachers, students and their parents. Learning modalities have mostly shifted online and remote learning has become commonplace. As part of recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, University of Phoenix commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a survey of more than 2,000 Americans to better understand their perceptions of the education systems’ shift to online learning for K-12 students, and the job teachers and administrators have done, since the pandemic began.
The online survey found that 82% of parents of K-12 virtual learners polled said they have a greater appreciation of the work teachers do to teach K-12 now than they did before the pandemic. Americans polled also agree (81%) that teachers have done the best they can to teach children under the unprecedented circumstances. However, the overwhelming majority of parents believe more support is needed from school systems for virtual learning to be successful. In order to succeed, 84% of parents agree teachers deserve more resources and support to be able to teach virtually.
“With the majority of K-12 students and their families experiencing virtual learning, people have developed a greater appreciation of teachers and the jobs they do, likely because parents’ role in educating their children has grown in the past year, due to the pandemic,” said Pamela Roggeman, Ed.D., academic dean for University of Phoenix College of Education. “They now recognize that there is so much more that goes into teaching than just a lesson plan and grading homework. Teachers also work on addressing the social and emotional needs of students, which is essential to a student’s personal growth.”
Many parents have had to make accommodations at home to support virtual learning for their children. Some had to rearrange their time and invest in educational tools. Other families lost access to social services provided by the school like lunch and after-school programs. The poll found that the most common actions to adjust to online learning included finding a dedicated space for virtual learning (45%), spending time helping with homework (42%) and sitting with their children during lessons (41%). For 37% of parents of K-12 virtual learners, remote learning required upgrading internet speed, buying a new device, and purchasing school supplies.
Many people believe remote learning is here to stay, in some capacity and are wondering about the long-term effects of virtual learning. The survey asked parents of K-12 virtual learners both about the benefits of virtual learning and concerns. For many parents, virtual learning has been an effective resource with 46% saying they spend more time with their children, 44% have learned more about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and 44% say they have a more flexible schedule.
While many believe virtual learning has been mostly effective and has some benefits, 60% of parents think their children may have fallen behind academically. Many parents also believe some benefits of in-person learning cannot be replicated in a virtual environment. The top concerns are the social aspects of learning (54%), establishing a sense of community with other children (47%), learning from and with other children (social learning (47%), one-on-one interaction with the teacher (46%), and access to social services provided in school (44%).
“I have always believed parents are the first teachers of their children and that has never been truer than it is now,” said Dr. Roggeman. “Parents have the greatest awareness of their individual child’s needs. I encourage parents to take an honest assessment of where they think their child has fallen behind this year, and then make a plan to help them catch up.”
Dr. Roggeman recommends the following tips if you are concerned your student has fallen behind:
• Use your child’s teacher as a resource. If a parent is concerned about learning loss, talk to their teacher to find out your child’s academic needs. Some teachers offer tutoring services. Teachers will also be aware of programs the school district offers. An open line of communication with your child’s teacher will help you identify their learning gaps so you can address them.
• Consider your child’s individual needs. For some children, their emotional or social needs may have suffered more than their academics. If this is the case, online school in the summer may not be the best option. Consider camps, sports, arts programs or play dates to engage them socially. Look for discounted summer programs through your city’s parks and recreation department and other neighboring school districts.
• Look for ways to serve the community. The pandemic has taught us that we are all in this together, but we are not all experiencing it the same way. This is a great time to teach your children the importance of community through volunteering. Older children can build leadership skills. Look for volunteer opportunities that will help your child grow, or partner with your neighbors to create your own community activities.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix April 16 – 20, 2021 among 2,063 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, of which 514 identified as parents of K-12 virtual learners. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and, therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Melany.Stroupe@phoenix.edu.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses and interactive learning help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. We serve a diverse student population, offering degree programs at select locations across the U.S. as well as online. For more information, visit phoenix.edu.