Yes, teachers are trying to teach online. Yes, students are using web-based tools to engage with school. But we mustn’t mistake what we are observing for online learning. It’s not. I say this because, if the feedback I am hearing from teachers and families is to be believed, no one is particularly satisfied with what is going on instructionally. It’s better than nothing, but far from our educational aspirations.

Proper online learning is designed to be implemented in formal remote learning environments, like Coursera or Blackboard. Teaching online requires its own instructional design, like thoughtfully creating online groups to have discussions in message forums. What’s more, when a course is created in a remote learning environment, instructors get lots of helpful data about students’ progress and can communicate with learners quite seamlessly.

Few of our students are learning from materials designed for online implementation nor are they learning on a proper platform for remote instruction (most schools are not using remote learning platforms like Moodle, Canvas, BrightSpace). Google Classroom is great, but it’s built to complement face-to-face classroom instruction--hence the name. Teachers are finding lots of digital resources to share with students, but a link does not a learning make. We should also remember that the city actually has a formal online learning platform and catalogs of courses. (It's Built. Ready to go). But hasn’t promoted it much at all.

As I have argued elsewhere, the city is in desperate need of senior leadership devoted to digital learning. Someone who can help us all understand that a crisis-driven adoption of digital technologies does not constitute the model or scope of digital learning to which we should aspire.