With schools closed for the foreseeable future, teachers have bravely turned to various videoconferencing platforms for continuing education, but many face technical barriers to using platforms that have not been designed with their needs in mind. They continue to do their best and we see them heroically holding on.
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We have all seen images in the press and on social media of several children on a video conference call. It is the heart of the warming and a great way to ensure communication between isolated students. In these difficult times, schools are using online audiences with students who are at the same level. However, it is difficult to keep the attention of 30 children in mixed ability classes.
Other platforms, meanwhile, deal with different abilities, sharply reducing teacher-student, different learning times and conducting a thorough initial assessment of achievement.
By setting a benchmark for each student, you make sure you don't lose them by moving too fast or neglecting to focus on areas they are not proficient in. This is now more important than ever as children will be everywhere in terms of reaching some parents, home schooling and others doing relatively little (through no fault of their own).
The planning factor is also important. We have found some of the alternatives to providing students we are working with to study better outside of the standard school timetable and this is reflected in the current Covid reality. With parents desperately scraping to work from home while taking care of the kids, flexibility in the environment where learning takes place is the key to achieving a decent level of education. Interestingly, giving excluded students more flexibility regarding the time they study, academic achievement and attendance increased (from three percent to 55 percent in some cases).
But not all platform tutors are created equal. Some use students to teach lessons, and while they may be well-intentioned, these students are not teachers. Teachers take years to train and are not easy to replace, which I'm sure is quickly dawning on the UK public.
Capable of replacing
Online learning is often considered inferior to its face-to-face equivalent. However, in some cases it is better suited, and we can find that the current reality is constantly changing bad ideas about this form of education. Online learning is widely adopted for students who have been excluded from school, and it has proven to be an exceptionally effective way to keep students on task while they are outside the classroom.
Of the 123,100 fixed exclusion periods in the UK in 2017-18, the most common cause was persistent conduct disorder, accounting for 30 per cent of the fixed exclusion period. A significant cause of aggressive behavior in the classroom is anxiety related to education. However, remove the student from the environment, give them targeted support, and you can give them a chance to get back on track. You can also pair them with the most suitable teachers - one teacher on our books lives on an island in the Hebridean archipelago and works fantastically well with some of our toughest students.
Online learning means that the teacher is not encroaching on the student's space and there is no pressure from peers or classmates to frustrate. This makes many children feel more comfortable and focused, increasing achievement accordingly. Many students, including those with special educational needs, also communicate more easily online than in person and are more likely to ask questions than if they had to raise their hand in class.
The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) trial 2018 showed that low-cost, private tutoring can increase struggling math students' results by three months. We have, of course, experienced this with some students, making as much as four weeks of progress in as little as one hour.
The inherent advantages of online tutors are we are responding well to the global coronavirus pandemic and we are racing to recruit more teachers - and those who tend to participate in face-to-face classes - as well as supply teachers who no longer have physical lessons to cover.
Emphasis on opportunity and teaching flexible scheduling, important to ensure the online platform can pick up where schools have been forced to leave. Ultimately, we hope this experience will allow us to prove to the world that online tutoring is not just a poor substitute for real learning, but a valuable service that serves every child as a learner.
Simon Barnes Founder & CEO TLC live
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