Online Learning in California: The Future of Education at Home

SAM LUO Staff Writer

Since school shutdowns began in March due to the ongoing pandemic, there has been debate over what high school education and even college courses may look like in the following months. Over six months have gone by since school closures and there are finally some definitive answers for students, especially those that are college-bound. 

According to CNN, standardized testing, or the common SATs and ACTs, will no longer be an admission requirement for UCs until after 2024, where students who are graduating in 2023 and 2024 will have the alternative to omit their tests scores. These drastic changes in school curriculums are only the beginning of what is to come for the future of education, in a world beyond the coronavirus. 

There is a significant reason as to why schools in California are turning toward distance learning more than ever before much like the rest of the world. Case trends of the COVID-19 virus on the CDC website recorded that California is responsible for the highest cases out of any state in the United States at a whopping 757,778 reported cases as of Sept. 16. Although the rates are declining with advised protective measures such as self-quarantine and the use of face masks, reopening businesses are sparking safety debates. 

“It would be foolish to start reopenings now, only to have to close down because our numbers are moving in the wrong direction,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. 

As of October, President Trump has contracted the COVID-19 virus and has referred to the experience as “a blessing from god” after being released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His alleged claims of an available vaccine by election dates in November from Trump were refuted by the World Health Organization. 

“[We] are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said. 

What this means for high schools across California is that daily in-person classes are unlikely to resume as larger groups are much more prone to spreading the virus. Resorting to the prospect of e-learning will decidedly reshape the classroom as students know it.  

The surge in demand for online learning resources have significantly bolstered the growth rate and overall market for online education. Online learning platforms as well as service providers are now offering a variety of free aid to K-12 families or those in need. The Los Angeles Unified School District and PBS SoCal/KCET have partnered to make educational broadcasts available to kids in local areas. In other parts of the country, telecommunication companies are collaborating with public schools. Milwaukee Public Schools among 110 other new schools have gained immense support from such companies like Verizon, receiving free Chromebook devices with added hotspot to about 2,300 students and counting. 

With the unprecedented speed at which schooling has become almost entirely digital within select districts, there is some confusion regarding upcoming models of education. Some places are instead combining in-person learning and the digital classroom, taking on a hybrid approach. 

Pepperdine University has taken a unique approach to this by implementing EduFLEX, a hybrid classroom technology solution from Panasonic. 

“ClearTech’s EduFLEX solution with Panasonic’s PTZ cameras was the clear choice given its reliability, flexibility and versatility to transform distance learning environments into engaging teaching experiences,” Jared Mukai, Ph.D., manager of AV technologies and special projects at Pepperdine said. 

Other universities in Miami and Ohio have invited students back onto their campuses, but not without precautions. Miami University specified that students must get tested before they may move back onto campus and professors will teach will two different sections of students in rotations to minimize the risk of large groups. 

On the other hand, Ohio university told their students that students must “social distance at their permanent residence” before returning. 

 Educators and students alike are reinventing new ways to learn and adapting to inconvenient circumstances. The future is uncertain and the COVID-19 virus will inevitably go down in history as one of the deadliest global outbreaks of the 21st century. Its impact on schools is felt far and wide and there is still a long way to go.