Survey shows online teaching here to stay in new school year

Posted 08/03/2020 by Sonia Reis (@soniaraquelreis)

Almost 80% of teachers in seven European countries have been giving online classes in the past few months. This is one of the findings of a survey we developed in cooperation with Generations & Co. The aim of the survey was to understand the new challenges and needs of educators while teaching STEM in the Covid-19 environment. What will back to school 2020 look like? We know teaching and learning will take place, whether it is in the classroom or at the kitchen table. From the responses we received from 860 teachers in seven European countries, this is what we learned.

Blended learning

In general the outcome of the survey shows that teachers greatly valued technical solutions for online teaching although face-to-face contact was very much missed. Teachers in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and the Netherlands expect a very different start to the school year in 2020 than normal. Based on the results of our survey, we are looking at a future where blended teaching and learning will probably be a permanent part of school life.

Starting a virtual classroom

Dutch and Italian teachers seemed much more satisfied with distance teaching than educators in other countries. Some 50% of them said that the experience went smoothly. But in France and Germany the virtual classroom was considerably less popular. Teachers here said that they felt that sending learning materials and online activities to their students was enough. An important second reason for not giving online classes was that their students did not have, or did not have adequate, computers or internet connection. On average, 62% of the teachers said they would continue sending additional resources to their students when schools start again in 2020.

New requirements

The shift to online education creates new requirements and European teachers point out various things that could help to improve online teaching. For example, 55% of teachers said they need better IT equipment and 50% said they require software solutions. Some 47% said they would like training to learn or improve their online teaching skills. It was clear too from several open questions that teachers would like more online teaching materials, videos and ready-made activities to share with their students.

“We are ready to support teachers and students with our free resources, webinars, student materials and graphing technology. These can be used as a stand-alone, in combination with a computer projected in the classroom or shared in a virtual classroom.”

Stephan Griebel, T3 Europe coordinator.

T3 Europe webinars

The teachers’ network T3 Europe responded quickly to the changing situation and increased its webinar offer throughout Europe. Besides a bi-monthly schedule of European-wide webinars held in English, local webinars were offered or increased in frequency in France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal. Topics were directly related to the challenges presented by the crisis - from how to best tackle distance learning to providing content for educators. The T³ Europe Webinar Programs will continue in the autumn so that teachers can work on their professional development when the new school year begins.

Caring for students

The survey also indicates that teachers have been through a tough period. For example, one German teacher said: “I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son at home so it was difficult to give lessons.” As well as the pressure of their own work-life balance, teachers were also concerned about their students. Although it varied considerably from country to country, some students (on average 32%) did not have access to computers or internet and this meant a lot of inequality when it came to receiving an education. Of the teachers who took part in this survey, 81% think that the lockdown and distance teaching has widened, or will widen, the gap between students.

Human contact missed

Another aspect that emerges from the survey is that teachers miss human interaction when it comes to distance learning. Some of these teachers feel that a lack of contact with their students (55%) and colleagues (21%) leads to less efficient education. Almost 70% miss the face-to-face exchange of ideas with their students. Teachers observed that online learning was difficult for their students too, especially when it came to organising their work and concentration.

New way of teaching will remain

How the new school year will look like is different for everyone as schools are dependent on local government measures. According to our survey, 70% of teachers expect the lockdown period to have a long-term effect on the way lessons are given. It looks like blended learning will have a permanent place in the education system. As stated earlier, 62% of teachers will continue to search for and send out online teaching material to their students. A smaller number, around 30%, expect to use more videos. We are closely following developments and offering support where necessary. Stephan Griebel: “When the needs of teachers change, we will change!”

Online survey performed in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands, to STEM teachers, from June 10th to 16th, 2020, with 860 respondents in total.