As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak worsens in Australia, many independent schools are moving to online learning to mitigate the risk to students and staff.
Already, learning platforms such as MAPPEN and Education Perfect announced they are providing free access to their services to help schools that have temporarily closed.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, new research revealed that Australia’s ed-tech sector has been gaining momentum.
According to Deloitte’s Australian EdTech Market Census 2019, many ed-tech organisations from 2017 to 2019 began to scale up due to the increased digitalisation of the workplace.
The report further noted that the ed-tech sector is expected grow significantly as the world sees 500 million more students worldwide by 2025.
However, with a skills shortage in key industries, many industries are scrambling to ensure young people are prepared for the jobs that will be most in demand by this time. It is expected that there will be 29 million different skills shortages in Australia alone by this 2025.
However, Deloitte noted that these shortages can be remedied through EdTech.
University of New South Wales educational psychologist, Scientia Professor Andrew Martin, offered guidelines on how educators can make the most out of online learning for their students.
Despite the short amount of time given to teachers to make online lectures, these lessons should still be explicit, well-organised and broken down into smaller chunks so students can be able to understand the basic concepts easier.
Martin cautioned that teachers should remember to be mindful of the content. At the start of the lesson, the resources used should not be too difficult to keep up with the students’ knowledge and skills.
This way, teachers can also provide adequate feedback and students can also work independently faster.
The lack of face-to-face interaction might also make it harder for teachers to connect to their students. Martin said that students especially might go off-track during online lessons.
To counter this, teachers can provide activities which students have to accomplish offline and set separate due dates for assignments which are delivered in small chunks.
Teachers can also diversify the platforms they use to reach out to their students — such as through learning platforms, chat-groups or through videos. Martin suggested that it is better for teachers to over-communicate, rather than under-communicate with their students.
However, teachers should remember to keep professional boundaries at the same time.
Even school leaders have to be mindful that students also need to make time for other activities aside from learning. Martin said that educators can talk to parents about monitoring their child’s online activity, their use of devices as well as sleep hours.
With increased use of the internet and devices, school leaders will also have to be mindful of their students’ mental health while relying on online learning.
In an article published in the Monash Lens, Monash University senior lecturer in educational psychology and inclusion education Kelly-Ann Allen said that the students’ sense of belongingness is especially important as it can help curb negative behaviour such as truancy, poor grades and even lashing out against their peers and staff.
To avoid any untoward incidents, Martin said school leaders must remind their students of the support available to them and who to reach out to when they need help.