The Education Vending Machine And The Future Remote Learner

K-12 Education And Remote Learning
Summary: Students in grades K-12 during the 2020-2021 school year are being taught via remote synchronous learning. Rapid and unsettling to many, this innovation in K-12 education will bring with it a future workforce of remote learning natives. Here's how L&D professionals can work with K-12 educators.

Planning For Remote Learning Natives

Asynchronous learning, or on-demand online courses, are probably what many, outside of Learning and Development (L&D), think of when they hear about a push for online education. It’s understandable because many of us have been students in an asynchronous course, often an annual compliance training. In many ways asynchronous courses are great. Microlearning and point-of-need learning tend to be asynchronous. We search for YouTube how-to videos, read industry-specific articles, or take a dive into an internet search until we find some easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. Where we often encounter our learners' disconnect is when they are scheduled for a live virtual instructor-led course (aka a webinar or remote learning). Unlike asynchronous learning, which can be thought of as an education vending machine ready with the mental snack of your choosing, at your convenience, live remote learning is only different than live brick-and-mortar classes in that the classroom is now online.

Whether your L&D team was an early adopter of webinars or had to develop your remote training program due to the pandemic, the savings in cost and time to teach remote classes make it a learning format that is here to stay.

K-12 Education And Remote Learning

Our fellow educators in K-12 are also being thrust into the role of the remote teacher. As with our own L&D programs, some school systems were early adopters of online learning, with many more being forced to adopt remote teaching at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Our fellow educators are also encountering a problem many of us in L&D have faced; learners who try to log in when the webinar is not happening.

The disconnect comes with some learners being technology phobic, some learners falling back to what we know the internet to be: any link available at any time for us to consume its content, and some learners simply don’t read the email or class schedule.

Just as our K-12 partners can borrow a page out of the L&D book on how to effectively develop a remote learning program, L&D can borrow some practices from the K-12 book. What all education professionals need to keep in mind is what teaching, at its most basic, consists of: (1) a facility, (2) a curriculum, and (3) a faculty.

1. Facility

When we think of a learning facility, a school often comes to mind. Often red brick public schools, which seem large when we are small, are where we get our start in the learning journey. Schools take on many forms over the years, up to and including the stuffy conference rooms that so many of us are crammed into during our new hire orientations at our first “professional” job.

Now the webinar platform we are using has become our facility. L&D might have pushed the need for better webinar systems, but it’s K-12 that is making the webinar classroom (or web-room) their own. Bitmoji web-rooms are designed to brighten the virtual learning space and offer an in-person experience from the comfort of one’s home.

Whether your web-room is brightly decorated using a Bitmoji, a fun Zoom background is added, or you decorate the wall behind your desk, make your web-room a space where you can teach your best. Tailoring your web-room also includes platform settings. What works for one teacher may not work for another.

Web-rooms are no less “real” than a brick-and-mortar classroom, so whatever form a web-room takes, the educator needs to make it their own.

2. Curriculum

Remote teaching takes some extra planning. Curriculum and content mapping and development are not suddenly new because we’re teaching remotely. A well-developed curriculum that still offers the flexibility a teacher needs to make each lesson and each course the most effective they can be is necessary no matter the type of classroom.

3. Faculty

L&D and K-12 are all in this together, or they can be if we are willing to learn from one another as fellow educators. Many have equated the teaching during the pandemic as building the plane while flying. We cannot build that plane by ourselves. Crowdsourcing our expertise, research, trial and error, our failures, and our successes will help make every educator’s job a bit more manageable.

Funding for webinar platforms needs to be at the forefront of every educator’s mind. WiFi infrastructure reforms are needed to reach even the most remote community. Like the smartphone, WiFi infrastructure is now a utility used in everyday life and can no longer be thought of as a luxury. Our students’ success depends on this infrastructure.

From an L&D perspective, moving K-12 learning online can only be a value-add. Students weathering the pandemic and adapting to live web-rooms will become adults in the workforce who understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning. Our future leaders and working professionals will have a more adept hand with different remote learning platforms, will be able to better use mobile technology, and maybe, just maybe, be more inclined to read the class schedule and not try to log in to a live webinar the day before or day after the class. Our future leaders and working professionals will have been students in what will be seen as a terrible time in twenty-first century history, while also being the first students to be part of the largest push in modern teaching and learning innovation.

As long as we make our facility the best it can be; have a solid well-developed curriculum; and innovative, committed faculty this teaching and learning innovation will be a success.