Sudden educational disruptions can have a detrimental effect on students of all ages. Unfortunately, these disturbances aren’t uncommon. From snow days and floods to infrastructure issues, there are plenty of unforeseen disruptions that can require districts to close schools. Students can also face disruptions in their education from short- or long-term absences, schedule changes, midyear teacher replacements or emergency remote instruction.
Districts can use blended learning to seamlessly incorporate tech-enhanced learning (TEL) into their classrooms. TEL is an effective way to bridge student learning gaps by preparing stakeholders for remote learning before they need it. The concept of blended learning has been gaining popularity, but until recently, most teachers lacked experience incorporating technology into their classrooms. A 2021 study from the Christensen Institute noted that just 16% of teachers reported using technology “a lot” before March 2020 compared with 83% in the fall of the same year.
Thankfully, there are tools that can help districts prepare for disruptions ahead of time. These tools, such as the right learning management system (LMS), can help districts build a culture of resiliency while at the same time reducing learning loss.
What Is Tech-Enhanced Learning?
TEL is the key to a successful blended learning environment, which combines the best aspects of in-person and online learning. It gives students flexibility and accessibility when they face disruption while still ensuring they have plenty of time for in-person education.
Preparing districts for disruptions by adopting a blended learning model early on can help reduce the impacts of classroom disruption. If students, teachers and parents alike are familiar with flexible learning—including the online and technological components—it makes for a more seamless transition between home and classroom.
3 Ways Districts Gain Resilience Through TEL
If disrupted learning is an unavoidable part of education, what can districts do to make sure they’re ready to face it? A tech-enhanced learning environment provides stakeholders with the tools they need to be resilient and helps reduce learning loss from missed time.
It Empowers Students, Teachers and Parents
Giving students, teachers, parents and guardians tools that equip them to overcome challenges is an empowering experience. Each of these stakeholders handles learning disruptions in unique ways. A blended learning environment can ensure their needs are met.
- Students can continue learning from home if they’re sick or there’s a snow day. They can access course content remotely and communicate with their teachers, limiting any negative effects on their learning.
- Teachers can maintain lesson plans if they’re absent or in-person class is cancelled, while things like virtual field trips can go ahead. They can easily check their students’ progress and devote extra time to those who may be struggling.
- Parents and guardians can track their children’s progress using an online portal to ensure they don’t fall behind if they do face disruption. Continued, flexible access to learning also eases the pressure if a child needs to be away unexpectedly.
The right LMS can equip students, teachers and parents with the tools to minimize disruption. Familiarizing these groups with an LMS before issues arise is the key to ensuring continuous learning.
It Helps Counter the Effects of Disruption
Significant educational disruptions like illness can often lead to significant learning loss and hardship outside the classroom.
For learners in these situations, a tech-enhanced environment can make credit recovery easier and more flexible, allowing students to learn at their own pace and when it’s most convenient for them. Some districts have been incorporating TEL methods for years: a 2015 iNACOL (now Aurora Institute) report found that more than 75% of school districts were already using blended and online learning for expanded course offerings and credit recovery.
The same report also noted that “educators find that online and blended learning are effective ways to reach students who fail one or more courses, become disengaged, or who seek an alternative to traditional education.” The ability to take multiple courses at once in districts with limited resources and to do classwork when it’s convenient can improve students’ abilities to make up courses.
It Comes With Many Other Benefits
The many benefits of a blended learning environment can also help students thrive in the face of disruption. A blended learning environment:
- provides students with autonomy over their learning, which helps minimize the need for completely in-person learning
- enhances communication thanks to tools like announcement features, discussion forums and parent-and-guardian portals
- improves accessibility and reach by putting an emphasis on tools like accessibility checkers, closed captions and assistive technology integrations
Tech-enhanced learning is generally an accessible and flexible option for stakeholders, but it really shows its worth in instances of disruption. While many districts have had to quickly become familiar with blended learning, taking the time to prepare students, teachers and parents ahead of time benefits each party. Districts can become more resilient by employing the right tools to create blended learning environments.
Want to Know More About Blended Learning?
Chase Banger is a Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. An award-winning journalist and former communications specialist, he has a passion for helping people through education.
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