Virtual learning was a futuristic thought pre-pandemic, but after the past two years, it has become an essential and almost dominant tool. As many have experienced at nearly every grade level, from kindergarten through higher education, the Zoom classroom has become integrated into their education, but is it here to stay?
California State University, Northridge special education professor Wendy Murawski, executive director and Eisner Endowed Chair at CSUN’s Center for Teaching and Learning, said online learning has provided opportunities for educators to improve and adjust their current teaching methods.
“We were thrown into this situation, so there was a significant period of time where we were all scrambling and, to some degree, we still are,” Murawski said. “We’re learning from this, and we’re creating far more flexible learning options, which I think are absolutely necessary for this day and age for equity, inclusion and to really recognize that one size doesn’t fit all.”
Though it has been a benefit for some students, online learning has proved challenging for others. Murawski cautioned against generalizing learning environments and students.
“We realized that not all students do better face to face,” Murawski said. “Certainly, some do, but we knew that, for example, having a hybrid situation or having synchronous and asynchronous options can really help personalize education for some [other] students.”
Asynchronous education is a type of learning that allows one to tailor an attendance schedule for their own education and work schedule within an allotted time. Synchronous refers to an education style in which all students are present at the same time for learning to take place.
Teaching the next generation of educators is a focus of the faculty in CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education, but for the last couple of years, it has included training current educators, including fellow faculty members, in new skills.
“[It] has been interesting because, in many cases, university faculty were learning at the same time as the students they were teaching,” Murawski said. “So, we in higher education were getting a lot of workshops and professional development for ourselves.”
In addition to workshops and supportive skills, Murawski said her colleagues were also reminding their fellow educators to not ignore their students’ mental health or their own.
“We are burning out, but we’re learning,” she said. “Most people are keeping a pretty positive spin on it. We’re trying to remind everyone, not just our K-12 teachers, that it’s OK. Don’t try and do everything. Give yourself a break. We should all give each other a pass and [be] more understanding.”