Monday, October 26, 2020

Courses’ adaptability to virtual and in-person settings, along with learner-centered focus, are leading to increased demand.

(Courtesy of JLIC) To help students and teachers avoid “Zoom fatigue,” more schools and educators are utilizing online asynchronous learning courses that offer dynamic, engaging experiences whether in remote, on campus or hybrid environments. These courses feature self-paced weekly units in which students take ownership of their learning and still offer teachers the opportunity to work directly with students. A number of area schools are taking advantage of this program, including Yeshivat Noam, Ben Porat Yosef and Westchester Torah Academy.

To help meet this demand, the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge’s (JEIC) “Journey Through the ALPs” (Asynchronous Learning Programs) initiative offers specially curated online Judaic studies courses from leading program providers—Lookstein Virtual, Sulamot and VHS Learning’s online Judaic studies courses—along with virtual coaching and related support for educators. JEIC, with the support of the Mayberg Foundation, is subsidizing the courses so that schools can access them at half price.


“We’re seeing an interest in online Judaic courses that teachers can implement easily and with a high level of flexibility in terms of length, pace and size of class,” said Rachel Mohl Abrahams, senior advisor for education grants and programs at the Mayberg Foundation. “Schools see the benefits of courses that can happen in person or online to help them more easily maintain continuity throughout the school year, regardless of exactly where or when learning occurs.”

Zak Ringelstein, a teacher who has founded multiple edtech companies, recently noted in Forbes, “I keep hearing the same complaint from parents: ‘I don’t want my children on these long video conference calls. It is making them miserable.’ These long, synchronous classroom calls which have become the norm in our desperate attempt to teach America’s children remotely during this Covid-19 pandemic are not just causing angst among adults; they are bad for child development. And we, as parents and educators, need to trust the research and replace them with a better, more developmentally appropriate, research-based approach to remote learning: asynchronous, project-based instruction.”

For Jewish day schools welcoming new students from non-Jewish schools, introductory online courses on certain topics, such as “The Big Ten: An Adventure in Core Jewish Values” and “Introduction to Jewish Life” are especially effective ways to help these students gain foundational knowledge to succeed in a dual curriculum.

“Online courses certainly have become more common over the last decade, but now schools better understand how asynchronous instruction can be woven into their learning to personalize each student’s experience,” added Sharon Freundel, managing director of the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge. “Not only are these courses ideal for flexible learning environments, but they can be implemented quickly with minimal teacher preparation.”

Students benefit from asynchronous learning programs beyond the obvious solutions it offers during this pandemic. The inherent nature of asynchronous work helps students develop skills that prepare them for independent learning, college and the workplace.

“In the era of COVID, Judaic Studies instruction is both more challenging and more important than ever before,” added Debbie Bornstein, Judaic studies instructional team leader at Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA). “Students aren’t in school as many hours and some students are still learning from home, so direct instruction time is severely limited. At AJA, we are partnering with Sulamot and LVJA to provide complementary asynchronous instruction for our students. Using asynchronous content allows students to learn at their own pace in a time of their choosing while still learning the skills we want our graduates to develop.”

For more information and to see the full catalogue of ALPs’ courses, visit www.jewishchallenge.org/alps.