Education has faced profound and rapid change during the COVID-19 pandemic, with large-scale reactive measures introduced to ensure continuity of learning. While some schools have established integrated infrastructures whereby each student is expected to have, or is provided with a personal mobile device, the majority have relied on students utilising readily available home devices.
Device ownership varies. Although Alsop (2020a) reported that 88 per cent of the UK population has access to a home computer, only 36 per cent of students have one main device that may be used for e-learning (Alsop, 2020b). The percentage ownership of computers similarly relates to internet accessibility rates of 89 per cent (ONS, 2019). Potentially, a conflict arises between parents requiring computer access for home-working and students requiring computer access for e-learning. Furthermore, while mobile phone ownership stands at 95 per cent, only 78 per cent of these are smartphones suitable for e-learning (O’Dea, 2020).
Therefore, computer ownership and internet access do not necessarily equate to student use for e-learning. A significant factor of home-supported e-learning is parental cultural capital: the utilisation of parental attributes and resources to support their child’s education. Such parental involvement has demonstrated significant educational outcomes (Kington et al., 2020).
Consequently, we sought to investigate the level of parental engagement with e-learning across an all-through school (Reception – Year 13), primarily using data gathered through a parental questionnaire.
The questionnaire had a relatively high response rate (n=251, 36.7 per cent). The following is a summary of the main points:
- Over 50 per cent (52.4 per cent n=131) of households have more than one school-age child resident.
- 30 per cent (n=75) of children share a device for home learning with their parent/guardian working from home, despite there being multiple devices available in the household available for home learning.
- 32 per cent (n=45) of children from households with more than one school-age child resident share devices to access current home learning provision.
- Predominantly, students access available resources using a laptop or PC rather than mobile devices, despite there being more mobile devices available in households.
- 59.1 per cent (n=143) of parents would like to offer more support to their children with home learning tasks set by the school, yet 89.7 per cent (n=217) engage in independent learning tasks – 90.3 per cent (n=196) of these are in addition to the work set.
Despite a high prevalence of household mobile devices available for e-learning, only 24 per cent use a tablet and only 10 per cent use a phone to support e-learning. Devices with a physical keyboard (such as a PC or laptop) are predominantly used (62 per cent) to support e-learning. Still, because devices tend to be shared, e-learning should be in a format that is compatible with as many platforms/devices as possible to ensure that students have easy and ready access, avoiding traditional PowerPoint/Word documents, while using a more ‘standalone’ format (e.g. easy access pre-record videos, or Google forms).
Additionally, students predominantly share their devices with parents and siblings for e-learning access. Shared access would limit synchronous e-learning (such as live lesson streaming), therefore asynchronous content, such as pre-recorded lessons, would be preferable. A high percentage of respondents also reported that they engage with independent home learning tasks and would like to have more information to help support such independent tasks.
From the results, a series of recommendations are forwarded:
- Computer ownership does not necessarily equate to their use to support e-learning.
- Ensure that e-learning content is asynchronous in nature so that students may engage at an appropriate time given the high proportion of shared devices.
- Ensure that content is in an accessible format such as pre-recorded videos or quizzes.
- Provide parents with additional information on how they can support their child from home alongside set e-learning tasks.