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Parents want online learning beyond COVID-19: opinion

In July and August, Citrix conducted a national survey with 500 parents of Australian school children to capture their opinions as their households adapted to education technology, in order to facilitate learning from home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there was some minor dissatisfaction amongst parents after their home schooling experience due to a lack of readiness, 88 per cent of Australian parents considered technology in primary education as a critical factor for a good learning experience. With this overall positive attitude to online learning, it’s clear that educational institutions need to implement a clear and holistic strategy if we’re to see remote offerings to continue complementing schooling and academic education.

What we also found was that the pandemic acted as an involuntary stress test for many industries and sectors, with no exception for education. The survey found only one in four children could learn from home without problems and 73 per cent believed their child’s school was not prepared to facilitate remote learning, reflecting just how jolting the switch to LFH (learn from home) was for Australian families.

To overcome the current crisis and prepare for the future, we need to establish unified online environments that can be activated on-demand at short notice while being secure and easy to use – for students, parents and teachers.

We know these holistic strategies for technology use (including online and remote learning) are possible for schools because of how swiftly parents and their children adapted to new learning spaces in COVID-19. Findings showed that while the largest majority (42 per cent) of parents initially struggled to access the platforms, after a while it became routine.

Not only did parents believe that children were adapting quickly to new technologies, but implementing remote learning also led to improvements for students’ digital skills. Almost three-quarters of parents (72 per cent) observed that their children’s computer skills have improved due to online classes, which is so valuable for a generation being raised in the age of information.

Parents did identify a few key areas for improvement in their child’s online experience, with most relaying that they would like a greater level of interaction with teaching staff. Parents hoped for more direct interaction with teachers via video (48 per cent), better organisation of remote teaching (44 per cent) and an improvement in teachers' remote teaching skills (37 per cent).

Despite the lack of readiness for all Australians for such an event as COVID-19, our research showed good learning experiences can be achieved remotely in the years to come. In fact, the largest share surveyed (43 per cent) preferred a hybrid model of onsite and online learning.

In future, this could resemble homework programs delivered through remote learning platforms to take pressure off parents, or a program that allows children to remote work when having sick days (of course only if that’s responsible and if it doesn’t harm recovery), as two loose examples.

While we’re not sure what the future of education may entirely look like, parents and their children have proven to be remarkably flexible when it comes to adapting new technology through COVID-19. A combination of face-to face-learning and online learning in established, safe online environments will certainly be the way forward.

Safi Obeidullah is field chief technology officer for Asia Pacific and Japan, Citrix.

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