A few months ago, we asked our community of parents, teachers, speech therapists and specialists to share with us their experience of the transition to digital learning they faced during the pandemic. With a focus on special needs, visual impairments, deafness and other learning disorders, we wanted to know how the transition to online learning went.
In June 2020, The School Education Gateway, Europe’s online platform for school education, opened a survey on this issue, gathering more than 4859 respondents from schools all over Europe. As a result of this survey, and with consideration and throughout discussion with experts, the project DigitALL was created, with a special focus on inclusion for students with special needs.
In order to maintain consistency and quality, we decided to lead a similar, more specific research tailored both to our teachers and specialist but also to parents and students. Our partnership is made of 5 different countries (Belgium, Italie, Greece, Romania and Portugal) and from organizations and schools from different background and origins; this allows us to gather feedbacks from a wide range of spaces. Indeed, from this collaborative task, we gathered close to 500 responses!
Our first group of respondent was composed of teachers and specialists. We asked them if they worked with students with special needs, and more than 201 of them said yes.
For the parents and students survey, 213 respondents stated having children with special needs or special needs themselves.
Therefore, let us present some key elements that arose from our discoveries:
The first interesting point of these surveys shows that most of our respondents had to switch to online learning, or at least partially. This is shown by the following graph.
Then, we wanted to identify some of the key challenges of this transition, here are some of the most quoted reasons:
Note that we were able to idenfy challenges further by asking open questions about these issues, which will all be discussed in the guide on digital adaptation needs we are producing for this project!
We also wanted to identify the needs of the teachers to help them with their transition into digital teaching, here were some of the key elements they wished they had access to, to improve their skills:
In regards to inclusion for students with special needs, learning disorders and others impairments, we asked parents and students if they thought that the lessons they receive, both online and in classrooms were adapted to their difficulties.
Here are their answers:
Interestingly, when we asked parents and students if they considered that switching to online learning had improved or worsen learning, they said this:
This graph is especially interesting as it shows the discrepancies between one country to another. Greece is shown in grey, where most responses to online learning were negative. Belgium is shown in orange, where most responses to online learning were positive. There is a series of reasons as to why that is: access to technology, internet access, resources available, socio-economics and much more.
No more spoilers!
We will not present all the results of these extensive surveys here, but in the guide of the project DigitALL!
In conclusion, each experience to online learning has not been identical for every students, parents, teacher or specialist we interviewed. However, we are able to identify some needs, and create and provide solutions to ensure that students with special needs are not left behind in this big change!
Visit the project website: coming soon
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In collaboration with: AIO (Association pour l’Innovation en orthopédagogie-Belgique), IST (Italy), the Regional Directorate of Primary and Secondary Education of Western Macedonia, Doamna Stanca (Romania) and Epralima (Portugal)