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What Will 2021 Look Like for Schools?

From New York and New Hampshire all the way to Kentucky and Minnesota, schools across the nation are again going all virtual due to the fall-winter surge of COVID-19. With rolling lockdowns likely to continue until vaccines are widely distributed, many schools will be relying on distance learning models for months to come, causing concern among both parents and educators.

Online-only education models have been criticized for having inherent disadvantages such as stunting social development, increasing inequality, and creating emotional trauma. Schools – and parents – are looking for better, long-term solutions.

Will a Return to Class Still Find Covid in Charge?

While vaccine news has been promising and distribution systems are ramping up, it’s likely that educators will have to grapple with the impact of COVID-19 well into the spring semester, including:

  • Alternating hybrid and virtual classes: Even when pandemic conditions return to “pre-surge” levels, schools will still be required to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing protocols to prevent outbreaks. Hybrid classes – where students are in school some days and attend virtually others – are likely to be one of the most common forms of academic instruction until the pandemic is fully under control. It’s also likely that distance learning will remain commonplace well into 2021, and perhaps even beyond.
  • The need for stress mitigation: Students and faculty will continue to have to manage through stressful pandemic conditions, including concerns over safety and many students feeling cut off from peer groups and extracurricular activities. Even under hybrid class schedules, students, teachers, and staff will likely benefit from institution-wide stress management and mitigation programs. Some programs focus on mindfulness, while others promote physical activity or building a sense of community among students.
  • Widening achievement gaps: Lockdowns are a vital and life-saving public health practice. But most research indicates that for a wide variety of reasons, students may not respond as well to distance learning as they do to live, in-person lessons. Early lockdowns, for example, negatively impacted academic achievement for many students – a trend that has colloquially been coined the “COVID Slide.” Since the end of the 2019-2020 school year, many districts have adapted their curriculum and teaching styles to address lockdown-related learning lapses including small group instruction, asynchronous learning, techniques such as the “flipped classroom,” and online tutor groups designed to go over common core topics. 

Schools looking to manage these trends will need to consider resources for remediation and individualized instruction.

Assessments Can Speed Remediation

Even among students who have equal access to technology and the internet, learning has been uneven, and teachers can struggle to accurately assess knowledge acquisition. Digital adaptive learning assessments can ensure that no student falls too far behind. Frequent adaptive learning assessments can speed remediation as well, because students are able to focus on the topics they still haven’t mastered. 

Once the assessment is complete, students can use online learning platforms, such as Canvas, to take supplementary courses designed to get them back on track.

Canvas is particularly popular with students because the platform offers both on-demand and live classes so students can review topics on their own or meet with a class where they can ask questions. Most courses also feature Math and English questions aligned to State and Common Core standards. Resources such as access to courses on Canvas can help students get back on track to meeting their academic goals. 

The coming months will likely present many challenges for school districts as they navigate local lockdowns, distance learning requirements, and hybrid classes. To learn more about asynchronous learning and digital assessments, contact us.


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