Creating meaningful learning opportunities for K-12 students during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

By John Woods, Chief Academic Officer and Provost

2.41 min read

Caregiver holding a senior woman's hands

In what felt like the blink of an eye, COVID-19 became the single most disruptive event in the history of K-12 education. More than 120,000 schools shut down, impacting 55 million students across the United States.[1]

Teachers, district leaders, parents and educators moved quickly to bring K-12 education online, leveraging the resources available to them but often without a clear framework for success or a longer- term plan. The result? Overworked teachers, overwhelmed parents, perplexed district leaders, and devastatingly – more students falling behind than ever before.

This time of year, we are accustomed to students experiencing what has been coined summer slide, or an academic setback over the summer. But projections based on data collected from seasonal learning loss suggest that school closures as a result of the pandemic are creating a COIVD-19 slide, which could have much longer lasting and more devastating impacts on students’ academic growth.

A white paper by Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Research projects that students will return to school in fall 2020 with roughly 70 percent of learning gains in reading relative to a typical year and less than 50 percent of learning gains in math. In some grades, the research estimates student will be nearly a full year behind expected learning gains.[2]

The disruption caused by COVID-19 is much more impactful than learning loss over the summer. This pandemic could extend for months or reemerge in the fall, forcing educators to be prepared to support students who will most likely be behind academically and develop necessary contingency plans if the need for virtual education persists.

At University of Phoenix virtual learning is in our DNA – we’ve been doing it successfully for more than 30 years. With this deep expertise to offer, we felt an urgent need to share it with the K-12 sector. That’s why we’ve joined forces with Blackboard to bring together leading K-12 and online teaching experts to launch the Alliance for Virtual Learning. Together, we’re offering free, online webinars and courses aimed at helping educators better prepare for the future of education, culminating with the first ever Virtual Teaching Academy this summer.

While there is a sea of resources available for teachers, their students and their families to help navigate online education, we realized there was a lack of future-looking support that focused on longer term planning. The availability of seamless virtual options will be critical to maintain continuity of learning, especially with social distancing measures becoming the norm and the threat of another COVID-19 wave in the fall.

The Virtual Teaching Academy is designed for exactly that. By helping teachers and administrators create a blueprint for the future of K-12 teaching, our hope is that schools will be better prepared to shift into virtual teaching when needed in a way that provides the best possible support and learning continuity for all students.

K-12 students are our future and schools provide the foundation for learning, social and emotional development. We don’t believe this should change, even in a pandemic. It is our hope that by offering our expertise as a leading partner in the Alliance for Virtual Learning, we will help students continue to engage in meaningful learning throughout this challenging time of the pandemic and beyond.

[1] https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html

[2] https://www.nwea.org/content/uploads/2020/04/Collaborative-Brief_Covid19-Slide-APR20.pdf