The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies. But how did it affect parents’ attitudes towards digital learning? Are parents more embracing of e-learning? Are they more willing to invest in education technologies or the devices that enable digital learning? What are their key concerns and challenges? In this article, we explore answers from the Edtech Monday (May episode) to key questions on how parental perceptions of Ed-Tech are evolving and how parents can be supported for their child’s learning.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to students learning from home. Therefore parents were forced to take charge of their children’s learning and support the process by which they learn. This made parents value the idea of home education, supporting the entire process of their child’s learning outcomes. In the instance when parents had to depend on the schools in terms of the online teaching or curriculum, parents demanded for transparency and became more involved in what the child was learning from school. Parents wanted to know what level of critical thinking, creativity that is being applied in the learning process for their children. This also led to parents questioning what their children were learning and looking for alternatives in ensuring that their children were learning.
On the other hand, parents were taking more interest in discovering EdTech solutions that met their children’s learning needs. Parents were more likely to engage with learning apps, quizzes for students assessments, online video lessons and YouTube lessons. For example, a parent was able to identify that “Lego” could be used as an education tool, to enhance the child’s level of critical thinking and creativity, all along the parent had always felt Lego was just a game, but with the pandemic and intentional discoveries of learning tools, Lego was “discovered”. With such tools being discovered by parents, they were able to support their child’s learning and assess their learning. Parents took control of their child’s learning, assessing the quality of their learning and the teacher’s ability to deliver online learning to their child.
As learning becomes more digital, carrying parents along to support their child’s learning is daunting. Parents have become busier than ever, as some are trying to keep their existing jobs or secure new ones, due to the economic influence of the pandemic. One complaint of a parent with a special needs child was that “the child could not take online classes alone and needs to be supported, and she doesn’t have such time to be with the child”. In such a case, parents can still support them, by asking the school for the children’s curriculum, in order to support the child ahead of the class, to understand the requirements of what will be taught, therefore allowing the child to have prior knowledge before the actual class. This will definitely be supportive in helping the child learn.
From the EdTech episode, read some the key points that were discussed by the speakers in the session:
As parents navigate their way through these Ed-Tech tools and online learning, some of the main concerns parents have, especially those with special needs children are:
- Screen time: The number of times their children are spending on online classes and devices is a big concern for parents. There is good screen time and bad screen time. Therefore, for screen time to be good, it must be engaging. It should be for learning as well – quizzes, lessons and topics they can learn to improve their critical thinking skills, creativity and problem solving skills, as opposed to just mindless gaming activities.
- Internet and cyber security concerns: There are incidences when online classes are going on and students are watching something else. So when there is no monitoring, it is difficult to monitor what the child is doing online, particularly ensuring the child doesn’t fall into internet fraud. This becomes a concern for the parents. Therefore, control/monitoring is a big concern when it comes to online learning. In some instances, search online engines might lead to adult film sites that are not suitable for kids and as such, if there is no control or close monitoring, kids will be exposed to such things.
What can Ed-Tech companies do to support Parents as they support their child’s online learning?
Edtech companies have the potential to drive down education technology related costs. One way Edtech companies can play a role in this, is to work with the government and telecom companies, to come up with bundles that guarantee a corporate purchase of the bundle, such that data cost is embedded into other costs associated with that school, so parents can budget and manage data costs . Edtech companies also have the responsibility to reduce the amount of data their sites or apps take. Also, offline access should be supported where one can download once and watch continuously. Therefore, there has to be a blend of offline and online such that online supports offline.
However if parents are not willing to pay for Edtech tools, Edtech companies can offer freemium modules, such that there are certain aspects that are free, and one can assess certain features of the app and there is a nominal fee to access the rest. Pre-recorded videos and downloads can also help to reduce data consumption and also downloadable video contents, including offline work books that parents can use to support their child’s online learning.
For Ed-Tech to better serve and consider parents, there is a need for better data on parents’ attitudes and perspectives. To collect data, the onus is on Edtech companies to embed the data collection in the apps or software sign up questions or deliberate surveys. There are no reference points or reliable reference points for collection of data therefore, systematic surveying of parents is important to best drive change. Data sharing and trust in terms of decision making are also important to help influence policy making, better collaboration and connectivity.
Moreso, there is a need to look at how much offline data collection has an electronic version so we can replace manual data collections with electronic data collections. This is to compare how much data we have electronically. Through this data, it will be useful to find out areas where students are struggling, so they can be supported. If we can find that at scale, it can help to improve learning outcomes. This can potentially support exam bodies such as WAEC (West African Examination Council) to understand why students are failing some particular subjects and are also available to the government to develop and implement educational policies.
Written by Temidayo Falade, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at re:learn by CcHub