If COVID-19 closes K-12 schools, most may not be ready for long-term e-learning

The outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, is forcing schools to suspend in-class learning, but many may be woefully unprepared to shift to e-learning for more than a few days, says a Ball State University computer researcher who has studied the issue in Indiana K-12 schools.

“I don’t have the data to say whether or not schools are currently prepared for long-term use of e-learning days, but my suspicion is that they are not,” said Dave Hua, an associate professor of computer technology. “I would expect that most districts’ e-learning policies were developed with the expectation that the schools would implement e-learning for one to three days for inclement weather.

“I think most districts have the technology infrastructure that could support prolonged e-learning periods. Implementing the technology is relatively easy. Teachers need to know effective pedagogy for a virtual learning environment. Students and parents need to understand the learning management systems and other technologies over which instruction will be delivered. And support staff need to be available to address the inevitable technical difficulties that students, teachers, and parents will experience.”

Hua said e-learning days should not be a “knee-jerk” reaction to a potential long-term school closure if a district does not have appropriate policies and has not invested the time and resources into training the administration, teachers, students, parents, and support staff.

“The school district’s first priority should be protecting the health and well-being of its students and staff. The declaration of long-term e-learning may not have the outcomes they are hoping for if they are using the technology in a manner for which they are not prepared.

“The point is that the technology itself is not what is teaching the children,” he said. “If school districts have invested only in the technology, they are only halfway there.”

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