“Being physically separated from my community was not an easy reality for me to accept. Seeing our volunteers, co-workers, and students was something that I needed to enjoy and have a meaningful day. I couldn’t believe that my days would be filled with joy working from home, but now my heart is full of love and enthusiasm as I accept the new reality.
I was surprised when we started creating our online classes, to see our mission running effectively with different tools but the same purpose. Our students and volunteers are still building community in these uncertain times. Now, I see the great opportunities that we have when we face circumstances that are out of own control. If we are strong in our beliefs nothing can stop us.” – Norma Fuentes, Director of Student Services
3 months ago, we never imagined a time when 100% of our classes would be online, but that time is here! We offered our first online classes starting in April and it has been a great learning experience. We have online group classes happening T/TH night and M/W morning, and the 1-on-1 pairs are meeting at different times and days.
I’ve included survey results we received last week from 55 volunteers and students taking our first round of 1-on-1 online classes (pairs that were working together twice a week at the students’ homes pre-COVID).
85% of students and volunteers rate their experience as a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5 (5 = excellent). Not surprisingly, many people deeply miss the in-person connection AND many enjoy the added convenience and flexibility. Some things volunteers wrote:
- I miss being in her home and interacting with her family
- We can continue working together even when one of us is out of town
- We don’t have to worry about finding a good place to meet
- We are learning more about technology
- It’s difficult to hear and see my student over Zoom
- Online classes are more tiring
- My student doesn’t need to find a babysitter
- The teacher doesn’t have to come, we can manage better the time of the class
- I see myself when I pronounce, and compare with my teacher
- It’s hard to learn pronunciation through the phone
- At the beginning was not easy to understand the class but now I like it
- Sometimes when I do not understand it’s hard to ask, the teacher used to bring material to the class to explain
- I keep learning
And my favorite student quote…
We can take the class in pajamas!
Given the advantages and disadvantages, around 1/2 of students and 1/3 of volunteers want to continue once or twice a week online even when face to face is possible.
Around 90% of our students who are currently taking classes had never taken an online class before, so it required additional support to get people ready and gaining confidence with new critical technology skills. And a lot of volunteers were hesitant in their ability to teach on a computer screen, but they are learning and adapting as well.
Around 3/4 of students take classes on their smartphone, so continuing to use hard copies of the Confidence and Connections curriculum as they video chat on Zoom or Whatsapp (the most common platforms they use) is very helpful. Inconsistent internet connection is a problem for 15-20%.
3/4 of students and teachers feel that they are progressing through the curriculum either more quickly or the same as in person.
I typically visit the classes a couple times each term at our three different locations. In February we had around 400 students taking classes across those 3 locations (in addition to 100+ taking home classes). While I really appreciate having every evening at home with my family, I also miss seeing the students and volunteers faces. So in the comfort of my own home I was able to visit all of our classes online and see people’s faces, have conversations and observe how it works. It was cool to see that people could still share their experiences, have meaningful conversations, and do the activities and progress through the curriculum.
I also noticed little challenges, like people still learning to navigate the mute button! Some expressed that they were hesitant and fumbled through the first few classes, but now they take classes with confidence. We’re continually modifying our training and expectations as we learn and improve.
Our plan is to focus on online classes for the rest of 2020 unless a miracle vaccination or cure comes before then. Overall, the online classes have gone much better than we anticipated, and many people have commented about how amazingly helpful the staff has been! And everything we are creating for online learning will be beneficial in the future.
It’s wonderful to see so many students and volunteers that are able to continue to connect online. I look forward to exploring different ways to support continued learning and connections as we navigate this new reality. – Leanne Chacon, Director of Teacher Services
Our physical doors remain closed for now, but other doors of opportunity are opening for us to remain connected for life and learn new lifelong skills!
Stay tuned for another blog post soon that will talk a little about how we’re planning to scale our individualized online classes nationally!