MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Cornell College’s Education Department is grooming the next generation of teachers, and right now that means understanding the online learning scene that’s unfolding in classrooms across the world.

College senior-level teachers are student-teaching online or in a hybrid format. They’ve learned new modes of technology and ways of adjusting their instruction. 

“Although their student-teaching experience has denied them some personal interaction, they have gained important technological and pedagogical skills that will, we think, make them even more well-rounded and engaging in the classroom,” said Professor of Education Kerry Bostwick.   

K–12 schools are offering education in a way the country and the world has never seen before. Professor of Education Jill Heinrich says the speed at which teachers have had to adapt to technology and the changes to the education scene during this pandemic will likely impact the future of education.

“Such widespread use of technology may engender a new age of collaboration and thus pave the way for educational partnerships,” Heinrich said. “For instance, many small school districts may struggle to offer a wide variety of courses; however, they could partner with other small districts facing similar challenges to offer students synchronous and asynchronous courses. Consequently, instead of busing students or forcing them to drive to complete a course at another school’s campus, they could enroll in the course via an online venue.”  

Here are some tips from Cornell College’s education faculty for parents with K–12 kids as they enter a new semester of online or hybrid learning:

  1. Reach out to your child’s teacher or the district if technological instruction is needed.  
  2. Set an agreed-upon schedule and check in daily with your child as they adjust to it.
  3. Help your child abide by the protocols. Just like in the classroom, online learning will have rules and behavioral expectations. 
  4. Check-in daily with your child to learn about what major assignments are due and make a plan to complete them. The setting of interim due dates can be very helpful and also make major assignments seem less daunting. Unfortunately, it’s easier to procrastinate with many modes of online learning.  

Denied the social interaction they are accustomed to and likely unable to participate in many activities they love, Heinrich says many students will experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even depression. Here are some suggestions to combat those feelings.

  • Students: Talk to friends, parents, family, and siblings about what you’re learning, what you’re struggling with, and what you’re excited about! This social and intellectual interaction can be a lifeline when you’re feeling discouraged or lonely.  
  • Parents: Schools provide a sense of structure, safety, and normalcy; when that is taken away, feelings of uncertainty and helplessness might naturally prevail. Parents must recognize the legitimacy of these feelings by listening to their children and expressing empathy for the loss they have experienced. Parents might also seize this opportunity to encourage their children to immerse themselves in interests, hobbies, and activities they enjoy or experiment with new ones. Inspire your child to read books about subjects they are interested or passionate about  (both fiction and non-fiction texts). Compile a reading list, and chronicle their completion of it so they gain a sense of academic and personal accomplishment.

Bostwick says many elementary teachers have discovered that the 5-E Lesson Plan format works well because it promotes active learning. It can even be used by parents as they supplement online learning.

  1. Engage: During the engage phase of a lesson, the teacher piques the interest of the whole class with open-ended questions, images, and video clips to heighten students' interest and provide background information about the concept under study. During this phase, the teacher's role is to raise questions and invite students to construct questions about the concept.
  2. Explore: Once the students have engaged with the teacher's questions about the concept, it is time for them to explore with each other. The teacher creates concrete activities for students to investigate with each other in online breakout rooms. The teacher can drop in on the breakout rooms to answer questions and pose new questions during the explore phase.
  3. Explain: During this phase, the students are all together again, and each breakout group presents what they learned and what questions emerged. The goal is to compare and contrast ideas and time to pose new questions or problems.
  4. Elaborate: Once students have constructed explanations, definitions, or solutions to problems, it is time to involve them in other experiences (again using images, video clips, higher-order questions that apply, extend, or elaborate on the topic they are learning). During this phase, the goal is two-fold: to deepen the understanding of the concept and mediate any misconceptions.
  5. Evaluate: Students need to receive feedback on their learning. During this phase, the teacher may choose formative or summative assessment of students' learning by asking open-ended questions related to the lesson's objective(s) by developing "exit" questions that students respond to in writing or providing students the opportunity to comment on their progress.          

Students, parents, and teachers have a lot to consider as they work to make the best out of the current situation. Students, however, are learning aspects of managing their own learning process which will be key to future educational success, and they’re learning the true value of their education. 

“The price this worldwide pandemic has demanded of our children has been a high one but it has also afforded them a deeper understanding of the value school holds for them and the joy it brings to their lives—it is a realization that will, we think, remain with them the rest of their lives,” Heinrich said.  

About Cornell College

Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has a student population of around 1,000 students. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, for 40 years. This style of learning allows students to fully immerse themselves in their chosen topic of study, including taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from nearly 50 states and 16 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.