5 Learning Alternatives When Traditional Education Gets Disrupted

Jun 10, 2020 | Learning Design

Apperceptive mass is a term used by psychologists to describe the whole of a person’s previous experience to help that person understand a new concept or idea. In short, the more a person has experience related to a new construct, the easier it is for that person to understand the idea and apply it.

Those with a lot of apperceptive mass are at a distinct advantage right now. That is especially true for parents and educators trying to help students navigate a disrupted educational future.

While no one – parent, student, educator, or administrator – has experience with a pandemic of this magnitude, those over the age of 25 obviously have a broader spectrum of life situations than students. As adults, experiences have taught them that, in addition to managing the immediate day-to-day difficulties posed by a crisis like COVID-19 – such as finding toilet paper – they must also engage in long-term thinking and planning.

This ability to plan strategically is particularly important when it comes to students’ education. Because younger students lack the adequate apperceptive mass to understand the broader implications of something like COVID-19, they are more likely to think only in terms of the next few weeks or months and doing what is required to complete the term. Such thinking may satisfy the current, lowered requirements of their traditional education program, but it will not prepare them adequately for the learning growth and achievement that leads to personal and professional success.

Parents and educators, on the other hand, are able to look from a disrupted present into an uncertain future and begin planning alternative solutions to ensure that learning continues for their students, even in the midst of disruption.

As the leader of an educational curriculum organization, TEL Education, I’ve received many questions from parents in the last month about what they can do for their students. For example, a mother of two children, one in middle school and the other in high school, recently asked for suggestions to help her children continue their learning effectively while schools are shut down and learning interaction has waned. She recognized that her children were just going through the paces, but she needed guidance on how to help them.

Here are five learning options I recommend to augment students’ education while traditional education programs are disrupted.

  1. Enroll Students in an Online Dual-Credit Course: A dual-credit course, especially one delivered online, can fill a gap left from a truncated term and make sure the student is ready with the information they need to be successful next year. Because dual credit courses satisfy a college requirement as well as a high school requirement, they tend to be more academically challenging than traditional high school courses, which helps students adjust to the expectations of college-level learning. Dual-credit courses also allow students to earn credit at an affordable price.
  1. Explore Options for Earning a Professional Certificate: Even in terms that aren’t cut short by world-wide pandemics, not everything is covered in a traditional high school curriculum. There are many professional skills and career pathways that are more easily explored through alternative credential providers such as edX or Coursera. If you are concerned your student may not have needed skills around a topic, a self-paced or short course can help fill in some gaps. Or, if your student wants to follow a rabbit hole that their traditional curriculum doesn’t go down, these platforms are also an easy and cost-effective way to help students investigate areas of professional interest without committing to a more extensive program.
  1. Join Learning Communities Focused on Areas of Interest: Often, the best solution for answering questions and solving problems is reaching out to the people we know who are experts in that area. Now is a great time to help students begin recognizing and developing their own personal learning networks (PLNs).

    There are a number of ways to help kids create their own PLNs. Work with them to identify their areas of interest and connect with friends and family who share those interests. Introduce them to appropriate contacts from your PLN and find global pen pal opportunities. Coach them on social media to develop their PLN and help them join Twitter chats or follow hashtags associated with their academic interests. Similarly, encourage them to start a blog as a way to share their ideas and connect with people with similar interests. Think globally as you work with your students in defining their PLNs and remind them that this is a personal network that represents the people and resources they want to add.

  1. Take Advantage of Personalized Learning Opportunities: Some students will prefer a less structured option, something that they can control and pursue more organically. Online resource libraries are a great solution for these students. Encourage your students to follow their natural interests by searching for topics on resource libraries such as Khan Academy, Project Gutenberg, Library of Congress, NASA, National Geographic, and TEL Learning.
  1. Experience Learning Through the Lens of AR or VR: Experiencing situations and places are inevitably more interesting than reading about them. While there are additional hardware costs and considerations with these technologies – a smartphone (AR) or VR headset (VR) – they offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves actively in the learning process. A good way to get started is by checking out this pre-made AR and VR content from Google.

Every learner has different preferences, but parents and educators generally know a lot about students’ interests and abilities. Combining this knowledge with the adult’s broad experience can result in fun and exciting pathways for expanding students’ learning horizons and help them continue their journey toward academic and professional success.

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