University Park, IL,
15:46 PM

Education in COVID-era Classrooms

While students complete their courses in another school year spent in a mix of online classes, remote instruction, and home schooling, a spotlight seems cast onto the future of education. What lessons has COVID-19 taught us?

Governors State University Director of Education Preparation Joi Patterson and Education Professor Amy Vujaklija sat down with the GSU Newsroom to explore the impact COVID-19 has had on schools and the new trends present in education, while examining how GSU is stepping in to help. Drs. Patterson and Vujaklija host a podcast, “Teaching and Learning: Theory versus Practice with Dr. Amy and Dr. Joi" that addresses a variety of education topics.

Online Classes vs. Remote Instruction vs. Home Schooling

Online classes were not a new concept before the COVID pandemic––these classes are created for and approved at the state, federal, and school level. Online classes allow students to pace themselves through clear objectives with non-traditional instructor support.

In the wake of the pandemic, remote instruction was utilized since many classes were not prepared to be completely online. Unlike online classes, remote instruction attempts to mimic face-to-face instruction virtually while still providing resources to students in an online setting. Patterson noted this style of teaching put considerable strain on teachers.

“Teachers were thrown into an environment where they have to do a little bit of both: teach face-to-face and create an online course,” she said.

In remote courses, parents are not expected to teach but to support their children with technology and structure by providing a space and time in the home for the student to learn. While the amount of assistance needed from a parent varies from child to child, what parents discovered through the pandemic was that the usual 1-2 hours of assistance a child might have needed with homework in the normal school setting jumped to 6-plus hours a day. Parents and children also had to come to terms with the technology and resources to successfully complete school work at home.

Patterson recalled having her three grandchildren over for the day who all needed varying levels of support. She found herself searching through her home for resources to assist with projects and stay on time for the classes.

Some parents who were home due to the pandemic chose to home school their children to negate the added pressure remote instruction can put on a student. Patterson, whose dissertation was on home schooling, notes the benefit of project and experiential learning that home schooling allows.

“You can move outside of your four walls to do experiential learning that you can’t do remotely, since not every child has the same tools and opportunities to do project-based learning in a remote instruction.”

As schools begin to slowly reopen and parents begin to return to work as well, Patterson says many parents are facing a difficult decision on whether to continue or switch to home schooling.

“What happens when parents are no longer available to home school or assist with remote learning? This is going to open a larger conversations with work places about allowing parents the time with their children or to bring their children to work with them.”

Are Students on Track?

Patterson and Vujaklija both note that students are not expected to be on track, and since education has been rerouted worldwide due to the pandemic, the pressure on students has been lessened a little.

“This is an issue worldwide, we’re all on the same playing field,” explained Patterson.

Vujaklija said pressure at the local level looks a little different. CARES money is being used for remedial assistance with students being encouraged to attend summer tutoring. Governors State students in a partnership with the Crete-Monee School District have the opportunity to lessen this pressure on students and teachers.

Crete-Monee will be hiring 25 candidates from GSU to work as temporary teacher interns for the next two years, starting this summer, in classes ranging from k-12. The candidates will provide additional support in the classroom where they’ll work directly with the students to help them get up to speed.

Vujaklija and Patterson agree this is an amazing opportunity for the GSU teacher candidates who will be completing methods courses while working directly with students, providing them field experience that compliments the theories they are learning in class even before their student teaching. The paid internship will also help acclimate the candidates to the school where they could potentially student teach.

The Future of Education

Looking to education in a post-pandemic world, trends are already arising. E-learning and a focus on technology will become commonplace, Patterson and Vujaklija predict.

Schools that were not doing E-Learning before the pandemic struggled to accommodate students needs during the pandemic, with many schools purchasing computers and Teacher Professional Development days around E-Learning have moved to the forefront. Chicago Public Schools now have virtual half days on Wednesdays so teachers have more time for professional development.

Unfortunately, the teacher shortage has increased during the pandemic because many teachers of retiring age realized it was safer for them to retire than return to the classroom. This will put additional strain on schools that were already short staffed, which are usually schools in under served and marginalized communities.

The silver lining of the pandemic has been parents being more involved in their children’s education. Patterson says this will be a trend for parents to be more involved with the school.

“They have virtually invited the teacher into their home every day,” Patterson explains.

Thinking of a visit to her hair stylist, Patterson recalls the stylist’s children in the hair salon, online in their virtual classrooms.

“You hear the teacher the whole time. I even referred to the teacher by her name last time! My stylist would have never been having those conversations about and with the teacher, or know them personally,” she said.

“It feels more like a community.”

See Teaching and Learning: Theory vs Practice episodes 5 and 14 for more discussion on technology integration in the classroom.