4 Steps to Equity in Virtual Learning
From the desk of Dr. Karen Henery, Director of the English for Speakers of Other Languages program at Little Rock School District in Arkansas
When students had to leave our district’s classrooms because of the pandemic, we had to quickly figure out how to equitably reach every student. We knew that some students would not have access to all of the necessary learning materials at home, so we had to ensure that every one of them could access the virtual learning curriculum we were providing.
In my recent featured article in the November 2021 edition of Language Magazine, I discussed how our district worked to meet the unprecedented educational challenges of the pandemic, in part by providing equitable access to proven technology-based solutions. We put a lot of thought into our approach to make the learning accessible to everyone and implemented the necessary technology and best practices to ensure equity through our virtual learning classrooms.
Here are four steps our district took to achieve our virtual learning equity goals:
1. Get parents involved.
It’s important to provide parents with the necessary information and resources to leverage virtual learning materials for their children. Parents need important information presented to them in a language they understand and through a method of communication that is accessible to them. For some families, it also may be necessary to individually coach parents on how to use the virtual platforms.
2. Find a program that supports equitable remote learning.
We were already using a literacy program on select campuses, so the pivot to virtual learning was not as abrupt as it could have been. With Lexia Core5 Reading for our elementary students and Lexia PowerUp Literacy for our middle and high school programs, we’ve been able to assign lessons for students on virtual days, which has been an asset in helping us support equity during remote learning.
3. Rethink the meaning of equity.
This past year, I’ve had to rethink my perspective of what is equitable, what is fair, and what is right. This shift was necessary because I was previously looking at equity in the context of “normal.” However, virtual learning has created a new normal, and it’s important that we respond to this shift with new expectations for equity.
4. Don’t ignore the socioemotional impacts.
The pandemic has had a significant socioeconomic impact, completely changing the lives of some students and their families. It can be a challenge to respond to these impacts because of how much is unknown to educators and the fact that many students go silent as they deal with stress and personal struggles. Whether it’s because of a family member’s illness, a death, or a job loss, these situational impacts need to be factored into the overall educational equity conversation.
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