There have been many changes to our world since March 2020--with one of the most noticeable differences being found in our schools. The COVID-19 pandemic required teachers and students to quickly pivot towards the realm of online learning. And in order to comply with the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), schools adopted a hybrid learning model for K-12 students, something that affected classrooms across the country. 

Armed with the knowledge that the effectiveness of remote learning varies among different age groups, educators hustled to adapt to a newly distanced educational experience while continuing to meet the various needs and skill-levels of their students.

Despite initial hesitations, data shows just how tech has changed the classroom and improved the lives of teachers and students for the better. A 2020 survey by the EdWeek Research Center in the early months of the pandemic, revealed that teachers experienced an uptick in their ability to use technology throughout school closures and that online learning capabilities were expanding.

Using Video Technology to Teach + Learn 

A recent article published by the Journal of Competency-Based Education explored how educators transitioned to popular online Learning Management Systems (LMS). Including such platforms as Canvas, Blackboard and Moodle, a Learning Management System is a software application for educators to store and share information with students. One leading example of an LMS that was prevalent even before the pandemic hit: Google Classroom. 

Tucked under the umbrella of Google’s Workspace for Education, Google Classroom allows instructors to set up a classroom in minutes, grant access to hundreds of students, grade coursework and post student feedback in one central hub.

Regardless of the fact many popular video conferencing platforms were never designed to support learning, they have pivoted in their own right. This includes Zoom’s recent partnership with Class Technologies.

Integrated with the video conferencing platform, Class helps teachers to manage a virtual classroom with features like launching assignments in real-time, tracking attendance and reviewing student engagement levels. Adaptable to the requirements of both K-12 and higher education students, Class also offers teachers one on one discussion options, allowing students to feel seen, heard and supported throughout their remote education.

Student-Friendly Collaborative Technology

In order to encourage students to take a more collaborative role in their remote education--and to produce more student-friendly collaborative technology--new partnerships have started to emerge between edtech companies and social media platforms. These partnerships also factor in where students spend most of their time online.

In January 2021, it was announced that Quizlet, an online learning platform providing students the opportunity to “study any subject imaginable”, would be partnering with video-sharing giant TikTok. Students will be able to choose from millions of Quizlet study sets featuring Quizlet flashcards, through interactive TikTok videos.

The partnership is part of TikTok’s $50 million Creative Learning Fund, which offers support to educators in producing content while providing resources for learners of all ages throughout the pandemic.

Other collaborative technologies include the development of Engageli. Inspired by their kids enduring a year of ‘Zoom School’, the start-up's founders recognized the current platform just wasn’t cutting it when it came to connecting with individual students.

In addition to offering teachers the opportunity to run both live and pre-recorded sessions, the platform’s tables feature provides students the chance to digitally sit together in breakout groups, creating a more personalized experience between students and their instructor. 

Technology + the Return to the Classroom 

While educators continue to get comfortable with remote technology upon their inevitable return to class, it may help to view this as an opportunity to create a more adaptable, inclusive learning environment.

At Trinity Hall, an independent all-girls school, students feel included and engaged in ongoing classroom activities thanks to Owl Labs’ Meeting Owl Pro. Students don’t have to worry about falling behind due to sickness or disabilities, with the Owl Meeting Pro Camera Lock feature, which helps students to focus on whiteboard discussions and class presentations, regardless of their location.

Professors at Wartburg College have also gained a sense of comfort in utilizing the Meeting Owl Pro for their lectures, not only with the ease in setting up the technology but also in how they can provide students with the community feel of a classroom, from the safety and comfort of home.

With the foundation in place for students to learn remotely and teachers to teach remotely, the future of the classroom includes a technology aspect in one way or another, whether it be for half the students or one student. With many of the road blocks like access to technology and the learning curve having been smoothed out over the past year, we have paved the way for the flexible, tech-focused classroom of the future.

With the online education market projected to reach $350 billion by the year 2025, the implementation of hybrid learning models will inevitably play an important role in providing a fulsome educational experience, not only in students' and educators' return to the classroom but in the foreseeable future, as well.