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Updated: Apr 14, 2021

The rise in COVID-19 has given rise to another phenomenon: virtual learning pods. Parents are questioning if traditional learning practices are the best way to educate their children if it means taking health risks. And educational reformers are pushing virtual learning pods as a solution. But what are virtual learning pods? If you’re considering FranceABC for your child’s second (or third!) language acquisition then you may be wondering about the pros and cons of online learning. We’ll go through what learning pods are and why these can be beneficial for your child.

What are Virtual Learning Pods? The pandemic has introduced obstacles that educators and parents must overcome. In areas across the United States and Canada, parents are turning to ‘learning pods’. These pods combine social distancing with childcare and learning solutions. As Carrie Whitney notes, “For families with the ability to set up or join a learning pod, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their children’s academic success and life skills may be reduced.”

Families with similar social distancing rules and risk tolerance combine to create learning communities. Dani Blume and Farah Miller define learning pods, or ‘pandemic pods’, in The New York Times as “small groups of students (typically three to 10 children) who learn together outside the classroom but still in person.” These are often held outside for safety, or in some cases, over Zoom or other online conferencing tech. Sometimes parents act as facilitators, sometimes private tutors are brought in.

No matter how it’s done, these pods ensure two things. First, that children continue their education in low-risk environments. Next, pods stave off loneliness and continue life skills education. Many parents would say the latter is just as important as conventional education. After all, many parents are looking to reshape education. As Brian Platzer points out, we’re in unprecedented times. The owner of a private tutoring company in New York, Platzer explains that parents and educators alike are “trying to reinvent what effective education might look like under conditions unlike any in the past century.”

Why Bother with Virtual Learning Pods? Alright, so we’ve learned what these virtual learning pods are, but do they really work? If we learned anything from the spring lockdown attempts to continue online education, kids and virtual learning aren’t always a match made in Heaven. Well, that may be true. But the great thing about humans is that we do learn. And we adapt. What we experienced in spring was the adjustment period – uncomfortable, inconvenient, and ineffective. Since then, educators have had time to catch up and prepare. And they’ve done so beautifully.

Educators have learned ways to provide games, entertainment, and group discussion in Zoom settings. This is, again, where physical pods can be especially helpful. Teachers and tutors who may facilitate multiple pods can Zoom in while your children are offered the social aspect in contained, low-risk communities. Educators aren’t at risk, but also aren’t spreading risk between pods. Meanwhile, these pods enhance your child’s education in a way that more isolated learning (like that in the spring) cannot offer.

These virtual learning pods are particularly beneficial for parents who are working (though stay at home parents are happy for the break too!), whether inside or outside the home. These pods offer support in educating and caring for children. We don’t need to tell you that childcare has been and remains one of the largest obstacles facing parents.

Every school system is different. At this point, governments are letting each region decide its own educational future – in other words, there’s no consistency. More importantly, many parents don’t feel that a physical school is the best option for their family, given the risks. But many of those parents also need to work, and reasonably, are worried about the risks of hiring in outside childcare. These pods offer a community to let parents work out a sharing-the-care schedule with other families. We’re re-learning how to create our village for effective child-rearing. At the very least, parents are helping to keep each other sane.

Exceptional Education, and Extra-Curriculars Additionally, parents are taking this time to rejig their kids’ futures. Many virtual learning pods are just a couple of hours 2 to 5 days a week. That’s not nearly enough childcare, and often isn’t enough to keep kids entertained and challenged. Yet scheduling with other families can be tough. This is where completely virtual learning pods with families outside your physical social community can be helpful. The social aspect remains, and is even expanded, but there’s no added risk.

Moreover, one-on-one learning for extra-curriculars is more doable. Platzer noted the sheer number of parents calling with the same request: “My kid’s really struggling with French. Do you have a great French teacher, please? Twice a week?” When your kid is still getting time to play and have fun with others while continuing their main school curriculum, they are able to better focus during private tutoring. This means that they are not only keeping up with their regular education, but additional private tutoring becomes a more valuable and enjoyable option.

Moreover, if you have other children within your child’s learning pod who want to learn French, they can always take the classes together! This makes learning fun, interesting, and, frankly, more efficient. Who doesn’t love a study buddy?

Virtual learning pods may end up being the way forward – permanently. These are by no means a new concept, as Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy pointed out in her 2019 book on micro-schools. But the pandemic has certainly given them a boost. Contact Bryton for information on virtual learning pods to help with your child’s French language acquisition.

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