Online Learning – lessons for the future (3)

In our last instalment, we looked at rates of progress, and how they can be vastly different by giving students access to many sessions at once. In this instalment, we will look at the general issue, has any learning taken place at all?

The first thing we did was to check which students had actually logged on, and how long for. Even in the classroom setting this was useful ‘how are you getting on then Tim? Helpful if you made a start’ – and so on.

The fact that students can work from home if they have online access there remains to this day a fundamental issue regarding equity. There is no point in setting online homework if there is no access at home. The lack of universal high quality filtered broadband and suitable devices continues to bedevil online learning and in our view remains a disgrace. At the time , a key barrier was cost, both of devices and access. Today, prices have fallen and functionality grown to the extent that cost should not be a barrier.

Schools cannot be expected to deliver a free at the point of delivery universal entitlement to an education which includes online learning without getting this issue sorted out. The issue should be a thing of the past but while the value of online learning is systematically undervalued by policymakers students miss out.

Why should online learning be part of an education entitlement? Because it provides invaluable learning opportunities which cannot be delivered by any other means. We will write more about this in future.

At the time, we got round the issue of home access by opening up the computer suites before and after school, and at lunchtimes, and this worked well, with the additional advantage of face to face support, and the usual disadvantage of teacher time taken up.

Of course, neither online learning or face to face learning are guarantees that learning has taken place. In the next instalment, we will look at assessment.

If none of this is new to you, perhaps your school is ready to be recognised for its achievements. Please check out the Education Technology Alliance Schools Award at https://theeta.co/awards/take-the-award

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