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What We’re Learning About Online Learning

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Over four days in mid-March, Cindy Hansen, an 11th grade English teacher at Timpanogos High School in Orem, Utah, had to go fully virtual, and took her class of some 30 students reading “The Great Gatsby” online.

Ms. Hansen had no experience with virtual courses and, like teachers around the country, had to experiment. She decided to upload video lessons — presenting the text of “Gatsby” along with a small window in the corner of the screen, in which she read aloud key passages and assigned essays.

The transition seemed to be proceeding smoothly until, after several lessons, she received a note from a student who rarely spoke up in class.

“He’s one of my sweetest students, and he wrote, ‘Ms. Hansen, those videos are glitchy — I can’t really see the text,’” she said in a phone interview. “I had just assumed they were fine. Well, they were horrible, and the poor kid felt frustrated. I’m glad he said something.” She quickly fixed the problem, she said, by reshooting the videos directly on the teaching site instead of uploading them.

After this spring’s on-the-fly experiment in online classes, teachers and school districts across the country are preparing for what will be anything but a normal fall semester. Some districts stumbled in the transition, with classes zoom-bombed and interrupted; many strained to address serious inequities in access to computers. Recent research finds that most students fell months behind during the last term of the year, with the heaviest impact on low-income students.

Other schools, like Timpanogos, transitioned with less disruption, in part by mobilizing facilitators, coaches and other staff members to support both teachers and students who were in danger of logging off and checking out, according to a report by researchers.

Now, most districts are facing a future in which online courses will likely be part of the curriculum, whether that entails students returning in shifts or classrooms remaining closed because of local outbreaks. And underlying that adjustment is a more fundamental question: How efficiently do students learn using virtual lessons?

“What we’re finding in the research thus far is it’s generally harder to keep students engaged with virtual lessons,” no matter the content, said Jered Borup, an associate professor in learning technologies at George Mason University. “Over all, though, that is not the distinguishing feature here. Rather, it’s what supports the student has when learning virtually. That makes all the difference.”

Research comparing in-person to online learning comes from many disciplines and does not benefit from the kinds of controls that scientists prefer; courses, teachers, students and class composition vary too much to make comparisons easily.

Physical presence matters, in ways that are not captured by the scientific method. “Look, I did fine in Ms. Hansen’s class — I just bought the audiobooks and read ‘Gatsby’ on my own,” one student, Ethan Avery, said in a phone interview. “But in some other classes. … I’m personally a terrible procrastinator, and not having that physical reminder, sitting in class and the teachers grilling me, ‘Ethan, this is due Friday,’ I fell behind. That was the rough part.”

The two most authoritative reviews of the research to date, examining the results of nearly 300 studies, come to a similar conclusion. Students tend to learn less efficiently than usual in online courses, as a rule, and depending on the course. But if they have a facilitator or mentor on hand, someone to help with the technology and focus their attention — an approach sometimes called blended learning — they perform about as well in many virtual classes, and sometimes better.

One state that has applied this approach broadly, for nearly two decades, is Michigan. A state-supported nonprofit institute called Michigan Virtual offers scores of online courses, in languages, the sciences, history and professional development. It also offers 23 virtual advanced placement (A.P.) courses, for college credit.

“We find that if students have support and a schedule — they do the lesson every weekday at 9 a.m., for instance — they tend to do better than just tuning in here and there,” said Joe Freidhoff, vice president of Michigan Virtual. “The mantra of online learning is, ‘Your own time, your own pace, your own path.’ In fact, each of these factors matter greatly, and some structure seems to help.”

In 2012, the institute added a research arm, to track the progress of its students. In the 2018-19 school year, more than 120,000 students took at least one of its virtual courses; the vast majority of students were in high school. The pass rate was 50 percent for those living below the state’s poverty line, and 70 percent for those living above it, averages roughly in line with the public high schools.

The story was different for Michigan Virtual’s A.P. students. In the 2018-19 academic year, 807 students took least one of its virtual A.P. classes. The final exams are graded on a scale from 1 to 5, with scores of 3 or above having a chance to earn college credit. The virtual learners’ overall average score was 3.21, compared to 3.04 among Michigan peers who took the course in a classroom. The national average on those same tests was 2.89.

“On these exams, our students consistently exceed state and national averages,” Dr. Freidhoff said. “Of course, being A.P. students, they tend to be very self-directed, motivated students.”

In its scramble to shift courses online in mid-March, the Timpanogos district put facilitators in place, both for teachers who needed them and to check in on some students. It lent Chromebooks to every student that did not have a computer at home. And it implemented a policy that, by all accounts, took pressure off the sudden transition: Students could opt for a “P” for pass, if struggling with a virtual class, without taking a hit to their G.P.A.

“It was a little overwhelming at first,” said Briley Andersen, another of Ms. Hansen’s students. “My physics and computer science classes were taking almost all my time, so I ended up taking a P in those.” She added, “As long as there’s good communication with a teacher, you get the hang of it. If not, it takes too long to figure out what you’re supposed to do.”

Michelle Jensen, who is employed by the district as a learning coach, provided guidance to teachers — including Ms. Hansen — and to students when possible. “The rationale was, do no harm,” she said. “These students are going to have 13 years of education, at least, and our approach to this one term was, help them learn how to make this adjustment.”

In a review of Timpanogos’s transition, a research team led by Dr. Borup and Ms. Jensen found that it was largely the nondigital measures that mattered most. Teachers offered virtual office hours to students, and contacted them when activity fell off. When those interventions weren’t effective, counselors worked with the family.

The last term of the 2020 school year was, in effect, a hard lesson for much of the educational system in what virtual classes could and could not provide. The content is there, and accessible, in any well-prepared course.

But if the evidence thus far is any guide, virtual education will depend for its success on old-school principles: creative, attentive teaching and patient support from parents. As “The Great Gatsby” concludes: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/health/school-learning-online-education.html

Publications

Security and Sustainability Forum-With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider. 10/22/2020

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Steering Societies Beyond GDP to the SDGs

With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider

October 22, 2020

1:15 pm to 2:15 pm EDT

The next webinar in the SSF series, with ecological economist and futurist Hazel Henderson, will address how the UN SDGs can and should replace GDP as the basis for valuing society leading to an economy based on planet protection and human wellbeing. Claudine Schneider is Hazel’s guest.

GDP accounts for all the public expenditures as “debt” while ignoring the value of the assets they created. If GDP were to be corrected by including the missing asset account, these debt-to-GDP ratios would be cut by up to 50% — with a few keystrokes! Learn why money isn’t what you think it is and why that matters to life on Earth in the next two webinars with Hazel and guests.

Register

Claudine Schneider is a former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island. She was the first, and to date only, woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island. She is founder of Republicans for Integrity, which describes itself as a network of “Republican former Members of Congress who feel compelled to remind Republican voters about the fundamentals of our party and to provide the facts about incumbents’ voting records.”

October 22nd webinar with Claudine Schneider and Hazel

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

[email protected]

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

Source: https://www.ethicalmarkets.com/63564-2/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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