North Carolina State University researchers have released the results of an analysis of 284 different studies on the challenges and best practices for teaching K-12 classrooms online – an effort launched during the pandemic of COVID-19 to help teachers and administrators in their rapid transition to online teaching.
The researchers used the results, which have now been published in Education Research Review, to develop a series of free, online and asynchronous professional development courses for teachers. Classes were delivered online to more than 1,000 teachers in the early years of the pandemic.
“We’ve learned a lot about what works for online teaching in US higher education, but we wanted to see what works for K-12,” said study lead author Carla C. Johnson. , professor of science education at NC State. “We noticed that many teachers had no training for teaching online; we prepared them to teach face-to-face. Ultimately, we found that some of the strategies that worked well in person worked. also online, with some modifications.”
In their analysis, the researchers searched for existing studies on the online, virtual, remote, or remote delivery of K-12 education. After reviewing studies on the key themes, the researchers revealed three fundamental elements necessary for effective online teaching: training teachers to teach online; district and school access to technology and the Internet; and considering the developmental level of the student in planning instruction, for example whether students are able to learn independently.
“You need to have a good base to build your house on or you’ll have challenges ahead,” Johnson said. “For example, in terms of student development, we know that adults can sit in front of a computer, but when you think of children in elementary school, and even some in middle school, teachers need the partnership of parents to ensure students are set up for success, have a schedule they follow, and avoid distractions Teachers should consider dividing the delivery of instruction into smaller blocks of time.
Additionally, the study revealed a conceptual framework for key aspects of K-12 online education. The first consideration was the course design. The researchers indicated that easy-to-navigate and organized courses could help reduce students’ “cognitive load” or the amount of effort they have to put in to access the online course. “There are many design principles to ensure K-12 students can find things and maneuver online in a logistical way, so it doesn’t get in the way of learning,” Johnson said.
Another key factor was whether teachers developed a sense of community for students so they could connect socially and emotionally in the online classroom. “There are strategies and tools to make lessons more interactive and to make sure kids don’t feel isolated or lost online — to feel connected to each other,” Johnson said. “When you teach others or work with others to discuss what you are learning, there are more opportunities to apply information and develop deeper conceptual understanding.”
Other important factors for successful online teaching were: accessibility to course information for students of all abilities; a supportive classroom environment; tailor-made instruction to meet the needs of individual students or groups of students; “active learning” strategies that maintain student interest or enthusiasm; and assessing student learning in real time.
A major challenge the researchers faced while conducting the analysis was that many schools in the United States were using online course delivery in a limited way before the pandemic; for example, many schools have only used e-learning for one type of course. Fully online learning was mostly limited to charter schools for students who chose it. This meant that the results of these environments were limited in terms of application to bring face-to-face schools fully online during a pandemic or in a rapid manner.
“During the transition to online learning, schools took lemons and made lemonade in some cases, but now we need to do more research in the area of K-12 online learning. year to figure out what works,” Johnson said. “We need to learn how to do this in a better and more effective way moving forward. For example, we found that there was very little, if any, research on teaching specific disciplines, such as as teaching math and science, K-12 online.”
Additionally, Johnson said there is a need to address disparities in online resources and teacher training for school systems across the country, as well as making it a priority in teacher preparation programs.
“We need to continue to create resources for schools that don’t have as much access to money or training,” she said.