How to organize distance education in these exceptional times

Three points to keep in mind and one proposition for a solution

During Covid-19, many countries had to interrupt their school routines and establish distance education as the only way to continue teaching. However, this situation poses several challenges for all stakeholders, especially teachers.

First, it is rather common that teachers do not have access to suitable tools for remote education. Especially in basic education, most teachers prefer face-to-face classroom teaching and different kinds of e-learning apps are used mostly for supplementation and variation, if used at all.

Second, the e-learning tools in use do not support school-level data generation. Quite often there are several independent applications that do not communicate with each other. As a consequence, teachers have to evaluate and mark all assignments and accomplishments manually and export the data to the next level. School principals and managers are not able to keep track on what students are doing and how they are progressing. In remote education, such tracking systems would be especially relevant in identifying potential dropouts as early as possible and remedying the problem.

Third, teachers’ technological knowledge varies a lot. Some teachers have already used various tools, but others are not capable of adopting complicated e-learning platforms on such a tight schedule like now. One must consider that teachers have other challenges as well: they have to reschedule the whole semester in a considerably short time, and it is likely that they are dealing with a lot of stress in their own life as well. Teachers do not need any extra challenges at the moment. Therefore educational tools must be as simple as possible. This is not the time for complex and mysterious features that cover all the possible whims of developers.

In the short-term perspective, these three challenges have to be taken into account while planning distance education during these exceptional times. It is essential to get teaching tools that are easy to take into use, really help teachers work and are simple enough to be useful with minimal (or non-existent) training. Additionally these tools have to give a clear overview for rectors, managers and administration so that they can see how teaching is organized and how it is progressing. However, these tools are rare, and the existing tools are designed for a completely different global situation.

In the medium-term perspective, Covid-19 disruption should give high-level decision-makers a reason to rethink the sector, especially since the digitization of education management is a key player in the future – if it is not already. With the Covid-19, the most vulnerable pupils and students will be the ones most affected, and digital gap will increase education (and social) inequality for the next months, perhaps for years. Now is the time for governments to consider ways to not only implement short-term measures that deal with teachers’ routine duties, but to rethink how the collection and management of education data is organized. This requires tools that can collect and process data, which in turn helps mitigate the effects of increasing education inequality that targets those who have the greatest needs.

We at Eduix think that Formjack is a tool like that. Formjack is based on our existing education solutions and tailored further with this specific situation in mind. As a cloud-based solution with simplified registration procedures, Formjack can be taken in use within two minutes. No student lists, group or class information need to be typed in – instead, students and teachers add the necessary information while using the application.Teachers do not have to send and collect assignments individually and combine the results manually – the tool supports the scaling of teaching and combines the results of an assignment automatically.

Since it has a simplified user interface that only includes essential features, Formjack is easy to learn and use even if a teacher does not have any previous experience on e-teaching. The system centralizes all school data, and management can easily monitor the situation of the school, different classes, and specific students.

Photo by Allie on Unsplash