Pandemic Pushes Individualized Approach To Learning
The sudden switch to remote learning was traumatic for many families, students and teachers, but Dartmouth panelists also believe the pandemic has made way for a more individualized and modular approach to learning.
Brian Greenberg '95
Silicon Schools Fund
Adam Medros '96
President and Co-CEO
Ariana Dugan '09
VP of Product Enterprise
Laura Zado '08
Dean of Instruction and Culture
Summit Public Schools
Jorge Miranda '01
Sr Director of High Schools
Eliza Kahn '05
The pandemic has changed learning from kindergarten to continuing education, according to a Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum panel discussion entitled, “Has the Pandemic Changed Online Education Forever?”
The panel, which took place on Wednesday at noon, was hosted by Brian Greenberg’95,CEO of Silicon Schools Fund. The panelists were Adam Medros’96, president and co-CEO of edX; Ariana Dugan ’09 vice-president of Product Enterprise at General Assembly; Laura Zado ’08, Dean of Instruction and Culture at Summit Public Schools; Jorge Miranda, Senior Director of High Schools at KIPP Foundation; and Eliza Khan, Strategic Partnerships Lead at Outschool.
The transition to remote learning wasn’t easy for anyone. Zado described the abrupt change as traumatic for students, teachers and families. However, some people made the shift easier than others. Schools that already had a culture of integrating technology and — even more importantly — having flexibility in responding to challenges, were able to adjust more quickly than schools that did not, the panelists said. Overcoming the technology challenges was easier than overcoming a rigid culture, said Greenberg.
Zado emphasized that remote learning isn’t working well for all children, particularly those who have more tumultuous home lives.
“The huge equity gaps that existed before are being emphasized now,” she said. “There’s still so far to go, and I am truly worried for when we come back to in person.”
The pandemic forced schools at all levels to think about individualized learning and strip away the “noise” around teaching, in order to concentrate on the core focus of building relationships and educating students, the panelists said.
“If you are a traditional school that’s been around for 50 years, you haven’t thought about change,” Zado said.
Even in higher education, the pandemic will result in a re-imaging of degrees and education, said Medros. He predicts that more people — and companies — will be interested in modular, mini-degrees that focus on the skills workers need, rather than covering a broad swath of learning. Universities will need to adjust to that new way of doing business, in part by integrating online education more thoroughly.
Dugan predicts that growing acceptance of remote learning will also reshape the way that corporate trainings are conducted. Once the efficiency of remote learning is established, companies won’t want to pay for travel and expenses to fund in-person trainings, she said.
“COVID has helped people get over this idea that online instruction isn’t as good as in person instruction,” she said.
Miranda said that once schools are able to return to in-person learning, there will be a rush to get back into the classroom, but that may not be for the best, he warned.
“What I would most want is a little more time for teachers to focus and get good [at remote instruction],” he said. Rushing back to in-person learning could further disrupt students, he said. It’s trying to do too many things at once.”
Still,Greenberg pointed out that kids are desperate for in-person interaction with their peers. He recalled a colleague’s daughter, a new ninth grader, saying “no one ever became friends in a breakout room.”
“We have to get the kids together in person,” he said. “The kids so desperately need that.”
Even after in-person instruction is possible again, the panelists expect to see more integration of technology, and a greater focus on core competencies for individual students.
“Parents’ and kids’ approaches to learning will have changed forever, and that’s a good thing,” Khan said. “Parents will have had an opportunity to develop new habits around supporting kids’ learning, and their eyes are open to the power of self-directed learning.