3 Tips For Effective eDays: What Educational Institutions Can Learn From Corporations

3 Tips For Effective eDays: What Educational Institutions Can Learn From Corporations
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Summary: As businesses are implementing teleworking policies, school districts are following suit and turning to technology to make Electronic Learning Days, or what some refer to as eDays, a reality.

What Educational Institutions Can Learn From Corporations About Making eDays A Success 

But why is education extending beyond the classroom? Extreme weather –from snow storms to heatwaves– is causing schools to close for extended periods of time and requires students to make up days, eating into holiday breaks or teacher planning days. In addition to weather-related cancelations, there are other reasons why education needs to continue at home, such as when illness requires students to stay home for an extended period, a student requires extra help or to allow teachers to get extra training without cancelling school.

While technology is an integral part of a school day –from Chromebooks to Smartboards– using technology to allow learning to continue when a student isn’t physically in a classroom is a relatively new trend. However, working from home (or teleworking) is becoming the norm rather than the exception for private companies. In fact, teleworking grew by almost 80 percent from 2005 to 2012 according to GlobalWorkPlaceAnalytics.com. As such, it only makes sense that eDays will become mainstream, but in order to do so it’s best to look at practices that work for the private sector and implement them into the educational space. These practices include:

  1. Put together a formal plan.
    Putting together a formal plan for eLearning implementation is the first step to making sure administrators, teachers, students and parents are on the same page prior to a program roll-out. A well-defined plan is one that addresses personnel and technology challenges. Some questions to consider when putting together this plan include:

    • When will eDays be used – during inclement weather or when teachers are going through extended learning programs?
    • Who will be responsible for training the teachers, students, and parents to leverage the technology? And for troubleshooting?
    • Who will be the governing body to make sure rollout is smooth, requirements are met, and procedures are updated on a regular basis?
    • What will a typical “work from home” day look like - will students complete assignments online or take part in online lectures?
  2. Finding the right technology.
    To make eDays a success, the right technology needs to be in place. Examples of the types of capabilities needed include:

    • Remote Support.
      If something goes wrong with a computer or application, staff members need to be able to access the computer remotely to help fix issues in real-time.
    • Video Conferencing.
      If online sessions are going to be held in real-time, teachers need a way to conference with their students. Also, if teachers are able to record lessons, it can be sent to students who missed school, due to illness for example, or for those that need to review that day’s lesson again.
    • Collaboration.
      If students have questions, they need to be able to collaborate in real-time with teachers, as well as other students. Also, some tools provide the ability to virtually collaborate on documents in real time.
  3. Implementing ongoing training.
    Teachers and students come and go, so training can’t be a one-time deal. Training needs to occur on a regular basis, giving new teachers the same background as those that were around for the implementation. Training also needs to include a practice run. According to AL.com, some schools are even building eDays into the school calendar to get “students and parents used to completing assignments electronically so that in the event of an inclement weather day or other sudden school closure, they can seamlessly complete their work and not have to make up the missed school day”.

While studies about the effectiveness of K12 online learning and teaching are developing along with the trend, the International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACL) released a summary in 2009 of research on the topic. The reports concludes with: “The small body of research focused on the effectiveness of K12 virtual schooling programs supports findings of similar studies on online courses offered in higher education. The college-level studies find ‘no significant difference’ in student performance in online courses versus traditional face-to-face courses, and in particular programs that students learning online are performing ‘equally well or better’.”

While it will take time and effort to create the plan, it is important to get all parties on board before moving forward with implementation – and remember that the end result is worth it. Soon, having established eDay polices and technologies like TeamViewer in place will be expected and necessary in the U.S., just like teleworking policies are today.