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How to Decide Between In-Person vs. Remote E-Learning During COVID-19 & More Tips

How to Decide Between In-Person vs. Remote E-Learning During COVID-19 & More Tips

How to Decide Between In-Person vs. Remote E-Learning During COVID-19 & More Tips

As the winter semester creeps closer, are you struggling to decide if you are going to stick with your schooling decision from first semester? It can be challenging to decide if the in-person instructional benefits outweigh the risk the pandemic presents and there are several other considerations too.

Learn about the benefits and drawbacks to both in-person and remote learning. Then after you’ve made your decision, check out additional tips on infection prevention, pod learning, and more!

COVID-19 in Children: Get the Stats

Children make up 22% of the population in the U.S.1 As of Nov. 5th , 2020, children represent 11.3% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., bringing the total number of children who have tested positive since the pandemic began to 927,000.2 While it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is less common in children, more data must be collected before determining the long-term physical effects on infected children.

Terms to Know

When deciding between in-person and virtual learning, you might hear some of these terms used:

  • Hybrid model: A mix of in-person and remote learning, classroom schedules may vary
  • Cohort model: Divides students into smaller groups called “cohorts”, can be used with an in-person only or hybrid model
  • Learning pods: Small groups of students who all learn together in-person, but outside of the classroom, you may hear them called “pandemic pods”

Types of Schooling

parent helping with online learning

Most school options are more complex than just all in-person or all remote. These are some of the models that your school might implement.

  • In-person
    • K-3: Prioritizes young children who are most likely to have trouble with online learning, only K-3 attend staying in their classrooms and teachers rotate
    • High need: Prioritizes students with disabilities who need in-person instruction, all other students remain remote
    • High school: Prioritizes older children who are more likely to follow mask wearing and social distancing rules, all others are remote
    • Cohorts: Divides students into small groups, they stay with their group and don’t interact with other cohorts, teachers stay with their cohort and don’t rotate
    • Teacher rotation: Keeps small cohorts of students in their classroom while teachers rotate through staying socially distanced at all times
    • Staggered schedule: Staggered start times, lunches, and dismissals for morning and afternoon shifts to increase social distancing
    • Outdoor: Classes temporarily taught outside
    • Full in-person: Schools opening entirely in-person
  • Hybrid
    • Hybrid Learning: Combines in-person and online learning. Students spend half of their time in school and the other half learning from home. This might mean dividing students into two groups by last name: one group attends in-person Monday and Tuesday and learns remotely Thursday and Friday while the other group does the reverse. On Wednesday and over the weekend, the school performs a deep cleaning between groups.
    • A/B Weeks: Groups of students alternate in-person and remote every other week. One week the students may spend 5 days at school and the following week they may spend 5 days remote. Deep cleaning takes place on the weekend between A/B weeks
    • Looping Structure: K-8 is assigned to different cohorts who stay with them for multiple grade levels. This allows students to build a stronger relationship when learning in-person or remote.
  • Homeschooling/Remote Learning
    • Traditional Homeschooling: Follow a curriculum you create or choose to follow different programming from your local public schools’. Some states require that your child take standardized tests
    • Virtual Learning: Children may learn remotely at home, following virtual classes and activities according to their school district’s curriculum
    • Learning Pod: Small groups of children gathered in one home instructed by parents or a hired teacher, may follow virtual learning curriculum or homeschool
    • Zoom Tutors: Tutors hired to assist students individually over Zoom calls

Back to School: The Benefits and Drawbacks to In-Person and Remote Learning

mother and little daughter writing together

Are you deciding on whether your child will be doing e-learning or in-person schooling next semester? Here are some things to consider before making your decision.

In-Person Schooling

little girl writing in class

One of the biggest benefits to in-person schooling is the in-person teaching and social interaction for your child. It also enables parents and caregivers to return to work without worrying about childcare. Schools offer additional benefits as well such as tutoring, therapy, reliable nutrition, and more.

However, it does provide an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure compared to e-learning. The CDC states that the risk of spread increases from virtual to hybrid to in-person learning with the risks in hybrid and in-person depending on mitigation strategies used and how diligently they are followed. Due to new school rules, your child may not be getting the same socialization opportunities as usual. If the class is doing a hybrid model and teaching both in-person and virtually at the same time, you may want to consider the level of engagement your child is really getting as teachers try to help remote learners use new online tools.

If you’re considering in-person learning for your child, think about your answers to these questions:

  • Does your child have an underlying condition that increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19?
  • Do you, someone you live with, or your child’s caregiver have an underlying condition or age that increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19?
  • Is the level of community spread high in your area?
  • Are you comfortable with your school’s plan for reducing the spread of COVID-19? Review your school’s plan and strategies spread including:
    • Promoting behaviors that reduce spread (hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing...)
    • Maintaining a healthy environment (cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched services, adequate ventilation...)
    • Maintaining health operations (staggering schedules, creating cohorts, keeping students in small groups)
    • Preparing for when someone gets sick
  • Do you believe your school has the resources needed to implement their plan (supplies, staffing, etc.)?
  • Are you satisfied with how your school communicates changes and addresses parent and caregiver’s concerns?
  • Are you comfortable with your school’s plan for if a student or staff member test positive?
  • Does your child know how to properly wear a face mask, and can they wear it for an extended amount of time?
  • Can your child follow social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention measures?
  • Does your child have a reliable ride to school?
  • If your child takes the bus, are you comfortable with the measures your school is taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19?

Infection Prevention Strategies for Schools and Students

Learn about infection prevention strategies that many schools are taking in this video.

 

You can learn more about the CDC’s considerations for school operating during COVID on their website, including the continuum of infection risk and steps schools can take to maintain a healthy environment.

Remote Learning

little boy on computer for online class

If you’re thinking about remote learning, one of the biggest benefits is a reduced chance of COVID-19 exposure. If the teacher offers recorded lessons, your child can take the time to learn at their own pace and use office hours to get help on things they don’t understand. It can also help reduce distractions, social anxiety, and pressure to look good or fit in. And may even allow your child to get some more hours of sleep instead of getting up so early.

But remote learning has some drawbacks too. The lack of in-person instruction and the loss of socialization time can be challenging for some children. It may also be more difficult to access certain services from home, such as speech therapy, subsidized school breakfasts/lunches, and after school care.

If you’re considering remote learning for your child, think about your answers to these questions:

  • Are you still able to work when your child is at home (telework or otherwise do your job successfully)?
  • Can you or someone else supervise your child during virtual at home learning?
  • Can you or someone else supervise your child during virtual at home learning?
  • Do you have a place that your child can learn that is free from distraction during school hours?
  • Does your school offer real-time interactions with the teacher (live instruction)?
  • Is your child’s learning style and needs compatible with digital learning?
  • Can your child keep up academically, stay engaged, and socially connected during e-learning?
  • If your child needs specialized devices, equipment, or learning aids can they access them at home?
  • Can your child receive IEP accommodations that meet their needs at home?
  • If your child receives school-based tutoring, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social skills training, emotional or mental health services, etc. can they receive them virtually or at home in a way that meets your family’s needs?
  • If your child receives school-based nutritional services (school breakfast/lunch) do they have an alternative that meets your family’s needs?
  • If your child attends after-care or takes part in afterschool activities or clubs, does your child have an alternative that meets your family’s needs?

Hopefully considering these questions has helped you decide on whether to send your child back to school for in-person learning or opt to keep them home for virtual learning. Keep reading for more tips for either choice! If you’ve decided on a hybrid model, you can review both to prepare.

Tips for In-Person Learning

young girl in class raising hand with mask on

You’ve decided to send your child back to the classroom for in-person learning. What are steps that you and your school can take to help keep your child safe?

Tips for Infection Prevention and More at School and At Home

germ war sanitizer

Before School Starts, Plan and Prepare

Make sure your child is up-to-date on all vaccinations including the flu
Review the importance of hand washing and how to do it properly with your child. Remind them of important times to wash their hands including, before and after meals, sneezing, coughing, or adjusting their face mask
Talk to your child about the importance of wearing a mask. Consider attaching the mask to a lanyard to help your child keep track of their mask when not wearing it
Reinforce the importance of physical distancing and avoiding sharing objects with other students including water bottles, pencils, books, devices, and more
Talk to your child about how school will look different this year with desks spaced apart, teachers keeping physically distanced, possibly staying in the classroom for lunch, etc. so they know what to expect
Check in with your child before school every day to make sure they don’t have any signs of illness. Keep them home if they have a fever above 100.4F, any other COVID-19 symptoms, or close contact to a COVID-19 case (follow these CDC guidelines)
Identify who to contact at school if your child gets sick and make sure you have their contact information
Be familiar with local COVID-19 testing sites in case you or your child develops symptoms
Make sure your information at school is accurate including emergency contacts and authorized pick-up people. If someone on that list is at an increased risk for complications from COVID-19, consider identifying and adding an alternative person
Ask about how your school will provide water during the day and consider packing a water bottle to avoid a shared drinking fountain
Ask your school and your child’s teacher about plans for gym class and recess (it’s safer outdoors, with a reduced number of people indoors, and with students at least 6 feet apart)
Make a plan on how you will protect household members who are at an increased risk for serious illness
Learn your school’s plan for communicating with families when a positive case or exposure to COVID-19 is identified
Plan for school closures, which may occur if case numbers rise in your community, or multiple students or staff test positive, or quarantine periods, if a close contact of your student (in or out of school) tests positive. Can you work from home for this time period, take time off, or identify someone else who can supervise your child?
Create a daily routine for school that includes packing hand sanitizer, a mask, an additional backup mask, and disinfectant wipes/paper towels and cleaners (so your child can clean their desk) in your child’s backpack before school. After school your child should take their shoes off, wash their hands right away and put their mask in the wash. Consider also washing your child’s backpack at least once a week
Plan for transportation.
  • On the bus your child should wear a mask and follow any bus rules about spaced seating, etc.
  • When carpooling, everyone in the car should wear a mask. If your school uses cohorts, try to carpool with other children in the same cohort group
If your school uses a cohort model, consider limiting your child’s out-of-school interactions to children in the same cohort or to activities where physical distance can be maintained
If your child has an IEP or 504 plan or receives tutoring, speech, occupational, or physical therapy, counseling, or other mental health or behavioral services, ask your school how these services will continue

Masks

Have multiple masks so you can wash them daily (or collect them and wash the whole group weekly) and have backups
Label your child’s mask with a permanent marker so they don’t get mixed up
Practice with your child on how to properly put on and take off your mask without touching the fabric
Explain the importance of masks and how they protect other people from getting sick
Explain the importance of masks and how they protect other people from getting sick
Help young children become comfortable with masks by putting them on a doll or stuffed animal, praising your child when they wear a mask correctly, and allowing your child to choose any mask that meets your school’s requirements
Consider providing your child a container, like a resealable, labelled bag, to keep their mask in at school when not wearing it, like when eating

Explain basic infection preventions steps and why they matter to your child with this video.

 

And remind your child about the importance of handwashing and how to wash your hands using this video!

Tips for Remote Learning

teen girl in class doing virtual learning on bed

You’ve decided to go with e-learning at home. Get your child ready for success by following these tips!

How to Get Prepared for Remote Learning

  • Find a space for your child to do their e-learning that is quiet, free from distractions, and well-lit
  • Ensure your child can access the internet. There are many internet providers that offer affordable home internet for low-income families
  • Create a schedule for your family to follow that includes time for online learning, schoolwork, physical activity, and more
  • Find time for your child to connect with peers and socialize either virtually or in-person while practicing physical distancing
  • Find out if your child will have the opportunity for live video instruction by teachers or if it will primarily be pre-recorded videos
  • Find out how regularly there will be teacher check-ins and peer-to-peer learning
  • Ask if your school will offer virtual or physically distanced physical activity
  • If you expect technological barriers, ask your school if they provide aid for students without proper devices (laptop/computer/tablet)
  • If your child takes part in school meal programs, ask how the school will make meals available to children who are learning virtually
  • If your child has an IEP or 504 plan or receives tutoring, speech, occupational, or physical therapy, counseling, or other mental health or behavioral services, ask your school how these services will continue during virtual learning
  • If you are participating in a hybrid model, find out how your school will communicate a positive case or COVID-19 exposure to families

Choose Your Remote Learning Type

mom helping girl with school work

  • Traditional Homeschooling: Follow a curriculum you create or choose to follow a different program from your local public schools’. Some states require that your child take standardized tests
  • Virtual Learning: Children learn remotely at home, following virtual classes and activities according to their school district’s curriculum
  • Learning Pod: Small groups of children gathered in one home instructed by parents or a hired teacher, may follow virtual learning curriculum or homeschool
  • Zoom Tutors: Tutors hired to assist students individually over Zoom calls

pod learning icon

Benefits and Drawbacks to Learning Pods

Coping with new technology and childcare demands can be challenging, but one possibility, pod learning, might be a helpful solution. Learn more about how your child can enjoy socialization, in-person teaching/aid, and more while your child does school from home.

Benefits

  • Provides cooperative learning and group work
  • Allows for peer socialization
  • Childcare solution
  • Flexible

Drawbacks

  • Requires meeting space
  • Requires supervisor/parent/babysitter/facilitator
  • Potential cost
  • Other families may have different isolation/social distancing levels

Things to Consider When Forming a Learning Pod

  • Where will the learning pod meet? Will they meet in person or virtually? Will the location rotate from house to house? Will one family host and get a discount for providing the space?
  • How often will the learning pod meet and at what times?
  • Will you follow your public school’s virtual curriculum, use the learning pod to supplement with additional material, or use a homeschooling curriculum?
  • Who will supervise your pod? Will parents take turns? Will one stay-at-home parent supervise? Will you hire a babysitter or a teacher or a tutor?
  • How much are you each willing to pay? How will you divide the costs?
  • How many children will be in your pod? How large does your state allow gatherings to be?
  • Are all the children in your pod similar ages? Or will there be a wide age span to accommodate?
  • Will all siblings be included in the pod?
  • Do any of the children in the pod have learning disabilities, special needs, or need any other accommodations?
  • How rigorously is each family in the pod following social distancing, mask wearing, etc.?
  • What will your pod do for lunch? Gym class? Specials?
  • Will your pod members wear masks and social distance when meeting?
  • What will the supervisor be expected to do? Prepare unique lessons? Assist with online schooling? Provide tutoring? Baby sit?
  • Will a parent/guardian be home or in the classroom if you are hiring someone to teach?
  • Will your learning pod follow a certain learning style (like Montessori)?
  • Who makes the final decisions? Does each family get one vote? Is it the family that put the pod together, found the space, did the research, etc.? Does each family get a certain number of votes depending on how many of their children are in the pod?
  • How long will your pod stick together? One quarter? One semester? A trial number of weeks?
  • Will every child have access to their own laptop/tablet?
  • Will any resources be provided to the teacher (whiteboard, projector, etc.)?
  • Is there a budget for instructional resources?
  • What is the protocol is someone gets sick? Will the whole pod shutdown for an extended amount of time? Will the classroom get cleaned and allow all pod members except the sick child and their siblings back in?
  • Do you need any additional insurance (accident, personal liability, umbrella, etc.) for your home or the location where pod learning takes place?
  • How will the supervisor be classified as an employee? What does that mean for taxes, workers’ compensation, etc.?
  • Who will clean and disinfect the learning space? Who will provide hand sanitizer and school supplies?

Ready for gym class?

kids playing soccer outside

Kids need outdoor time too! Whether you’re doing virtual learning, a learning pod, or traditional homeschooling, it’s important to give your child time for physical education. Avoid playgrounds where multiple kids could be playing and touching the equipment. Instead think about outdoor time in your backyard, a nearby park, or even indoors if it’s raining.

Check out some of our top choices for gym and workout equipment to add to your home! These can be used for your child’s physical education or exercise time and a lot of it can be used for your workouts too!

Not sure how to get started? Get more exercise ideas in these articles.

family biking

Looking for other resources for learning at home? Check out these articles!

mother helping childs handwriting

References

  1. CDC. (August 2020). Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3f8u3l8
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (November 2020). Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3nKZtS3
  3. CDC. (July 2020). School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3nwsOiP
  4. CDC. (October 2020). Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC's Considerations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/38PW9R4
  5. CDC. (August 2020). Back to School Planning: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/36Jjmls
  6. Whitney, C. (July 2020). The Pros and Cons of Pandemic Learning Pods. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3pGOdb8
  7. DIY Checklist to Set Up Your In-Home Learning Pod. (November 2020). Selected for Families. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/32Tl7ve
  8. Gibson, A. (August 2020). Coronavirus and School: What Do The Different Models Mean? The Active Times. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/35BKjIl

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