Online Learning and Remote Learning – A Lesson for the Secretary of State for Education.

By Colin Green - 21 Jan, 2021
Education

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, caused yet further uproar and consternation this week with his statement in the commons about Live lessons. He seemed to contradict all the evidence of the impact and effectiveness of live online lessons.

Clearly he had not read Ofsted’s report, ‘What’s working well in remote learning?’ Ofsted had reported on the 11th January 2021 precisely one week before the Secretary of State’s intervention that there was no evidence to suggest live lessons were the best way to teach children during lockdown.

Fact based research shows what is needed

Ofsted used research based on findings from their interim visits as well as research and literature review to provide some useful tips to support schools. They aimed to debunk some myths. In doing so they, their advice has resulted in what seems to me, common sense.

Quality of curriculum is key

They have argued strongly that whatever provision there is, it needs to focus on what children need to learn, be sequenced and taught well. They have also recognised that an individual’s concentration span may not be as long online as offline and that it is more difficult for teachers to gain the same level of interaction with individuals as they do in class.

The advantages and disadvantages of live lessons

They have argued that good quality teaching and intervention is key. They have also noted some of the advantages and disadvantages of live lessons and have strongly promoted the concept of 1:1 sessions or chatroom functionality for feedback and dealing with misconceptions and misunderstandings. They have recognised that the best offering will use a mixture of approaches.

Anytime, anywhere learning is critical for most

One area that Ofsted don’t really develop is around when lessons should ideally take place. One of the advantages of online learning that has been recognised for many years is the concept of anytime, anywhere learning. Live lessons do not fit this model. They require timetabling. This presents issues for children and families in a number of ways. Many working parents who are struggling to fit their child’s learning in around their own work have to work to a timetable that prioritises both. Anytime, anywhere learning is imperative to giving the flexibility to make this work.

I know this from first-hand experience. My *grandchildren’s school live lessons often clash with my own work conference calls. Not only does this put a strain on our ability to support the children but it also puts considerable stress on our broadband provision.

Then there are those parents who are home-schooling more than one age group. If multiple children have zoom lessons scheduled for the same time, you need to ensure they all have access to the technology to facilitate this. In addition parents can’t be in two places at once to provide any support that might be needed.

We, however. are fortunate; other families even where technology is available may have to share it and use it across a day. Asynchronous methods in these cases may be the only way online learning may be used for remote learning.

On this occasion the Ofsted guidance far outstrips that offered by the Secretary of State. It may be time for Gavin to go back to school.

The full Ofsted guidance may be accessed here.

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