Remote Learning, Homeschooling, and Childcare: How Communications Tech Is Meeting Unexpected Demands
A few short months ago, the closest most people got to homeschooling was occasionally helping their children with homework or pitching in on a science fair project. Now, driven by the global pandemic, remote learning and homeschooling have become essential parts of the equation.
Where Homework and Work-From-Home Meet
It can be a scary feeling for parents who find themselves suddenly thrown into the deep end as teachers. But education technology and digital communications are offering a real lifeline.
Companies like Cambly, Varsity Tutors, HeyHi, Chegg, and others are filling some gaps for kids at home, making up for the lack of traditional learning. Parents of school-age, home-bound kids can take advantage of online classes or individual tutoring sessions, reading apps, spelling apps, interactive math lessons, online book collections, and more.
The Forgotten Part of the Homeschooling Boom
But there’s one part of the equation that’s often overlooked—something I was aware of in the back of my mind, yet never really thought about. You send your children off to school each day while you go to work, counting on the teachers to fill their heads with the information they’ll need to navigate the world. But, for working parents, school isn’t just about educating your children. School is childcare.
And when schools close—not just for the summer or for brief holiday breaks, but for the long haul—things get real, really fast. What’s more, COVID-19 has closed childcare facilities as well as schools, and working parents are struggling to fill both of these gaps.
That’s another area where technology can go to the front of the class.
Video, of course, is a powerful tool. Edtech companies can build real-time video into their platforms for more flexibility—instead of using an off-the-shelf video solution—to help teachers maintain personal connections with at-home students, hold interactive discussions with the class, or maybe illustrate or explain a difficult concept.
But video is just part of the picture. Digital communications in general can go a long way toward giving worried parents a little peace of mind. Concern about their children using technology can turn into confidence with the ability to easily verify users—to ensure safe content and safe experiences for their kids using an app. Things like in-app messaging, SMS, WhatsApp, and email notifications allow teachers and parents to share lesson plans, issue progress reports, and more.
Communications APIs from Vonage—Video API, Messages API, Verify API, and others— are allowing education-related companies and organizations to build many of the apps and tools that are helping parents educate, entertain or, let’s admit it, simply distract their children.
When my kids were younger, a VCR and a copy of “Jurassic Park” were all my wife and I needed to free up time to get some work done, or just to catch our breath. They could easily (and happily) spend hours watching those rampaging T-rexes and clever raptors chase the tasty humans.
To this day, my now-adult children can quote “Jurassic Park” from start to finish. Maybe not a useful talent, but impressive nonetheless.
It’s likely technology will drive future solutions that offer kid-friendly entertainment and engaging, reward-driven education—and practical childcare assistance.
When Everyone Becomes a Homeschooler
My wife and I (well, mostly my wife) homeschooled our children for part of their school years. But this was before COVID-19—we did it by choice, driven by the specific circumstances and needs of our kids. And we had homeschool co-ops and other group efforts to help share the teaching load and provide much-needed “socialization”—i.e., a chance for all the kids to get in one room and go crazy.
Today, when almost everyone has been forced to become a homeschooler, it’s likely we’d be doing many of the same things—except that any co-ops or socialization would be done remotely, using communications technology.
If remote work is the future—which seems likely—and homeschooling continues to grow, parents will need more support with virtual childcare. As Sara Mauskopf, co-founder of childcare marketplace app Winnie, told Techcrunch.com, tech companies trying to help remote learning need to remember that “it’s not just the education aspect that has to be solved for.”
The whole spectrum of Communications APIs and digital communications—video, voice, SMS, 2FA, and more—can come into play in helping harried parents not just educate but also care for their children.
One unique example reported by The Washington Post is that some parents are paying people to spend time with their children virtually. This “babysitting” happens over a video call for an hour or two during the day, while the parents take conference calls, catch up on emails, or help their other kids with homeschooling.
A Textbook Example of Innovation
Of course, no app or gadget is going to show up at your house and feed your kids or put them down for a nap. But doubtless there will be new tech innovations coming down the road to give parents some of the practical knowledge and emotional support they need. And tools like Communications APIs and Unified Communications solutions will play a big role in making remote learning and virtual childcare a reality.