Despite uncertainty looming over the fall as to what the COVID-19 infection rates will look like, one phrase keeps bubbling to the surface for both school districts and state departments of education: blended learning. Blended learning consists of combining and balancing in-person and online instruction. Many schools are weighing the options of how this model could offer the best learning outcomes for students while also complying with the necessary health precautions during the pandemic.
However, a lot goes into implementing a seamless blended learning model. Whether students are in the classroom or learning online at home, it is important that students always feel supported. Because of this, student planners could help students stay organized and connected, particularly when they are learning in online environments, to increase participation and lower failure rates.
According to research by NWEA, an Oregon-based not-for-profit education organization, most students will have fallen behind where they normally would be academically due to the “COVID-19 slide.”
In its research, NWEA found that students will only have retained approximately 70% of reading concepts learned in the 2019-2020 school year when they return in the fall. In math, students will have retained less than 50% of the concepts learned, which sets students significantly behind. However, some students could be affected more than others, especially in reading, which could significantly widen the achievement gap.
This makes getting all students on the same page the top priority for the fall, no matter what form of instruction educators are using.
Some causes for the achievement gap, such as a lack of internet access, will take longer to eliminate. However, better control over time management could help students keep track of assignments and improve their academic performance and overall emotional well-being, according to an article in Psychology Today. Thus, better time management could prevent the achievement gap from worsening. A student planner tailored to the students’ grade level is an ideal tool to help students get a handle on their time management. Psychology Today suggests that to do so, students should rely on their calendars to keep track of assignment due dates, to-do lists, and the time spent on each activity. Older students can do this independently, but younger students will likely need help from their parents to properly learn to manage their time, as the article suggests.
An obstacle to blended learning, however, is that some states are cutting education budgets due to the pandemic. To combat this, the Colorado Department of Education is planning to use funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security (CARES) Act to expand blended learning opportunities in the upcoming school year, according to an article in District Administration. Additionally, many grant programs have begun focusing on blended learning to ensure that schools have what they need to adapt to current circumstances.
While students return to a new normal in the fall and begin to recover from the academic and emotional trauma inflicted by the pandemic, it’s important that teachers are there to provide as much support as possible and are equipped with the tools and methodologies to get back on track.