E-Learning Provides Unique Challenges and Successes
While they may go to different schools and are in different grades, there is one thing the majority of our kids have in common this school year: e-learning.
After about a month back in school, things have been running well, Brittany Terrell, the director of education resources, said.
“The first week of remote learning went exceptionally smooth for the youth at Mercy Home,” she said. “I believe the level of pre-planning across our department and support from the Youth Programs staff was the key factor to the great start of the school year.”
Currently our kids are learning in spaces spread out across the home, where they are equipped with all the supplies and equipment they need to be successful throughout the day. Coworkers from the Education and Career Resources department, along with youth care workers, are on hand throughout the school day to help out as needed with any challenges that arise. That extra support has made the difference for our kids, many of whom explained that coworkers provide the extra motivation needed to be successful in school.
“[When I was] e-learning at home, I had a lot of missing assignments, a lot of bad grades, just because I wasn’t doing the work because I just wasn’t motivated to do it,” one of our young people, Logan, said. “That’s better here because I have people who make me do the work or encourage me to do the work, and I have support to help with me schoolwork.”
“I feel like I learn more at Mercy Home [when I’m] e-learning,” Alex added. “If I was at school, I don’t think I’d listen to teachers or do my work.”
Brittany also said that having the support of youth care workers throughout the school day has made a big difference in helping our kids succeed at e-learning.
“The support of the youth care workers has been amazing, and their willingness to learn and engage in the remote learning process alongside us has really allowed youth to soar,” she said. “The youth are best equipped when they’re least anxious. Our jobs are to alleviate that anxiety in the beginning so they can have the confidence to get through their studies.”
The support of the youth care workers has been amazing, and their willingness to learn and engage in the remote learning process alongside us has really allowed youth to soar.
Other kids expressed that their ability to focus was also better when they were out of the distracting environment of the classroom.
“I focus better [when I’m] alone,” Wonyell explained. “When I have a quieter place with less distractions [to learn, I do better].”
Ashleigh Teasley, the senior coordinator of education resources at the Walsh Campus, said that the girls are also seeing a lot of success in e-learning.
“Everyone is engaged,” she said. “Most of my youth in Couderc [Home, where our older high school girls live] are off to an amazing start. … Right now, they’re on top of [their schoolwork]. No one has failing grades … they’re definitely coming out the gate strong, which is needed in e-learning.”
Of course, our coworkers have also been using a lot of creativity to keep our kids motivated throughout the day. Keli Shllaku, the program manager of Mahoney and Cooke Homes, explained that her team have been using different incentives to help keep everyone engaged.
“Nate Thomas and Tara Crawford, they’re youth care workers in Cooke Home, they’re working on creating customized e-learning areas for [the kids],” she said.
“We’re working on having their spot [where they do e-learning] be creative, like have aromatherapy or whatever is cozy for them. [They have] fidget toys or coloring pages [to help] keep their attention. [There are also] motivational quotes [in the spaces]. I thought that was just brilliant.”
As Nate and Tara have demonstrated, the new learning situation has definitely required coworkers to be creative in finding ways to keep kids motivated and engaged.
“It’s definitely been a challenging couple of weeks, just creatively thinking about how to not only problem solve issues, but how to make e-learning fun and motivate them just because it’s challenging for [everyone],” Keli said.
It’s definitely been a challenging couple of weeks, just creatively thinking about how to not only problem solve issues, but how to make e-learning fun and motivate them just because it’s challenging for everyone.
While many things have run smoothly, that’s not to say that there have been no difficulties in adjusting to a new way of learning. Like every other student, our kids are facing the same challenges that come along with not physically being the classroom. And, as anyone with children in e-learning can tell, at the top of the challenges are those with technology.
“To say it’s been a challenge is an understatement,” Brian Kovick, the director of IT and chief information security officer, said.
He explained that because our kids go to so many different schools, some of whom were more set up for e-learning than others when the pandemic began, it’s created a challenge to make sure all of our kids can be successful in learning remotely. Making sure our kids also had access to all the websites required to get through the school day was an extra challenge.
“And then compounding that was that the various schools assign kids their own equipment, which have their own configurations that don’t necessarily jive with our systems of how we do things at Mercy Home,” he said. “So we have to balance everything out in a way where it works for everybody.”
In order to accommodate the greater internet traffic, which includes increased streaming as part of the school day, the IT department upgraded the internet to keep things running smoothly.
“Every day is a different challenge, but there are good challenges to overcome,” Brian said. “We have to sit and figure out how to approach problems in the best way to make sure that the youth can access the resources for e-learning that they need [and to also make sure] the agency stays functional and can fulfill its mission, ultimately.”
But despite the challenges that have arisen, Brian feels like everyone has finally hit a stride and things are functioning well now that both our kids and coworkers have had a chance to settle into the “new normal.”
“This is, in many ways, new ground for all of us and we have to figure out how to make these things work together,” he said. “And sometimes things simply just take time.”