Lessons from Virtual Learning and Considerations for the Future

Attendees at MACo’s Summer Conference dove into lessons from virtual learning and how counties can utilize the experience in the future.

At the 2021 MACo Summer Conference session, “Lessons Learned and Ways Forward with Virtual Learning,” county leaders reflected on the experience of pandemic learning and shared best practices for the future.

The session was moderated by former teacher Senator Paul Pinsky, Chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. In conversation were State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury, Queen Anne’s County Superintendent Patricia Saelens, President of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) Cheryl Bost, and President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Gabrielle Webster.

State Superintendent Choudhury provided an overview of the challenges of virtual learning, and notably, he explained national and state data suggest a significant number of Maryland’s students struggled through virtual learning. He asked county officials to “embrace the new baselines and get to work” and said that “we have the resources to get this right.”

Bost and Dr. Saelens both emphasized how existing inequities in schools were exacerbated by the pandemic. Dr. Saelens said, “if you narrow it down, equity is really about opportunity,” and noted that the pandemic “allowed us to identify areas of opportunity to reach our students.” Bost offered the example of school facilities and safety and said that pandemic safety rules should be looked at as baseline requirements for safe schools similar to up-to-date HVAC units, access to mental health resources, and even the basics of clean and hot water for improved school hygiene.

“Every child has what it takes to be great, but let’s be clear — even before the pandemic, the playing field wasn’t equal.” – Gabrielle Webster, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington

Importantly, Senator Pinsky noted that moving forward, counties need to look at data by demographic subset (including race, language, gender, geography, etc.) to really understand how virtual learning was met or fell short for various student communities.

While there were challenges to virtual learning, Webster highlighted the role of organizations like hers in filling in gaps during the pandemic such as offering meals, hosting virtual clubs, and providing virtual programming.

The session was held on August 21, 2021, at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: