The pandemic threw the Needles Unified School District a curveball. They weren’t prepared. No one was. But when businesses shuttered and life slowed down, educators, parents and caregivers found another level. And they found a renewed sense of community, a focus on academics, and a new playbook for schooling post-pandemic.
Promote smooth instructional delivery transitions for dual enrollment math
High school dual enrollment teachers moving fully online from a face-to-face setting during COVID had the added challenge of remaining in sync with their college partners, but classes already using Pearson’s MyMathLab for School’s (MMLS) online platform pre-pandemic have hardly missed a beat.
As the pandemic hit, educators asked:
How do we keep students engaged?
How do we provide ample practice opportunities?
How do we monitor student progress?
How do we administer assessments?
How do we make ourselves fully available to our students?
How do we help our students accomplish their learning goals?
And as a dual enrollment course, how do we maintain continuity with our post-secondary partner institution?
Pre-COVID use of MyMathLab for School helped smooth transition to remote
For some teachers the transition to remote learning was a smooth one because their dual enrollment courses already used Pearson’s MyMathLab for School (MMLS). David Woods, Ryan Skyta, and Lauren Morris are all high school math instructors teaching dual enrollment college algebra courses in partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU). Each of these teachers utilized MMLS prior to COVID and acknowledge the multiple benefits the program has provided them and their students during the pandemic.
Having prior experience with MMLS benefited both students and teachers, according to Ryan Skyta, math teacher at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans:
“I feel like since we, as an entire school, used the program before the pandemic, within every department in our school, we were probably in the best shape because the kids regularly have used the program for the past couple of years, so they are very familiar with it. We didn’t have to train them on how to use it and it was an easy transition.”
...And helped relieve teacher stress
The pandemic created ever fluctuating circumstances for educators. Being equipped with a fully sustainable, comprehensive online environment like MMLS can relieve some of the tension, worry, and uncertainty. For David Woods, dual enrollment math teacher at Liberty Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, having used MMLS for years prior to the pandemic eased the considerable amount of stress he felt while transitioning to remote instruction. He believes it could have done the same for others, as he heard firsthand how other teachers struggled and it made him thankful for the multiple resources MMLS offered him and his students.
“I can’t reiterate enough the fact that MyMathLab for School allowed us to have such a smooth transition. I know I have a lot of colleagues around the country that were struggling. How am I going to assess my students? How am I going to provide them this opportunity? Does anybody know anything that’s out there that my students could possibly be doing, or that I can be using as a teacher? MyMathLab for School was a huge component in sparing me from that because we already had a digital platform that the students could continue to use that was already equipped with videos, activities, lessons, quizzes, and assessments. We could just roll through it and since we were already using it, there was no learning curve.”
“View an example” and “Help Me Solve This” features help students work independently
Lauren Morris, dual enrollment math teacher and department chair at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, found the View an Example and Help Me Solve This features were the most impactful and heavily utilized aspects of MMLS once fully remote. Lauren noted that students relied greatly on those features because they were no longer in the classroom asking questions and receiving immediate responses from teachers. She felt it gave them resources to rely on, when needed.
View an Example helped Ryan Skyta’s students work independently at home.
“If we didn’t have MyMathLab for School we certainly would have had much bigger issues when it came to students trying to figure things out. They love the View an Example feature when it comes to doing their homework. That was definitely a huge advantage.”
Whether fully remote, hybrid, or face-to-face, the Pearson MMLS online platform offers students stability and dual enrollment teachers' confidence their courses maintain rigor and remain in sync with their college partners.
Top tips, techniques, and advice for making the most of online learning
There are so many unanswered questions for families right now. On top of the usual parental concerns, we’re now having to face the reality that our children might be doing some (or all) of their learning from home, often, in front of a screen.
Like most parents I wonder what impact this might have on my daughter. Will it impact her development? I wonder what this might mean for her social skills? What about her future opportunities? I will also admit to worrying that all of this time in isolation might be making her go a little bit wild and feral? But mostly, I think how best can I support her while still maintaining my own sanity?
These, and many more questions, are what so many of us are struggling with right now.
If you are keeping up with the real time changes in the UK, there is a growing likelihood that online learning will become our reality again in the near future. If you are elsewhere in the world, you might not have left the first phase of the rush to online. Reflecting this, I want to help parents prepare and cope effectively. As both a parent and as Pearson’s Chief Learning Officer, I’ve written these tips with both my heart and my head. Everything I’m sharing is based on research, but most importantly – I hope these insights will help make any future online learning experience a bit more manageable.
Most importantly, encourage your child to talk to you about what they are feeling and respond with empathy and understanding. It’s an uncertain, and often frightening time right now; we need to show our children that we’re here for them. Children are receptive to learning when they feel safe and secure.
Make a plan that helps achieve outcomes
In the world of learning, “outcomes” is a word used quite often; it refers to the learning goals that students are meant to achieve. Whether learning takes place online or face to face, it’s all about students achieving the outcomes that will set them up for success. The outcome might be to understand a topic, develop a skill, or for students to socially develop and connect with peers. Get clear on what these outcomes are for your child, based on what they want to learn, what their teacher’s goals are, and how you as a parent can support. If your child’s learning moves online, make sure you know:
What are your child’s learning goals (AKA outcomes)?
What other outcomes should your child be focused on, such as improving their critical thinking skills or ability to collaborate with others?
What are the expectations of you, as a parent, for helping your child make progress towards these outcomes?
I know many parents have decided to supplement what their school provides through additional online learning experiences. It’s important to keep outcomes in mind if you select learning technology for your child; identify the outcome your child needs to achieve and make sure there is evidence that the product you choose has a positive impact on the outcome you’ve identified.
Students usually work best within routines. Work with your child to set the expectations for completing schoolwork and attending classes.
Ensure you know the expectations that the teacher has for completing their schoolwork from home and how teachers can be reached. Preview lessons, assignments, and don’t miss any live lessons.
Prepare a schedule of what needs to be completed each day/week. Part of effective scheduling is building breaks into the day and not trying to put too much learning into one block. A general rule of thumb is 30 to 50 minutes of learning and then a break for older students. Learning should take place in smaller chunks for younger pupils.
If you are working from home, make sure your child knows when you are available and unavailable to help them. Setting clear boundaries is essential for your sanity and for your child’s self-esteem.
Embrace the fact that online learning does not mean your child only learns in front of a computer. Given educators have to focus on achieving a variety of outcomes, you should expect that activities will adjust based on the best way to achieve each outcome. Activities might range from being given several links to follow at the student’s own pace, being asked to do some practice work, or completing independent work offline.
Review and reflect on the day by asking your child to show you what they worked on and ask them a few questions about what they learned. This isn’t you “checking” their work; it’s you being curious about what they’ve done.
Help your child believe they can do it
Everyone is going to experience setbacks and frustrations. It’s key to try and see those moments as useful markers on a journey towards learning, rather than signs that it is time to give up. If students struggle with an assignment use statements such as:
Tell me what you’ve tried so far.
What else can you try?
What have you learned so far?
Remember to model this, as much as you can, for your child; if you get frustrated and shut down when something unexpected happens (e.g., the technology doesn’t work like you think it will), your child may think that some things really are just too hard.
Help your child see the value
You may become accustomed to hearing the phrase that teachers have heard millions of times, “Why do I have to learn this?” It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t see the value of what you are doing. Try to help your child connect what they are learning to things that are important to them. This might mean connecting learning to their interests (e.g., “well, if you understand averages you can follow your favorite footballer’s performance”) or helping them understand ways in which they could use what they are learning to help themselves or their friends and family (e.g., “could you use this lesson on photosynthesis to help us decide where it would be best to put our tomato plant?”). Students who learn to take charge of their own learning are often more successful.
Ensure there is a focus on individual progress and feedback
Every school will have a slightly different approach in terms of how they assess students. This will be even more true as schools grapple with online learning. As a parent, you need to make sure that your child’s knowledge and skills are being tracked in a meaningful and productive way. This should be a depiction of their individual progress (not how they compare to classmates). Ask your child’s school how progress will be shared with your child and with you.
On top of making sure that your child’s school is measuring progress, it’s essential that your child is receiving regular feedback on how they’re doing. No one can improve if we aren’t given regular, immediate information on what we did well and how we can get better. It’s important for you to recognise that feedback doesn’t have to be evaluative or for a grade; it can be as simple as a supportive check-in. Again, make sure you know how regular feedback will be provided to your child.
If you and your child don’t have a good grasp on not only the outcomes your child is meant to achieve, but also how they’re doing on their journey to achieve these outcomes – you should speak with your child’s teacher.
Provide opportunities for developing soft skills and social skills
Whether it’s communication, collaboration, or critical thinking – acquiring and developing these skills is just as important as enhancing knowledge. Much of your child’s time at school is about having fun, connecting with new ideas, and socialising with friends. During online learning, your child’s school will be building skills development into activities (e.g. problem solving, self management, social responsibility, etc.); but you can help make sure that you are fostering skills development outside of what the school is providing.
You can use technology to take virtual field trips to museums or foreign countries, play interactive games, and video call with friends and family. Or you can develop these skills without technology – have siblings work together to solve a problem (e.g. how can you earn enough money to buy that new video game) or have your child plan a new layout of their bedroom to maximise space.
Look after your own wellbeing
This is probably easier said than done, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to become a professional educator; you are a parent. Communicate with your child, empathise with each other, and try to take some time for yourself. Adjusting to a new way of learning isn’t easy for anyone, but we’ll navigate it together.
If you have questions or want further support, Pearson can help.
Caroline is a Pennsylvania middle school student who loves science, sailing, reading fantasy novels, and participating in extracurricular clubs. In her previous school, she wished she had more time to pursue those interests and include them more centrally in her education. Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber) has given her the ability to pursue her interests while also focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in online school.
“I was part of my family’s decision-making to join Reach Cyber. I started in February 2017 after going to a private, parochial school,” said Caroline. “But I wanted to stay at home more, do STEM activities, and hands-on projects. My schoolwork at Reach Cyber lets me do that, and that’s one of the things I like the most. I love the idea of flexibility and being able to choose the order in which I do my lessons.
“At first, I thought that I would have to sit at home for hours and do nothing but schoolwork all day, but I soon realized that the teachers make it fun for me. My teachers care about if I know the material, and they’re not just like, ‘Get it done.’ They give fun assignments and work. I like LiveLesson® sessions because we get to go on the webcam.”
And Caroline did not have to give up friendships or connecting with other students through clubs and activities. “I like Reach Cyber because of the flexibility of the lessons and the fact that even though I am in a virtual school, I still have friends. We have a ‘secret agent chat’ group of friends who talk a lot. We all met through LiveLesson sessions or field trips. I have Connections Academy® friends in Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Texas, California, and even Spain. I like all the clubs I’ve joined because they are STEM focused, and the teachers are excellent. I am in a Raspberry Pi and coding class, which helps me learn coding and computer science. I want to study computer science in college, and this will help me. I get to explore things that interest me more. Independent study is fun because I can get credit for doing fun projects that I pick.
“I take breaks to practice my musical instruments, attend lessons, and participate in performance opportunities. I can take piano lessons earlier in the day when most other kids my age are in school. I am in a marching band in my school district. I am also in my community’s junior philharmonic, and I take private piano lessons. I play piano, flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and oboe.
“I volunteer as a deckhand on the historical schooner Lettie G. Howard and help out with our local maritime museum. I actually get to volunteer as part of the crew for “school sails,” where students from the local brick-and-mortar schools come on the ship for a field trip, and do evening and weekend sails as well. In the winter, I participate in the sail training and maintenance program. Because I’m a Connections Academy student, I can crew on sails during the school day, and I have even taken time off from school to go on longer sails on the Atlantic Ocean and through the Great Lakes.
“Reach Cyber is helping me reach my goals. I am taking steps toward a STEM career through my courses, talks with a scientist, clubs, and contests. I’m learning a lot, but it is way more fun than having to sit around in a classroom all day. Reach Cyber has been perfect for me.”
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser, Parent
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser is a Learning Coach to her two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte, who both attend Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber). Her family began looking into alternatives to traditional schooling options when bullying issues began to surface. Leigh Anne enrolled her daughters in Reach Cyber in the 2017–2018 school year and is loving the empowering flexibility that online school has provided.
“Our previous school was wonderful when we started out; however, as my daughter got older, the bullying got worse. The teachers saw Caroline’s quirkiness and her interest in fantasy novels and engineering as distractions instead of passions. She withdrew into isolation and misery. It finally became too much for our family to bear, and we began the search for other options. As an educator and school consultant throughout Pennsylvania, I knew that any school in our city either was not academically a good fit or was going to be more of the same social and emotional torment. I needed an environment where Caroline’s individual needs as a student and a person would be supported, encouraged, and celebrated. I knew that the local brick-and-mortar schools couldn’t provide both the social and academic setting to meet all of her needs.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Education site had a list of cyber schools, and I started my due diligence. When I began looking at Reach Cyber, it seemed too good to be true—a flexible approach to the school day, an award-winning curriculum, and the cherry on top was a focus on STEM. I attended the parent information sessions online and loved what I was hearing. A phone call with a Connections Academy® coordinator was enough to seal the deal. My younger daughter, thrilled at the idea of school in her pajamas, joined in her sister’s excitement.
“For everyone who asks, ‘What about social skills?’ I can tell you that there is socialization going on. I’m pretty sure every sixth grade student knows our guinea pig, Patronus, just as well as my daughter Caroline does. Our teachers know the children’s interests, and instead of telling them to put down the fantasy novels, they encourage them! We’ve gone to STEM day camps, and it was fun to meet the teachers in ‘real life.’”
And Leigh Anne gives high marks to the teachers at Reach Cyber. “I never thought I’d encounter so many professionals who truly are able to see where each child is and raise them to new heights. The STEM team at Reach Cyber and the Talent Networks/ Leadership team at Connections Academy have given my child her confidence back and let her believe that she is in control of what she learns, what she does, and how she succeeds. Caroline loves STEM, and she has built robots, websites, apps, and microcomputers with the support of teachers who have let her design her own learning path.
“I cannot say how much we love this school. The flexibility in scheduling has allowed our children to join my husband and me on business trips, but the structure of Connexus® and the planner keeps our learning on track. It’s a perfect balance that allows our family more time together. This is the way education should be: learning is relevant, focused, and outcome driven, with the support of caring teachers who celebrate my children’s passions and uniqueness. Our family is closer than ever, and my children are excited to be empowered in their education.”
Why is effective practice an important part of the online learning process?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to implement meaningful and effective practice that provides students with opportunities to learn through reteaching, and opportunities to demonstrate learning without negative consequences.
Barr, Corbett. “Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It.” Expert Enough. Expert Enough, n.d.
Block, Joshua. “Designing Learning That Matters.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 20 Oct. 2015.
Block, Joshua. “Embracing Messy Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 07 Jan. 2014.
Everding, Gerry. “Students Learn More If They’ll Need to Teach Others.” Futurity. Washington University in St. Louis, 12 Aug. 2014.
Lenz, Bob. “Failure Is Essential to Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 08 Apr. 2015.
Marzano, Robert J. “Art and Science of Teaching / Reviving Reteaching.” Educational Leadership: Interventions That Work: Reviving Reteaching. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Oct. 2010.
Thomas, Alice. “Understanding The Learning Process To Effectively Differentiate Instruction. “Center for Development and Learning. N.p., 26 Oct. 2010.
How can teachers engage students in online learning?
In this module, teachers explore a variety of strategies to motivate and engage students in their learning. Activities include tips for fostering academic ownership, providing relevant and meaningful feedback, and other student engagement strategies, such as:
Alternative ending: Create alternate endings to literature using digital storytelling software or website tools. Share endings by sending participants to the website.
Come in character: Turn on your Webcam and talk to your students as a character. Make it humorous with a funny pair of glasses, hat, or an accent. Make it related to your content area by dressing as a particular character or historical figure.
Picture of the day: Prior to the session, students can submit a favorite photo or drawing. Choose one to share at the beginning of the session.
What role does building a community of learners play in the learning process?
In this module, teachers explore how to create a welcoming online learning environment that fosters personalized learning and communication to create a sense of community.
Activities include how teachers can develop teacher-student and student-student relationships, along with strategies for building connections both synchronously and asynchronously within an online learning environment.
Bibliography “Culture of Learning.” Learning and the Adolescent Mind. The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas as Austin and Agile Mind, Inc.
Garrett, Amy, Aimee Whiteside, and Somer Lewis. “Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online.” Learning & Leading with Technology 40.2 (2012): 22-25.
Martin, Florence, and Michele A. Parker. “Use on Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?” MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 10.2 (2014): 192-210.
Premuzic, Tomas. “What Your Email Style Reveals About Your Personality.” Fast Company. Fast Company, 06 June 2014.