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Our ability to adapt to the current situation has proven that, despite challenges, we all have found ways to make the best of things. Businesses, nonprofits and government entities have adapted policies and day-to-day operations to meet the recommendations and orders from health officials and state leaders in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, while each entity is doing the best it can given the circumstances, what we’re doing likely fails to meet our pre-COVID standards, particularly in the classroom.

Countless parents in recent weeks have noted that, while they strive to keep their children engaged, learning and progressing, they have found that online learning is no substitute for time in a classroom.

Quick pivots to ensure students get a dose of learning each day and educators instituting even more creative ways to teach are admirable, but most parents, teachers and students long to return to the classroom.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to public education. As educators have noted for years, children learn differently. Some learn best by reading about something, then practicing it. Others learn best by doing — tackling hands-on projects that demonstrate a concept. Some need breaks more often than others. Some need to stand; others prefer to sit. And, as many parents are discovering, some would rather stay in their pajamas in bed while completing school work.

A recent article on Education Week’s website noted that, while online courses provide some opportunity for students, most aren’t as effective as in-person classes, particularly for K-12 students.

The article (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/23/how-effective-is-online-learning-what-the.html) cites an example of work Jessica Heppen and colleagues at the American Institutes for Research and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research conducted. In that study, they randomly assigned students who had failed second semester Algebra I to either traditional or online credit recovery courses.

“Students’ credit-recovery success rates and algebra test scores were lower in the online setting,” the article states. “Students assigned to the online option also rated their class as more difficult than did their peers assigned to the face-to-face option.”

Other studies, too, have found that on average, online course taking is less effective than in-person teaching. This is especially true for students who struggle with in-person school to begin with but may also apply to students who thrive on classroom discussion and debate.

These, of course, are not definitive statements. Some students will do better online, especially if allowed to move at their own pace — whether that’s accelerated or more slowly. And, just as with in-person learning, many of the outcomes depend heavily on the skill, structure and expectations established by instructors.

While online classes are certainly more beneficial than no classes at all, only time will tell how the current experiment plays out for students. For now, most teachers, parents and even students look forward to the time they may return to the classroom, and we don’t blame them.

While technology has and will continue to be incorporated into K-12 education and options exist for online learning, the concept will need vast improvement before it reaches the caliber of face-to-face teaching in a classroom.

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