Learning in a Time of Coronavirus

Learning in a Time of Coronavirus

Learning in a Time of Coronavirus

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_GirlAtComputer-300x200 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusNearly 300 million students worldwide are home from school in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the United Nations, 23 countries on 3 continents have had varying degrees of school closings. In some countries, including Hong Kong, schools are being closed for almost an entire term (87 days), making the “global scale and speed of the educational disruption from the coronavirus [pandemic] unparalleled.”

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_Classroom Learning in a Time of CoronavirusSchools not only provide education to students. They provide social interaction, support, structure, and stability to students, their families, and communities at large. School closures, therefore, can have serious and long-lasting ramifications that must be proactively addressed. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the “summer slide” refers to the loss of learning that takes place when kids are not in school over the summer (typically between 10 and 12 weeks). The average student can lose up to one month of classroom instruction over the summer due to the summer slide, which is responsible for much of the achievement gap in high schoolers. To have school closures in addition to summer months off only serves to amplify the effects of the summer slide—effects that have the potential to follow kids for the rest of their academic careers if not effectively taken care of.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_BoyAndBook-300x200 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusSo how do we prevent our kids’ education from getting disrupted when we can’t send them to school? What do we do when homeschooling is not an option because parents have to work in order to provide for their families? How do we make sure our children stay mentally healthy when they can’t hang out and play with their friends or participate in extracurricular activities?

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_AsianGirlPen Learning in a Time of CoronavirusIn Hong Kong and China and several other countries, schools are already making use of technology, allowing students to virtually attend class. In interviews with several Hong Kong parents, they describe their children’s daily routines during the three-month school closure (which happens to follow over two weeks of closures due to the recent protests in Hong Kong). Swati, a mother of a 16-year-old and 12-year-old, says “They get up around 7:30 in the morning (an hour later than regular school days). After their shower and breakfast, they log in around 8:30. Each class teacher comes online, gives them tasks, ask questions, etc., and they are supposed to follow those instructions and finish whatever needs to be done within the deadline. They have a snack break and lunch break in between, and school finishes around 3:30 pm.”

87385140_2993548300688609_8925965012103593984_n-300x300 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusIn addition to academic classes, many extracurricular activities are also shifting to online. Sanskriti Global a Hong Kong-based Hindi language school and Konversai Global Small Business (GSB) partner, is currently conducting almost all of its classes online through live video. Sanskriti Global’s founder, Geetanjali Dhar, says that while online classes are not ideal and come with their challenges, “the kids are at least happy that they are not totally missing out [on their Hindi lessons].” Sanskriti Global’s approach also demonstrates how businesses and employees can make use of virtual platforms in order to continue earning wages, a subject that will be explored further in an upcoming blog post.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_ChineseGirlReading-200x300 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusLinda Wang, a student pursuing her Master of Education at Stanford University, has been giving online English lessons to students in China via Skype. The motto of many Chinese schools has become “Stop class but not study.” Linda recounts the story of one of her students whose school had their spring choral concert online. Her student, who is 11 years old, says, “I sang movingly and received applause and flowers from the audience through the Internet. It was a special experience. I have experienced a different way of learning and living.” This anecdote speaks to the fact that although we will never be able to fully replicate the complete experience of in-person events and interactions online, live video platforms do make meaningful and authentic human connections possible. As social beings who survive and thrive off of interacting with others, we ought to take advantage of such platforms during times of isolation and quarantine.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_GirlBookBed-300x201 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusHong Kong and China have been prepared for such a pandemic for nearly two decades because of SARS in the early 2000s. But what do we do as COVID-19 makes its way to Europe and the United States? Many private schools and colleges and universities in the United States are already starting to close at least until the end of March. Do other parts of the world need to be prepared to do what Hong Kong and China have been doing? And if so, how do we start to do that?

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_BoyOnComputer-300x200 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusKonversai, a company based in New York City and San Jose, California, is an online global knowledge marketplace that is addressing the interrelated issues of disruptions to learning, earning, and social interaction. Currently with over 200,000 users, the platform connects knowledge providers with knowledge seekers on any topic of interest through one-on-one live video conversations. Sessions take place at times that are mutually convenient for both users involved, and you can do them from the comfort of your home, your office, or anywhere you have a reliable Internet connection. Knowledge providers can charge as much as they want for their sessions, and knowledge seekers can enjoy personalized, one-on-one time with an actual human being on exactly what they’re looking to learn on a particular topic. All users are encouraged to be both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers on any and as many topics as they wish, no matter how seemingly commonplace or obscure. One of Konversai’s core premises is that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your life circumstances are, you have something of value to offer that can benefit someone else, whether they live down the street or across the world. The company’s mission is three-fold: to democratize knowledge, put the human connection back into the heart of technology, and make the world better by enabling meaningful and authentic conversations that can enrich and improve people’s lives—something we all need regardless of whether there’s a global pandemic.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_GirlComputerHomework-200x300 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusA break from school does not and should not mean a break from learning. While kids are home from school, they should be making use of online learning platforms. In a previous blog post, we outlined how students can use Konversai while on summer break without sacrificing their other summer plans. A similar strategy can be used during school closures and can include between 30 minutes and an hour each a day at least three days a week of math, reading, foreign language, physical activity, and any extracurriculars. No matter the subject, the grade, or the level of proficiency, there is certainly a provider on Konversai who will be happy to work with your child.

In addition to learning, students are also encouraged to make use of their time off from school by using video platforms to tutor other students in subjects in which they are strong, perhaps those students in lower grades or their peers who might be struggling with certain subjects. This helps them reaffirm their knowledge of those subjects, builds their confidence, gives them something to include on their resume, allows them to earn some extra money, and strengthens their relationships with other students.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_MathHomework Learning in a Time of CoronavirusAs we all already know, the transition (even if temporary) to virtual learning will not be without challenges. So how can we ensure that an online learning experience can be as smooth as possible even under less than ideal conditions? The parents and teachers in Hong Kong whom we interviewed offer some suggestions. Mary, the mother of an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old, says that communication with the parents often is essential. In addition, she believes that “the key is giving the kids structure. Kids cannot be global nomads on their own when they are 11. They need structure.”

23467379_1710397729003679_8515731131311260384_o-300x225 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusGeetanjali of Sanskriti Global believes that online learning can work well if teachers maintain a similar level of engagement and enthusiasm that they would in person. She says, “It’s only a matter of time before everything goes online, so we have to make a mindset shift. We have to learn to make the content we teach translatable to online—to translate the passion online.” Especially with her younger students, she includes a lot of singing and dancing in her Hindi lessons. This is an effective approach not only for student engagement, but also to ensure that the students are getting movement and physical activity—a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_KidsDancing-300x200 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusRelatedly, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans put out by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 need at least one hour of physical activity a day. If they aren’t able to go to the playground or the gym, they can do online physical activity sessions on Konversai. The types of sessions offered are infinite and include yoga, Pilates, all genres of dance, martial arts, weight lifting, and strength and endurance training. There are even sessions on mindfulness and meditation, which can benefit youth and adults alike, especially in times of stress, chaos, and uncertainty.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_GirlReading-300x200 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusAll of the interviewees agree that too much screen time at a time is not good for kids. Therefore, having breaks between sessions is advisable. Outside of virtual learning, kids should spend at least 30 uninterrupted minutes a day just reading—reading anything they enjoy. In a previous blog post, we talked about how when kids read for fun and choose reading materials they enjoy, they are more likely to finish those books, and they show improvements in reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. Reading between four and six books over the summer can prevent decreases in reading achievement scores during the school year. Reading for fun even when school is not in session is therefore a necessary component of academic success.

Blog120_LearningCoronavirus_BoyTablet-300x288 Learning in a Time of CoronavirusVirtual learning platforms will never fully replicate all that physical schools have to offer. That being said, the current climate is such that physically attending school is not an option for everybody. We cannot let our youth fall behind academically and endure the long-term consequences of missing school. Konversai allows a space for anyone anywhere in the world to learn or teach anything. The only limit is your imagination. While being in school would allow you to keep up with your usual subjects and extracurriculars and spend time with your current friends, Konversai allows you to learn new things and meet new people you may not have otherwise encountered. That is certainly a silver lining amid a global crisis. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience all that Konversai has to offer—join the platform today!


By Pavita Singh

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