More training, support and equipment needed for blended learning

Survey finds many Irish teachers have no previous experience in teaching online

Half of the parents surveyed said they wanted standardised technology platforms for online learning

Half of the parents surveyed said they wanted standardised technology platforms for online learning

 

Improved support, standardised learning platforms and more training is needed to ensure a clearly defined approach to blended learning in the classroom and at home in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.

Digital learning company Wriggle commissioned research that found students lacked equipment suitable for home learning, with parents describing the home-school situation as “difficult”. Some schools had inconsistent communication with parents while others had only begun integrating digital platforms into their teaching environment when the pandemic took hold in March.

The survey, conducted by Amárach Research, asked principals, deputy principals, teachers and staff in 371 schools, and more than 2,100 parents with children in primary and secondary school, about their experiences with learning online between March and May.

Only 57 per cent of schools said their students had equipment suitable for home learning, and 62 per cent of teachers said they had no previous experience of online teaching. More than half of teachers said they were not comfortable with the technology, and 54 per cent said they had only begun using the technology for creating and sharing learning resources since March.

Some 35 per cent of schools don’t have a policy for digital learning or teaching, and 44 per cent were worried that their policies did not fully comply with data protection regulations.

Among teachers, there were concerns about the lack of time available to plan for digital learning, with 41 per cent of teachers viewing a lack of equipment as an issue.

However, schools that had already integrated digital learning saw increased staff engagement and collaboration, and 52 per cent said they were developing a new way to cater for their students’ needs.

Broadband issues

The concerns voiced by schools were also reflected by parents, with 62 per cent saying their children’s digital learning experience during lockdown was difficult. Just over a quarter said broadband issues had interrupted lessons, and 22 per cent were concerned over the number of apps and platforms involved. Some 70 per cent of children continued to use traditional pencil and paper for lessons, but 59 per cent were also using homework platforms, just under half employed email and 32 per cent were using video conferencing software to communicate with teachers.

Some 40 per cent of parents felt under pressure to act as a substitute teacher during the lockdown.

As a result of the Covid-19 shutdown, almost half of the parents surveyed said they wanted standardised technology platforms for online learning, while 45 per cent would like better support and clear guidance from schools.

“The pandemic disrupted our traditional education model, but now an opportunity exists to improve it and to prepare for the future,” said Seán Glynn, teacher engagement manager at Wriggle Learning.

“Nothing will ever replace the classroom experience and the bond between a teacher and a student. The pandemic has highlighted the gaps in the current approach to education and we need to learn those lessons. We need a shift towards a well-defined blended learning system, one that integrates technology into the classroom with structures, training and supports in place for teachers, students and parents. When these are put in place, if such a scenario were to occur again, schools will have the tools, confidence and skills they need to ensure a seamless transition to blended learning that allows teaching and learning to continue anytime, anywhere.”