Many schools and institutions have developed best practices to continue remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachel Arcus-Goldberg, head of school at Columbus Jewish Day School in New Albany; Brad Goodner, professor of biology and biomedical humanities at Hiram College in Hiram; and Leslie Segal, middle school director at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, described how virtual learning has worked for their students.
At Laurel School, Segal explained the stay-at-home order came just before the school’s spring break, so leadership had time to develop plans. Students began the program, School@Home, on April 1.
“Powerful learning remains top-of-mind at Laurel, just as it does any day on campus,” she noted. “Perhaps even more important, though, are the relationships teachers build with our girls. Research done by Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls reminds us that girls learn best under the guidance of caring mentors, so our School@Home plan emphasized the connection girls feel with their teachers, their advisers and the connections their families feel to the school community.”
The day is structured with half the classes scheduled to meet in real-time online, with a slightly shortened school day.
“We determined from the outset that we would run a schedule which is a version of what girls would have done this spring on campus,” Segal explained. “This allowed us to keep many of our routines of learning with the girls.”
For students at CJDS, Arcus-Goldberg said learning starts at 8:30 a.m. with an all-school tefillah. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., kindergarten through fourth graders have five 30-minute live classes with their teachers, and fifth and sixth graders have six classes.
“They have all of their core classes – language arts, math, science, social studies, Hebrew and Judaic studies, plus one ‘special’ class each day, like physical education, music or art,” she said. “On Fridays, we end the week together with Kabbalat Shabbat at 1 p.m.”
She added leadership made sure each student could work remotely.
“We made sure in the early weeks of the program that every student had a device on which they could participate in virtual learning, so (we) handed out Chromebooks and iPads to assist families who needed additional computers,” Arcus-Goldberg said.
Colleges are also ramping up their virtual learning, Goodner said. At Hiram College, online courses differ between each program. For his biology students, Goodner said he spent his spring break on campus completing in-person lab work so his students would have real data for their future lab reports.
“A big part of what I do is incorporate research into my courses,” he said. “I spent my entire break in the lab doing what students would’ve done, so they had data to use to run lab remotely. They do the important work about drawing the proper conclusion. It was about giving them a real lab experience without being physically there.”
Students also have access to iPads at Hiram through a 1:1 program, so the transition was seamless for Goodner.
“They can collaborate and send screenshots of their work and I can comment on that and review it,” he added.
When it came to implementing the new learning format, each educator said they had their worries. But when it came down to it, students were receptive and teachers make a point to keep things interesting.
“Students have responded overall very positively,” Arcus-Goldberg noted. “We have had 100% of our students participate in classes since this began. There are obviously ups and downs, and we’ve all been getting a little tired of being cooped up, but the teachers have become more and more creative in engaging the students.”
Segal noted the resilience of the students at Laurel.
“Girls are eager to connect with each other and their teachers virtually,” she said. “They participate in advisory and class meetings during the week and several are hungry to lead initiatives that keep the outside-of-class time community alive, like trivia or game nights once homework is finished, virtual recess time and a coffeehouse.”