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Coronavirus Caused Rapid Changes in Education Model

Child and parent doing remote learning, teaching

April 10, 2020

As K-12 schools, colleges and universities turn to online instruction, the dean of UNC’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences offers tips for students, parents and educators to succeed in this new reality.

Dean Eugene Sheehan and faculty at UNC spent UNC’s spring break preparing to transition traditional classroom delivery to a virtual environment. This has been a huge undertaking, requiring the conversion of hundreds of UNC on-campus classes to online delivery. Sheehan is aware of the challenges and opportunities the situation has presented. Faculty have been redesigning assignments, finding creative ways to introduce and teach new material, and engaging students in a virtual learning environment, all while trying to accommodate students who may not have access to reliable equipment and internet service.

UNC teacher candidates have always had an educational technology component to their learning, so they certainly have a leg up when it comes to the technology (called learning management systems) behind the alternate modalities. Still, the departure from a traditional classroom setting can be jarring. Faculty, program leaders and the dean have made it a priority to ensure students are supported emotionally in this transition so they’re ready to learn.

Resources for UNC students and faculty

For UNC students and faculty, Sheehan advises tapping into a number of UNC resources to help with the transition and to speed up the learning curve associated with moving from an on-campus class to a fully online class.

More resources are available on the university’s COVID response website.

Resources for PK-12 students and parents

For PK-12 teachers and students (and their parents), Dean Sheehan suggests connecting with current UNC teacher candidates and teacher education faculty. UNC has developed a system called Bear Educators Supporting Teachers (BEST) to connect teachers, students, and parents with teacher education candidates and students who want to offer their expertise to help learning continue and thrive in this unique time.

Because many teacher education faculty members have taught online courses for many years with each teacher education candidate using a learning management system in every course at UNC, they’re uniquely situated to offer supports. They can help adjust lesson plans to fit the new learning environment and can provide recommendations on high quality resources available that fit the Colorado academic standards. They can also suggest ways to develop classes and schedules that will allow students to stay engaged when completing learning activities at home.

Eugene SheehanSheehan recognizes schools and districts for providing technological resources needed by students who lack them at home. He also reminds parents and families to look into options for low-cost, or free internet access at home through providers such as Comcast.

“The upside to this is that parents will be even more involved in the learning of their children, researching resources that are available to help with their kids’ education,” Sheehan said. “They will have to be more systematic about the support they provide at home and will quickly realize all manner of skills that teachers have.”

 -Written by Eugene Sheehan

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