Two weeks ago we launched a survey for professional educators entitled: ‘Remote Teaching Survey – Readiness, Tools and Challenges’. The aim of the survey was to create a composite view of how teachers around the world were coping with the sudden shift to fully remote teaching, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We created versions of the survey in three languages (English, Spanish and Catalan were chosen, based on team capabilities). Each version of the survey had exactly the same 12 questions:

  • 3 questions about what you do
  • 3 questions about your readiness for remote teaching
  • 3 questions about remote teaching tools and resources you might use
  • 3 questions about your results or challenges.

If you only have two minutes…

If you want to jump straight to the conclusions, click here!

Results – About Survey Participants

The survey had 116 participants, based in six different countries (Spain, USA, UK, Germany, Croatia and Australia). All but one of the participants answered yes to the first question about plans to deliver remote teaching in the remainder of the academic year.

The majority (69%) taught in a University, with Secondary / Grade School teachers being the next largest segment (20%). Primary / Grade School teachers represented 6% of participants, with 5% identifying as ‘Other’. This last category included Law School, Adult Education and Language Tutors.

63% taught STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Social Sciences accounted for 9% of participants, and General Primary teaching was a further 5%. A relatively large proportion (10%) were involved in supporting those who did teaching. The 10% who chose ‘Other’ taught subjects including: International Trade, Law, Russian, Catalan and Real Estate Finance!

Results – About Readiness

The questions in this section were aimed at discovering what type of remote teaching the survey participants were planning on delivering (interactive vs. non-interactive), what benefits they saw in interactive teaching and how confident they felt about delivering it.

In terms of confidence about delivering remote teaching, the distribution of answers was as follows. A minority of educators (11%) were clearly very experienced in delivering this type of content and were accordingly very confident. The largest group of respondents (44%) were reasonably confident, having delivered this kind of content before. The second largest group (35%) described themselves as ‘hopeful’ about their abilities to deliver remote teaching. The last group, representing 10%, confessed to being worried about the prospect and not sure where to start.

The next questions asked what proportion of remote lessons were planned to be ‘interactive’ as opposed to ‘non-interactive’. 50% of all participants reported that at least half of their lessons would be interactive. A further 24% reported that between a quarter and a half of their lessons would be interactive. 16% of respondents said that the proportion of their lessons that would be interactive was between 1 in 10 and 1 in 4. A further 9% said the proportion would be non-zero but less than 1 in 10. Only one percent reported that none of their lessons would be interactive.

Taken together, these results show that three quarters of all participants expect interactive lessons to form a significant part (>25%) of their output.

The next question aimed to understand the motivations of teachers who were planning to go to the trouble of providing interactive remote teaching. What benefits did they expect to gain from doing this? A number of potential benefits were suggested, and participants were asked to select those answers which they agreed with.

In descending order, the benefits that were most commonly cited were:

  • ‘Students can ask questions in real-time’ (87%)
  • ‘The teacher can better assess whether the class understands a topic’ (52%)
  • ‘Students learn from each other as well as from the teacher’ (50%)
  • ‘The fixed time of the lesson makes it more likely that students will do the work’ (39%)

A sizeable minority also selected ‘Other’ and specified benefits including:

“The tutor can get instant feedback and adapt the lesson for the students as necessary”

“Builds a community – that’s often overlooked and who you work with is so important to learning and later life”

Results – About Remote Teaching Tools and Resources

The goal of questions in this section was to understand which tools educators currently use for remote teaching, which resources they have found helpful and (as an interesting counterpoint) to what degree they use whiteboards as part of their normal classroom-based teaching?

When teaching in the classroom, a large majority of participants reported using a whiteboard. Almost half of educators (48%) said that they use a whiteboard for every class, with a further 39% saying that they use a whiteboard ‘frequently’. 10% of teachers said a whiteboard was only used occasionally and 3% said they never used one.

The next question related to which tools were being used to deliver remote teaching content. A curated list of options was provided, and respondents were also invited to list other tools that they used

When collating results across ALL participants, the most widely used remote teaching tools were: Google Hangouts (48% of participants), Zoom (42%) and Google Classroom (23%). However, further analysis of the data reveals a very strong divergence by country/language.

For survey participants of the English language version of the survey, who were primarily based in the US and UK, the most widely used tools were: Zoom (70%), Microsoft Teams (40%), Panopto (30%) and Google Hangouts (26%).

For survey participants of the Spanish and Catalan versions of the survey, who were primary based in northern Spain, there was a strong trend towards Google tools, with Google Hangouts (62%) and Google Classroom (32%) being more popular than Zoom (26%).

Of the ‘other’ tools that were specified, 16% of participants used Moodle, 8% used Google Meet and 5% used Skype. Overall, 25 additional tools were mentioned, with the next most popular (on 2% each) being: Blackboard, Kahoot and YouTube.

Only 4% of participants were using Kaptivo to provide interactive whiteboarding, contrasted with 87% who said that in normal classroom teaching they use a whiteboard either ‘frequently’ or ‘every lesson’. This suggests that further research should be carried out to determine the reasons for this mismatch. One reason could be lack of brand or product awareness, for example. The figures also point to a very large potential opportunity for remote whiteboarding solutions, such as Kaptivo, in the remote teaching market.

The third question in this section asked educators which resources they had found useful. The intention of the question was to identify resources such as websites with content and tips rather than ‘tools’ per se. However, this wasn’t necessarily how many respondents interpreted it, so the answers reflected a mixture of both.

In terms of resources, some suggestions were:

  • “I use RazKids for reading, NoRedInk for grammar, Embark for Math. I have also created Hyperdocs and text sets for Science and Social studies.”
  • “Video by Fuse School or Cognito. Microsoft Forms(quiz)”
  • “Meetings where others share their experiences and how they’ve overcome them to deliver rich content”

Of those who used this questions to talk about tools, one answer which seemed to summarize a lot of the feedback was this:

“Zoom is the best tool for communication and connection. Google classroom is best for assigning work.”

Results – About Challenges and Advice

The final three questions aimed to identify how well students were coping with the recent switch to fully remote teaching, which challenges educators felt most keenly, and what advice they would offer to their peers who are in the same situation.

The results about students were largely positive. 21% of educators felt that almost all of their students were doing very well with the remote learning paradigm. The largest group (52%) said that the majority of their students were doing well. 5% said that the majority of students were struggling and 1% reported that most students are really struggling. A sizeable remainder (21%) said that it was too early to tell.

The next question aimed to understand the challenges facing educators as they try to undertake this rapid switch to a fully remote teaching paradigm. A number of potential challenges were suggested, and participants were asked to select those answers which they agreed with.

In descending order, the challenges that were most commonly cited were:

  • ‘My lesson plans need to be modified for remote teaching’ (73%)
  • ‘It is more difficult to ensure that students are engaged and learning’ (47%)
  • ‘Not enough time to get used to it’ (32%)
  • ‘I don’t have the tools that I need’ (25%)
  • ‘I have not had adequate training on the tools’ (21%)

A sizeable minority also selected ‘Other’ and specified challenges including:

“Small children need a lot of support at home and not all students have adults available to help.”

“White board work is not adequate at home!”

“Delivering lab-based practicals!”

Advice to other teachers:

The final question was deliberately left open-ended and it invited survey participants to share advice with colleagues facing the same challenges around teaching remotely.

There were loads of very good answers, and here are some of them, sorted into rough categories:

The motivational:

“Do not stop experimenting and innovating until you find the right way to do the classes remotely.”

“Embrace the uncertainty–confess your lack of familiarity with the tech; survey students often and ask them what’s working.”

“Have a go and try new things. This is the best time to do it.”

The practical:

“Do not try to do the classes in the same way as in person. Create video tutorials for students and set aside one hour per week for questions in the form of video conferencing or chat.”

“Use a good digital pen for a tablet or similar, to simulate a board”

“Start early. It takes longer to prepare than you expect.”

“Ask your colleagues to help teach you what they know. Work with your grade level as a team. Use youtube videos to teach your students how to use Google Classrooms and Zoom.”

The nurturing:

“Be patient with yourself and with the students. Establish norms and routines and be consistent in following them. Students need routines and they thrive in that environment…”

“A lot of patience, a lot of encouragement and a desire to work and learn at the same time.”

“Take it one day at a time and be flexible and open minded.”

“Good luck!”

Analysis and Conclusions

Clearly, a survey like this, with a relatively small number of participants (116) can only provide a limited snapshot of attitudes towards remote teaching. Care must be taken in how the data should be interpreted, especially since a significant group of the respondents worked in the same region, around Barcelona, and so may have much in common. Another potential source of skew is the fact that STEM teachers make up almost two-thirds of respondents.

Nevertheless, I have been impressed with the richness of the data that has been generated and some clear trends have emerged as well as some surprises. Here are the main conclusions:

  • A majority of educators (55%) are either very or fairly confident in their ability to deliver remote teaching content. A further 35% are hopeful they can do a good job. On the flipside, 10% of teachers are worried and don’t know where to start!
  • The vast majority of teachers (90%) plan to deliver at least 10% of their lessons in an interactive format, with 50% planning to make interactivity the dominant format. This is interesting and encouraging, but is something of a surprise to me, as anecdotally, the two schools that my own children attend, are both delivering content in a 100% non-interactive manner. Perhaps this is something that will change as teachers get more time to prepare lessons for next term/semester and become more confident with tools for delivering interactive content?
  • Educators seem to be very clear on the many benefits of providing interactive remote lessons, with the ability to ask questions in real time cited (by 87%) as the most important benefit.
  • In normal classroom-based teaching, a massive majority (87%) of teachers use whiteboards either frequently or in every lesson. However, it seems that only a small minority are aware that there are remote teaching tools available to make whiteboards part of remote teaching in an interactive format. This is reflected by only 4% of respondents saying they used Kaptivo. It would seem that there is a large potential opportunity for such tools, but there is also a large awareness challenge to overcome.
  • In terms of tools used for remote teaching, there seem to be two main categories, both of which are important; tools such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams and Moodle are popular for setting work and gathering assignment in a largely ‘asynchronous’ manner. For real-time engagement with students, video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts are widely used. In an education setting, developers of other remote tools should probably think how their tools complement and integrate with these main tool types.
  • On the whole, (according to 73% of respondents), the majority of students are reported to be coping well with the switch to remote working. However, as 21% of respondents reminded us, it is possibly too early to tell. My personal opinion is that teachers will have rushed to provide remote teaching resources at short notice and the vast majority of this will be asynchronous, non-interactive material. If the ‘work from home’ requirement continues for many weeks and months, it will be essential for an increasing proportion of lessons to become interactive and ‘real-time’ in order to be more engaging and helpful for students. This will probably require teachers to become familiar with new tools, and so ease of use and reliability will be very important.
  • Of the challenges facing teachers, the most commonly cited one was ‘My lesson plans need to be modified for remote teaching’ (73%). However, ‘It is more difficult to ensure that students are engaged and learning’ was cited as the second most common challenge (47%) and I believe this will be a driver towards more interactive lessons.

I am very grateful to all of the participants of this survey and I hope that the results prove to be interesting and helpful.