Companies Provide Options as Crisis Accelerates

March 20, 2020: Volume 26, Number 6

With concerns over the transmission of coronavirus closing schools, a growing number of companies are offering suggestions and resources for keeping learning going.

Scholastic in March curated a free digital learning hub designed to support virtual learning plans. Scholastic Learn At Home provides open access to daily learning journeys divided into four grade spans—PreK–K, grades 1–2, grades 3–5, and grades 6–9+, covering English language arts, STEM, science, social studies, and social-emotional learning.

Scholastic Learn At Home provides approximately three hours of learning opportunities per day, for up to four weeks of instruction, including writing and research projects based on nonfiction articles and stories, virtual field trips, reading and geography challenges and access to a new digital community for children Scholastic Home Base.

Scholastic editors designed the lessons to reduce the planning burden on teachers and families and ensure continuity in daily learning. Teachers can use virtual learning meetups to discuss and expand on any of the resources found on the site.

Scholastic Learn At Home is accessible on all devices with no sign-up required. The digital hub will remain free and open indefinitely.

Google Hangouts Option

Google for Education (Mountain View, CA) in March made advanced Hangouts Meet features available for free to anyone who uses G Suite. Users can connect up to 250 people on a Hangouts Meet call so that a class or group of classes can join a lesson simultaneously. Users can get live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers to hold a virtual school assembly or stream a lecture. They also can record meetings and save them to Google Drive, so students who cannot join the lesson can access the content later.

In a March blog post, Jennie Magiera, Google for Education Global Head of Education Impact shared suggestions for educators preparing for distance learning. To keep students engaged while at home, Magiera suggested opening virtual discussions and using Google Docs and Classroom to have a two-way discussion with students and give feedback on their work.

Formative assessment is necessary to ensure students are progressing while away from school, she wrote. It can be facilitated by asking a poll question in the middle of a lesson and showing the results in real time or by having students demonstrate their knowledge through project-based learning assignments using Slide presentations, Docs or Sites.

Distance learning offers an opportunity to escape the constraints of the normal school schedule opportunity and to design lessons that include more choose-your-own-adventure activities rather than a fixed schedule of lectures and lessons, according to Magiera.

Also, Google in March decided to delay a price increase for the Chrome Education Upgrade until January 21, 2021 so that schools can plan and focus on supporting students at this time.

Looking to Meet a Need

Online courses frequently are mentioned in discussions of education alternatives. K12 Inc. (Herndon, VA) would like to provide schools, districts and parents education resources including access to technology platforms, state licensed educators, and standards-aligned curriculum.

“When schools have to close, children lose learning opportunities,” K12 CEO and chairman Nate Davis said. “K12 is committed to providing education for anyone, in any circumstance, and we stand ready to support educational institutions around the globe that need technology support, training or a ready-built online platform that can be deployed quickly to reach those students who can’t come to school.”

Davis noted K12’s experience providing online and blended schooling following large-scale crises, including historic flooding in Louisiana in 2016 and evacuations caused by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina in 2018.

Discovery Education president of K-12 education Scott Kinney said Discovery Education has created a special channel within Discovery Education Experience—the Viruses and Outbreak Channel—featuring digital content and ongoing updates to help educators with access to the Discovery Education Experience discuss the Coronavirus outbreak with students. U.S. schools not currently using Discovery Education resources that are experiencing closures due to the Coronavirus are offered free access to Discovery Education Experience through the remainder of the school year.

PowerSchool in March launched a new Distance Learning Readiness Kit—a resource that highlights best practices around virtual learning to assist in the event of school closings. In addition, the company’s cloud-based solutions like online assessment for authoring and administering student assessments remotely and online enrollment and registration for new and returning students, are being promoted as ways schools that need to move to online solutions or close can give users access to real-time information, from wherever they are working.



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