With online learning on the decline, will GDOE’s tech gear go to waste?

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

The future of the Guam Department of Education’s online distance learning is now in question as more students plan to return to school for face-to-face instruction.

But GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez says that even though there will be a smaller group of online students, it doesn’t mean the technological equipment and support will be limited to just those students.

“Even if you’re not an online learner in terms of your model of learning, the technology will still be available to our students and the school sites in many different ways. We’re really glad for the infusion of technology to allow us and to allow our students — more of our students — access to technology in the classroom so that they can learn certain technology skills they’re going to need to succeed,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said that middle and high school schools will most likely make the best use of the online learning option.

One possible use is for courses that can’t support a full classroom such as Advanced Placement classes and other specialized courses.

Fernandez said that although it started as a safety measure, GDOE is now looking for ways to continue using online learning, that makes sense for the department.

“We’re not there yet. But right now, we’re using the online learning option to help us ensure we can operate school safely, and especially since not all students can fit so right now, it’s part of our safety strategy really that online learning is available. Going forward, the Guam Education Board has already expressed an interest in setting a policy that will start to … I don’t want to say restrict … but will provide a framework for online learning so it makes sense in terms of how we implement online learning and who’s able to take advantage of it effectively,” Fernandez said.

GDOE currently has over 2,100 wireless MiFi devices that have been activated and over 5,200 laptops distributed.

Last school year, only about 30% of students were registered for face-to-face instruction and were either on the online distance learning module or hard copy module.

For this up coming school year, the numbers have reversed.

A total of 5,400 students are currently registered for face-to-face instruction for summer school and 85% of the student population is expected to return to campus in the next school year.

This means that there is now a significant decrease in registration for the online distance learning option. The hard copy option has already been phased out for the upcoming school year.