Remote learning is challenging.
It’s difficult for the teachers, who must move their classrooms and lesson plans online. It’s difficult for the students, who are stuck staring at a computer screen for hours on end. And it’s hard for parents, who are suddenly tasked with the additional role of tutor and classroom aid.
A new educational model called Distance Learning Pods is offering support to students and their families as schools continue virtual education into the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Distance Learning Pods are small groups of four to six students who gather together to work on their school’s remote learning assignments with the help of a credentialed teacher.
Distance Learning Pods differ from other learning pods (also known as “pandemic pods” or “micro-schools”) and home schooling in the sense that the students remain enrolled in public schools or private schools.
Instead of parents attempting to guide their students through online lessons and assignments – often while attempting to hold down their full-time job – Distance Learning Pods employ a teacher to work with the students on their schools’ assignments.
Remote learning may come with a long list of challenges, but it is likely to be the reality for tens of millions of students across the country this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Many experts predict online learning to continue until a vaccine is approved and widely available.
Challenges of Remote Learning
Here are some of the top challenges of remote learning, and how a Distance Learning Pod helps solve them:
Routine and Schedule
Routines help children feel safe and calm. They provide a framework for a child’s life and ensure that their needs are met.
Visit any elementary classroom and you’ll likely notice a schedule on the whiteboard detailing the full day’s activities and built-in breaks.
Those routines and schedules become inconsistent and nearly vanish when school moves online, which leaves many students feeling anxious.
With a Distance Learning Pod, the at-home teacher creates a customized routine that makes all students feel comfortable.
Distance Learning Pods provide a predictable routine again so students can focus on exploring and learning.
According to a nationwide survey of teachers regarding their experiences with remote learning at the end of the 2019-20 school year, teachers said only about 60 percent of their students regularly participated or engaged in distance learning assignments.
Teachers found that while some students stopped engaging because of boredom as the class moved too slow, other students stopped participating when they fell too far behind. Those findings make one thing clear: Pacing is crucial to student success.
Distance Learning Pod teachers help students move through their remote learning assignments at the individual paces that work best.
Personal connection and a sense of belonging are important human needs – and they are ones that are not easily met through a computer screen.
Even if classes can meet via Zoom or another video conferencing tool, remote learning can be isolating.
There has been much research into social isolation in early years, and the findings are consistent: Children who are socially isolated early in their learning experience greater mental health difficulties.
Distance Learning Pods offer social interaction in a safe and enriching way. In addition to working on school assignments in a small group, students in a Distance Learning Pod can also participate in other enrichment activities as time allows.
Students need meaningful feedback to learn new content and master new skills.
When a child is provided specific feedback – more than just “good job!” – about what they are doing right or wrong, they master new information much faster. And when the feedback is given immediately, rather than in a few days, weeks or months down the line, they perform even better.
In a classroom, teachers can easily provide immediate feedback to their students throughout the day by walking around the room and checking in with students one-on-one. Providing that meaningful feedback virtually is a whole new challenge, as teachers and students work on different schedules and communicate mostly through electronic messages.
A Distance Learning Pod teacher fills that gap by providing immediate feedback on the work a student is completing for school. Students enrolled in Distance Learning Pods can take ownership of their learning when they know they are on the right track, and they can self-adjust if they haven’t grasped the concept quite yet.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding remote learning is access to technology and the internet. When schools moved to online instruction in the spring due to COVID-19, districts rushed to deliver devices to students and ensure they had access to the internet in some form.
Still, technology can be finicky, and parents expressed frustration that they were required to help solve computer issues in order for their children to stay on track in school.
With Distance Learning Pods, the at-home teacher assists students in accessing their online classes and assignments. Being part of a Distance Learning Pod means a student will never miss a class meeting, whether it’s via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Meets or any other combination of tools and software a school may utilize.
How to Join a Learning Pod
KidzToPros offers highly customizable Distance Learning Pods for groups of students in grades K-5. Pods can be made up of 4-6 elementary school students and can be based on a half-day or full-day schedule, meeting three or five days per week.
Families can organize their own group of students for a KidzToPros pod, or KidzToPros can match interested families from their school or geographical area.
KidzToPros Distance Learning Pods are staffed by a credentialed, background-checked and COVID-tested teacher with at least three years of experience. The teacher works with each student to create a personalized schedule based on their school’s grade-level curriculum and remote learning hours.
KidzToPros teachers work with parents to secure the curriculum and assignments from each student’s school district, and supplement the provided material with other helpful educational exercises.
Health and safety protocols are strictly enforced to ensure all families involved in the Distance Learning Pod remain healthy and can continue meeting on-site.
KidzToPros also offers Micro-school Learning Pods, for students no longer enrolled in their public or private school, and Enrichment Pods, which provide fun activities in STEM, arts and sports at home and in neighboring parks and fields.
To learn more about learning pods and register today, visit the KidzToPros website.