K-12 Education Challenges And Their eLearning Solutions
The global pandemic has reshaped many aspects of the educational landscape. How can K-12 learning professionals and school administrators rise to these new challenges, while still dealing with the ones they faced before the COVID outbreak? This epic guide shows you how to overcome 8 common obstacles with the right academic eLearning solutions, from tight budgets to low student engagement. You’ll also discover how online learning can help stretch available resources and increase remote engagement while minimizing safety risks, as well as steps to implement a sound eLearning strategy. Without further ado, let’s dive into the many benefits learning technologies can bring to K-12 educators, parents, and students. You can also download the exclusive eBook for bonus tips to choose the best tech tools for your school.
What You’ll Find Inside This Guide…
- Challenge #1: Limited Resources
- Challenge #2: Safety Risks (COVID Crisis)
- Challenge #3: Low K-12 Student Engagement
- Challenge #4: Lack Of Personalization
- Challenge #5: Time Crunch
- Challenge #6: Low Parent Involvement
- Challenge #7: Large Class Sizes
- Challenge #8: Emotional Factors
- 7 Steps To Implement eLearning In K-12 Education
How eLearning Helps Overcome K-12 Education Challenges Cost-Effectively
Every school district has unique challenges based on location, demographics, funding, and other factors. However, many issues are shared across the board, such as safety concerns and low student participation. Here are a few notable K-12 education challenges that eLearning can help you overcome, regardless of class sizes or current gaps.
Every school deals with resource restrictions. Maybe you’re understaffed or simply don’t have room in the budget or additional supplies. This directly impacts the educational experience, but it also raises stress levels for staffers. For example, a teacher must stretch themselves thin to accommodate more learners. Limited resources can even have a ripple effect on parents, given that they contribute more of their time or funds to pick up the slack.
Online education allows you to allocate resources more effectively and maximize state funding. Teachers can host large-scale events, such as virtual classrooms. Anyone with a PC, laptop, or mobile device can participate in remote learning sessions. Some organizations even implement a BYOD strategy for blended learning. For example, students are encouraged to access online learning resources that supplement face-to-face classroom activities. Here are just a few ideas to use eLearning to cut costs without compromising a quality education:
- Convert legacy content into online support tools. For instance, PowerPoint presentations become interactive tutorials for high school students.
- Provide remote access to digital textbooks and guides versus printed training materials.
- Invite students to submit their own content based on their areas of expertise or personal experience (i.e., task walkthroughs or skill-building demos).
While implementing eLearning does require an investment, it can help you reduce spending in the long run. As an example, you may have to purchase authoring tools or an LMS to deploy online education initiatives. However, teachers no longer have to spend hours grading assessments, since the system automatically scores tests based on the grading rubric. Along those same lines, you don’t have to pay for in-class supplies if you launch a virtual learning environment.
One of the most significant K-12 education challenges today is the COVID-19 crisis. Educators have been forced to adapt to the new normal and social distancing has added even more hurdles to the learning path. For instance, desks must be spaced at least 2 meters apart and everyone is required to wear face masks. Daily school routines now consist of applying hand sanitizer and temperature checks. As a result, many schools have made the switch to online and/or blended learning initiatives.
Online learning gives educators the opportunity to improve collaboration among their students without putting them at risk. Students are able to learn from the comfort (and containment) of their own homes. Furthermore, they still have the chance to get peer feedback, work on group projects, and attend live events—if you choose the right tech tools; for example, an LMS with social learning support that also includes video conferencing tools. Here are some tips to help ease them into the new normal from an educational perspective:
- Provide students and parents with bite-sized tutorials on how to use the new eLearning platform.
- Create a microlearning support library that allows them to go at their own pace.
- Host frequent coaching/mentoring sessions for those who need one-on-one guidance.
- Offer support resources that help students acclimate to a post-pandemic world and prep them for new educational guidelines (i.e., maintaining social distance).
The key is to stress the importance of active participation and show them how to maximize the tools at their disposal. For this reason, many schools launch informal marketing initiatives to raise awareness and help students master new technologies; for instance, tutorials that walk them through the login process or virtual tours of the eLearning library.
Students may not be fully engaged in the classroom because of external distractions or peer influences. Some of them even contend with learning disabilities that make it more difficult to comprehend the subject matter, which hinders participation. Yet another factor to consider is lack of motivation, in general. They simply don’t see the point of attending classes or getting involved in group discussions because everything is “theoretical.” After all, how much of the information are they really going to use in the real world?
One of the standout perks of eLearning is practical application. Simulations and branching scenarios are prime examples of learning activities that put skills and knowledge into action. Thus, students are able to see how participation leads to real-world benefits. Furthermore, online learning helps individualize the experience and fosters remote immersion. Students can pick and choose materials that resonate with them and their specific needs. These eLearning initiatives can help you maximize learner engagement:
- eLearning gamification rewards that recognize milestones, such as completing a certification path
- Group projects that encourage students to share their experiences and evaluate different perspectives
- Learner-generated content libraries that give them the chance to create their own content and gather feedback
- Webinars and workshops with Q&As and guest speakers who provide unique insights
Best of all, eLearning is more discreet. For example, learners with dyslexia can utilize audio resources to fill in the gaps, but they still have the chance to reach out to mentors and teachers directly for more personalized support. In the traditional classroom, they might not pursue other learning avenues for fear of being judged or ridiculed by their peers.
It’s nearly impossible to deliver an individualized learning plan for every student in traditional classroom settings. Everyone has their unique goals, preferences, learning styles, and limitations. Even if you have smaller class sizes (which we’ll cover later in this guide), educators cannot provide each and every student with one-on-one support as often as they need it. Another drawback is that the resources, themselves, aren’t personalized. While some students might gravitate toward kinesthetic activities, others learn more effectively through reading-based assignments. The same goes for assessment methods.
Many organizations make the switch to eLearning for the sole purpose of individualization. Students can set their own schedules, aside from synchronous activities, and the library is always there for on-the-spot education. For example, there are serious games, checklists, and video walkthroughs that help them build vital skills or perform tasks. They have the ability to access the course catalog based on their personal interests and goals. Below are just a few ideas you can incorporate into your learner-centered program:
- Course maps that allow students to choose the order of activities and navigate through every checkpoint when it’s most convenient for them
- Pre-assessments that produce personalized recommendation lists, such as the top 5 activities they should check out based on their knowledge gaps
- Learning paths that are structured around their hobbies, educational interests, and experience levels
Bear in mind that personalization isn’t just about resources or going at their own pace. You should also consider learners with special needs, such as those who require subtitles or captions. A truly individualized learning experience is easily accessible for every member of the class and is all-inclusive.
There aren’t enough hours in the day for teachers to address all the questions or provide feedback. Likewise, students might be dealing with time crunches of their own that prevent them from absorbing the subject matter. For example, they have extracurricular activities every afternoon or they go at a slower pace than their peers. Thus, they require more time than is allotted to comprehend and retain the information. Another key group to consider is parents. They also contend with busy schedules and may not have the time to help with homework assignments or school projects by the due date.
Unfortunately, transitioning to online learning won’t suddenly add more time to the clock. However, it does provide more flexible learning opportunities. Plus, students can tackle each activity at their own speed instead of trying to keep pace with peers. As a result, they don’t feel rushed to get through the experience and skip crucial concepts just to avoid the embarrassment. Here are few resources to add to your eLearning strategy to cater to everyone’s schedule (including time-strapped teachers):
- Quick knowledge checks that help learners assess their level of understanding, but don’t involve manual grading
- Bite-sized modules that focus on niche topics or skills—learners can gradually scaffold their knowledge
- Host remote study sessions where students gather online to boost motivation and expedite knowledge transfer
- Encourage learners to set manageable milestones so that they can track long-term goals more effectively
In short, students no longer have to miss out on valuable learning sessions if they have other obligations because there are plenty of “learn on-demand” tools that are readily available.
There are a variety of reasons why parents may not be actively involved with their child’s education. Maybe they have a heavy workload or they don’t live in the same household. Some even take a more “hands-off” approach because they feel that the school should handle educational pursuits. Whatever the case, low parent involvement has a direct impact on the student’s performance because they don’t have a support network outside the formal learning environment.
First and foremost, online learning makes it more convenient for parents to play an active role in their child’s education since they don’t have to attend on-site meetings and all the assignments are centrally located. However, there are ways to engage them on a personal level so that they’re aware of their child’s areas for improvement and strong suits; for instance, hosting monthly virtual parent-teacher meetings using a video conferencing system. Here are some other ideas you can implement in your strategy to get parents on board:
- Launch message boards or closed social media groups where parents can exchange ideas and provide feedback.
- Offer a support resource library that features downloads tools and demos for how to complete learning activities.
- Develop an e-newsletter that keeps parents in-the-know regarding virtual class projects and upcoming due dates.
- Host online “open houses” that allow parents to see completed assignments and discuss the school trimester/semester.
For parents who feel that teaching their child is the school’s responsibility, you might consider online workshops that highlight case studies and simple tips to connect. For example, they can spend ten minutes a day reviewing online assignments and checking the online bulletin board.
Virtually every school district contends with overcrowding, to some degree. Large class sizes place a heavy burden on teachers, who must juggle a high number of students and provide everyone with a valuable education. On the other hand, learners may feel slighted or overlooked because there simply isn’t enough individualized instruction and guidance to go around. Then, the COVID crisis adds a whole new dimension to overcrowding, as it’s difficult to keep a distance when 35 students are packed into a room.
Switching to eLearning can overcome this K-12 education challenge in a short time span. As an example, break the class into two or three groups and host smaller-scale virtual classrooms. Another option is to provide each student with a learning plan and schedule one-on-one sessions with the teacher. Many video conferencing platforms even have breakout rooms so that you can divide larger classes into mini-groups when it’s time to discuss the topic in depth. Below are some top tips to make larger classes more manageable and ensure that no child is left behind:
- Schedule lab groups of 5-10 students online where they must solve a problem and conduct experiments to fulfill the hands-on learning component.
- Set up peer coaching groups that meet on a weekly basis to encourage self-reflection and remote collaboration.
- Host virtual classroom sessions that align with specific experience levels or goals. For example, the Monday afternoon class is comprised of students who need more practical application and kinesthetic activities.
Another eLearning idea is to record live learning sessions and upload them to the library so that everyone benefits from the experience. This also helps decrease class sizes and improve participation, as those who could not attend can still ask questions and leave comments on the eLearning community message board.
Every student deals with emotional factors that impact their educational experience. While some are stressed due to situations at home, others may feel a high amount of pressure regarding their studies and overall performance. Large class sizes, low parent involvement, and limited resources further exacerbate these issues. For example, a student may not be able to effectively cope with daily homework assignments because they must contend with a hectic home environment. Plus, there’s always the possibility that students may be dealing with conditions like ADHD or psychological trauma that they don’t feel comfortable sharing in traditional classroom settings.
There’s no easy eLearning fix for this K-12 education challenge due to the nature of emotional and psychological issues, it greatly depends on extenuating circumstances, the pupil’s personality, etc. That said, online learning makes it more feasible to meet the student’s individual needs without making the rest of the class feel slighted. A prime example of this is children who act out in traditional classrooms because they may not receive adequate personal attention outside the structured school environment. Here are a few more innovative ways to overcome this obstacle:
- Create mentoring pairs or groups where students feel safe and supported. Ideally, this should be with older peers who have a high degree of empathy and compassion.
- Develop resources that help students deal with their emotions effectively. For example, how to avoid conflicts through active listening and communication.
- Enlist the aid of a child developmental specialist to help identify traits and customize the student’s learning path.
- Focus on unconventional assessment methods and assignments that alleviate pressure (if stress is the cause of their emotional issue).
A notable eLearning benefit is that it allows teachers to dedicate their time, energy, and attention to each child and recommend suitable resources. They’re less likely to be overwhelmed and can focus on individual development.
All of these online learning solutions are great in theory, but implementing them is another story, especially if you’re new to the world of EdTech. How do you take the leap and launch an eLearning program to overcome K-12 education challenges? This step-by-step guide walks you through every aspect of the process, from analyzing your needs to evaluating success in the long term.
1. Assess Your Needs And Expectations
How will you make the switch from in-class sessions to online learning? How much of your program will not take place online versus face-to-face? The first step is to gauge your expectations and requirements so that you can create an implementation plan. For instance, maybe you need to cut costs and accommodate more students. As such, your strategy involves larger live events combined with self-paced activities that supplement synchronous sessions.
2. Evaluate Your Current Tools
Which tools are currently in your eLearning arsenal? For that matter, do you have printed resources that you need to convert into digital content? It’s wise to take stock of your assets and technology platforms to see where you stand. Then you can choose tools that mesh with your existing setup and/or help you transform outdated resources into new and improved support tools. This evaluation process also gives you the opportunity to assess the learning curve moving forward. For instance, most of your staff is already familiar with Learning Management Systems or authoring tools, however, your students and parents need a bit more help transitioning to online learning technologies.
3. Get Teachers, Students, And Parents Actively Involved
Speaking of parents and alumni, it’s crucial to get everyone involved in the process. Their feedback can help you develop a more personalized curriculum and select eLearning tools that suit their needs. However, it also gives them a sense of ownership. They join the eLearning community long before the first resource goes live. Thus, they’re more likely to engage in the experience and contribute to the program as a whole. For example, there might be Subject Matter Experts among them who can host their own webinars or create JIT support resources for your library. At the very least, getting them involved early on offers them a chance to voice their thoughts and concerns about eLearning implementation. Then, you’re able to use these insights to custom tailor your strategy to address their gaps and goals.
4. Choose The Right LMS And Authoring Tools
The right tools are integral for eLearning success. A Learning Management System serves as a framework for your online learning program because it allows you to deploy and track initiatives; for instance, learner progress and performance. Authoring tools are crucial for developing content that’s interactive and engaging. While some organizations outsource content creation and hosting, others choose to handle everything internally. This is another reason why it’s essential to evaluate your needs and expectations before launching your eLearning initiatives. You can also peruse an LMS directory to see what’s available and qualify vendors.
5. Consider Pre-Built Solutions
Another route is to purchase solutions that are already built to reduce implementation time and costs. For example, many course providers offer eLearning solutions that focus on specific skills, topics, and objectives. You can add them to your online learning library or purchase plans that unlock their course catalog for a certain number of students. This is often more cost-effective than bespoke eLearning solutions. However, these pre-built alternatives may not align with your curriculum and/or lack personalization options.
6. Conduct A Testing Phase Before Rollout
It’s always good to test the waters before you launch your entire eLearning strategy, particularly if you’re moving everything online. So, invite a select group of students and parents to participate in an evaluation phase. They might have limited access to the microlearning library or you provide a link to one of your certification paths. This gives them the opportunity to try out the system and offer feedback for the overall experience. They can also shed light on areas for improvement regarding the resource design and navigability.
7. Measure Success
Last, but not least, you need to define success and how you’ll measure it along the way. This is based on your expectations and objectives. As an example, your idea of success is a 95% completion rate and a 25% boost in assessment scores. But these metrics should also include technology adoption. For instance, how many students are actually using the system on a daily basis, and how long does it take them to learn the ins and outs of your digital curriculum?
Unfortunately, most K-12 education challenges don’t have a quick fix. However, eLearning is usually the most cost-effective and rapid way to address your most significant challenges and provide personalized learning experiences. Students get more individualized support and guidance. Likewise, teachers have the opportunity to address the needs of each online learner without stretching themselves too thin. Follow these tips to mitigate the rollout risks, conduct a successful needs analysis, and choose the best approach. You can also use our exclusive online directory to vet LMS vendors and narrow the options.
Download the eBook Take The eLearning Leap: 8 K-12 Education Challenges That Online Learning Can Overcome for exclusive content. It features a bonus section to help you choose the right eLearning tech for your K-12 education program and stretch available resources.