The coronavirus may force American schools to teach online. Are they ready?

Ryan Baker of Penn GSE offers suggestions for how K-12 schools can shift classes online for weeks or even months at a time.

The COVID-19 virus has started to close schools and college campuses in the United States. 

Public health officials predict that coronavirus cases will only continue to rise. So what should K-12 school leaders do in case they have to shift classes online for weeks or months at a time? 

Young student working at home on tablet at a desk

Ryan Baker, Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics, is an expert on what works and what doesn’t in blended and online learning. We asked him what school leaders, teachers, and parents should be thinking about. His advice: stay flexible, take out some library books, and understand that the coronavirus could change online learning going forward.

“The last thing I would do would be to sit 28 fifth-graders in a group video chat. That's just simply not going to work,” Baker says.

“There’s a lot of adaptive learning features out there, some of which allows teachers to input their own curriculum. Kids can work on those problems, teachers can monitor it, and teachers can have one-on-one meetings with kids, but that’s not going to be possible in every district. You can also send workbook packets home and have kids send in a picture of their completed assignment through email or text. Teachers can then follow up with phone calls. A lot of homes have smartphones, even if they don’t have a computer or high-speed internet,” Baker says. “This is one of these times where if we don’t want to just close school and have kids not lose time, technology can be an answer.”

Read more at Penn GSE.