With school in session, learning pods are coming to the aid of many concerned students and parents. It provides an alternative option for an in-person class or at-home online learning amid COVID-19. Discover more about learning pods to determine if this learning format is the best option for you and your child’s education.

What are Learning Pods?

Learning pods, also referred to as “pandemic pods” or “micro-schools,” are small co-op groups of students who meet in person for their schooling. They are generally made up of 3-10 students and taught by a parent, tutor, or teacher. In many cases, students participating in learning pods are enrolled in remote learning programs and follow their school’s curriculum.

Benefits of Learning Pods

Learning pods can produce long-term benefits for students and parents. To begin, it creates a social dynamic for students because they are socializing with their peers in person. There is intrinsic value in students learning alongside others in groups. Studies prove that cooperative learning enhances social skills. Additionally, parents benefit from learning pods as they allow different families to share childcare responsibilities. This especially assists families with two working parents. Moreover, learning pods can be a lower-risk option to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The New York Times revealed that many are choosing this alternative learning plan to limit their children’s exposure. Finally, this group establishes more structure than solitary remote learning. Students will gain more supervision from an expert, and parents can rest easy knowing their child is staying on-task.

Ways to Stay Safe

Despite exposing students to fewer faculty and peers, there are still health risks associated when participating in learning pods. There is still a chance that someone in the learning pod could become sick and infect others. To protect those involved, families who participate in learning pods must establish safety rules that are agreed upon and followed accordingly.  

Learning Pod Ground Rules

Students should wash their hands thoroughly or with hand sanitizer frequently when participating in a learning pod. The best times would be as soon as they arrive, before and after eating, after using the restroom, and anytime they touch their face or put their hands near their noses or mouths. Students should wear masks or face coverings, especially if they are learning in an indoor space, and an attempt should be made to distance students in the “classroom” space. In addition, students should bring their supplies to the learning pod and not share it with others; this includes food. Moreover, the learning pod space should remain clean and disinfected between sessions. It should be well-ventilated and large enough to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing guidelines.

Interactions with Families Outside of the Learning Pod

Families need to take precautions so they do not get sick when outside of the learning pod. Everyone should stick to the basics, like washing their hands frequently and wearing a mask while in public. Additionally, parents should try to minimize outings, working from home if possible, and recommend their children social distance when interacting with others their age who are not in their pod. Many groups even make a commitment not to play or interact with others who are not in the pod, and some families choose to socialize with others in the pod during non-school hours rather than seeing friends who are not part of the pod. Most importantly, families must be honest with the other parents if anyone is displaying signs of illnesses, tests positive for COVID-19, or is exposed to someone who has tested positive. If someone does test positive, they must be quarantined for 14 days. Consequently, due to the exposure, those in the learning pod should also quarantine for two weeks and learn remotely.

Downsides to Learning Pods     

One downside to learning pods is that it increases one’s exposure to COVID-19 than if the student was learning remotely alone. Parents need to consider the health of their household before placing their children in a learning pod. Those with compromised immune systems may not be safe participating in a learning pod. Another issue with learning pods is that the quality of education is highly dependent on the adult or group of adults who are teaching. However, following an online instructional program can mitigate this problem.

Education Is Key

The situation with the pandemic is evolving as researchers become more knowledgeable and solve for a vaccine. There is a fear of the second wave of COVID-10 coming—or simply another increase from a first wave that the United States never left—and some models predict that 410,000 COVID-related casualties will occur by the end of 2020. Learning pods have come to the aid of many parents worried about sending their children back to large in-person classes. Consider the best option for your family and child’s education. Determine what is the best fit for your circumstance that will help your child thrive during these unforeseeable times.

Looking for additional resources to help your child or student be successful in remote learning? Head on over to GoGuardian’s Distance Learning Resource Center.