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article imageQ&A: Expert tips for online school courses due to coronavirus Special

By Tim Sandle     Mar 28, 2020 in Technology
Attending classes online used to be an infrequent but it's become the norm for colleges as well as K-12 schools across the country and around the world due to coronavirus. Zach Sims of Codecademy looks into the issue.
Even under ideal circumstances, digital curriculum development is a tall order. Typically it takes months, if not years, to develop an engaging online course. For many traditional institutions, particularly those that have been slower to embrace online education, the challenge is even more formidable.
To provide some tips for education administrators, Codeacademy CEO and Co-Founder Zach Sims looks into the issue.
Digital Journal: How serious is COVID-19 for the education system?
Zach Sims: With forty-four states mandating all schools remain closed at the time of this interview, COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the traditional education system. Teachers and students are having to adapt to a radically online model overnight. There are huge advantages to an online education model when executed well, but it has been a challenge to implement these new systems so quickly.
DJ: Is it risky for students and teachers to attend schools?
Sims: As of March 15, the CDC is discouraging gatherings of 50 or more people for the next 8 weeks. Though this guidance does not apply to schools, it is important to limit large gatherings so the virus is not introduced to new populations.
b. Moving classes online will help keep the virus from spreading and keep our vulnerable populations safe.
DJ: How feasible is remote teaching?
Sims: Remote learning is not just feasible, it’s a great way for people to learn at the pace best suited for their lifestyle. That being said, it’s crucial for online courses to be interactive because most people learn best by doing (as opposed to, say, listening to lectures). Exercises that cement and contextualize what students are learning are essential to helping them to apply their fledgling skills to the real world. Another aspect that must not be overlooked is the importance of receiving timely feedback when learning. This allows students to see the ways in which they've made an error and immediately discover an effective way to remedy their mistake.
DJ: How quickly does it take to develop a digital curriculum?
Sims: Developing high-quality, in-depth curriculum takes anywhere from one to six months, depending on a variety of factors including length, complexity and availability of expertise to draft the content. Of course, teachers and schools don’t have all these resources available and in the current environment they’re often working on a short notice to deliver a learning plan for students. Fortunately solutions exist that are easily adapted to the virtual classroom. I’d encourage teachers, students, and schools to look to seek out online solutions that have already been built and tested with proven results.
DJ: What is the Codecademy solution?
Sims: We believe that learning should be engaging, flexible and accessible. No matter who you are, if you have an internet connection and a computer, you can learn to code. These tenets inform every choice we make. Students get real-time feedback, making it easier for them to engage with the material. The courses we offer are varied, and students can choose what they want to learn and when the best time is to learn, too.
Ultimately, we want to make sure anyone can achieve their goals and learn to code. That’s why Codecademy makes it easy for anyone to start coding for free, and why we are offering students 3 months of Codecademy Pro access for free.
DJ: What types of technology is required to deliver remote learning?
Sims: With Wi-Fi, pretty much any smart device can deliver lessons from teacher to student. Many online learning sites have corresponding mobile apps so students can go wherever they need and still continue learning.
DJ: What are the important factors to make learning interesting and engaging for students?
Sims: Learning by doing -- interactive lessons with real-time feedback -- is the best way to get students engaged with the material. When lessons are taught with practical, hands-on projects and examples, learning is fun, interactive, and helps students build things almost immediately. This eliminates the barriers to progress and comprehension, leading to higher retention and comprehension.
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