A design-focused look at the experiences of educators, students, & parents during emergency remote learning

Michigan Virtual

Between March and June 2020, statewide school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in both learning and daily life for students, parents, teachers, and school leaders alike. Desiring to learn from this moment in educational history, Michigan Virtual collaborated with Sundberg-Ferar to conduct qualitative research focused on capturing authentic stories and experiences from administrators, teachers, parents, and students. 

The ultimate goal was to influence actionable plans to make the future of education – whether face-to-face, blended, or virtual – more impactful for students.

The team conducted 17 small-group video interviews with a total of approximately 65 participants representing students, parents, teachers, and administrators from across the state. Across all interviews, the health, well-being and safety of students and educators in Michigan emerged as a dominant theme. By far the greatest emphasis was on the immediate need for administrators and instructional support teams to communicate with teachers and assist in their efforts to stay connected with their students and parents. There was little hope to continue delivering quality education if students were left hungry and alone without a plan for their well-being.

Michigan Virtual: What Can We Learn From Emergency Remote Learning?

“These last two months proved we don’t need to keep doing things the same old way, there are other ways to learn and we’ll be doing a disservice to our students and ourselves if we look to just go back to things exactly as they were.”


Human Impact

Throughout the research, participants often came to tears, thanking the research team for simply listening to them and giving them a much-desired voice. Teachers and parents felt isolated and frustrated that their ideas and experiences would fall to the wayside. Knowing that an organization like Michigan Virtual wanted to learn from them and use their humble insights to better the future of education meant so much to the participants who appreciated any moment of hope during the early days of the pandemic.

Business Impact

SF and Michigan Virtual used these new stakeholder insights to hypothesize future remote and hybrid learning challenges, identify education models in need of innovation, and create Next Step recommendations. This full report was made available to the public on the Michigan Virtual website and used to help educators learn from each other and gain perspective on remote learning challenges statewide. SF and Michigan Virtual continue to work together to design better learning experiences regardless of whether students are learning in a face-to-face, remote, or blended learning environment.

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