For many educators, gathering around a conference table to learn in person from peers may be a rare occurrence going forward. But online teaching appears unlikely to become the norm anytime soon.
More than half of school district leaders and principals say they’re more likely than before the pandemic to conduct professional development virtually, according to a nationally representative survey conducted in August and September by the EdWeek Research Center for EdWeek Market Brief, a publication focused on covering the K-12 marketplace.
But only 12 percent said their school or district is more likely to virtually instruct students in core subjects, and only 10 percent said the same for elective courses.
The abrupt shift to remote learning that accompanied the start of the pandemic didn’t just affect K-12 classrooms. It has also reshaped how teachers, administrators, and other school workers collaborate with other adults.
Just under half of the 231 district leaders and 295 principals who responded to the survey said they’re now more likely to reach out to parents and hold parent-teacher conferences online. Roughly the same percentage said they expect to attend more conferences and professional events virtually as well.
Slightly more than one-third of district leaders and principals said they’re likely to take meetings with potential vendors online more often than they did before. And two-fifths said internal meetings with employees are more likely to be virtual.
Twenty-two percent even said tutoring students is more likely to happen online—a notable shift given the burst in high-dosage tutoring fueled by federal COVID relief funds and pressure to help students recover from missed learning during the pandemic.
Transitioning to virtual conversations for all of these activities requires some finesse. For instance, professional development experts say session leaders should allow participants to spend ample time on a new skill, rather than breezing through a slew of skills in short order. They also stress the importance of letting teachers express their needs, providing multiple meetings to reinforce skills, and soliciting feedback to help make sessions more useful.
District and school leaders also face an uphill climb convincing colleagues that professional development is best delivered online. Half of teachers, principals, and district leaders surveyed this summer by the EdWeek Research Center said they’d prefer to gain professional development on technology tools either mostly or entirely in person.
Recent research on online tutoring, meanwhile, shows promise. Studies out of Europe earlier this year showed that students who participated in online tutoring scored higher on standardized tests and were less likely to repeat a grade. The biggest challenge with online tutoring, according to more recent studies, is ensuring that programs reach the students who would benefit the most.
The transition to virtual operations is far from universal. Roughly 23 percent of respondents to the EdWeek Research Center survey this fall said they don’t plan to conduct activities online more than they did before the pandemic.