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May 25, 2021 REL Topic - Catechesis, REL Topic- Blended Learning, REL Topic- Assessment, REL Asset - Handout, REL PD - Leaders

Virtual Learning for Catechesis in a Post-Pandemic World

Catholic schools and parishes around the country responded with creativity and flexibility to restrictions limiting in-person gatherings and classes. As restrictions ease and it is safer to gather together, there will be opportunities to continue successful programs to reach and minister to more families that might have been initiated in response to the pandemic but that continue to be relevant in a post-pandemic world. Plus, download a Blending Catechesis Calculator Planning Tool and use it to assess and strengthen opportunities for blended learning initiatives in your school or parish.

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Virtual learning and opportunities for blended or hybrid approaches for catechesis can continue to serve children and families in meaningful ways. Keep the momentum going with a blended approach to virtual learning for catechesis in a post-pandemic world.

Use this tool to assess and strengthen opportunities for virtual or blended learning initiatives in your school and parish. This Blending Catechesis Calculator Planning Tool is a printable tool that you can apply to existing programs at your organization or help you refine new initiatives before launching them to achieve the right blend for your particular program, catechists, and students.

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Learning the Lingo

Virtual Learning for Catechesis

Virtual learning for catechesis is a remote approach to catechesis that integrates digital technology during the faith formation process. Virtual programs are implemented primarily or partly online and require programming adapted to this format. In virtual learning for children’s catechesis, online formation can be provided in a variety of modes and models, including synchronous and asynchronous learning, and offerings that range from fully virtual to blended or hybrid. These options can sometimes result in a confusing landscape of seemingly infinite choices, but they also provide huge opportunities to catechize in innovative ways that directly suit particular needs.

A Blended or Hybrid Approach

Blended and hybrid approaches to virtual learning are terms often used interchangeably. Both simply mean an approach in which the learning is neither fully virtual or fully in-person and instead some combination of the two. Sometimes, blended also refers to the use of traditional print and virtual materials to support learning. A blended or hybrid approach isn’t necessarily balanced in that the same amount of time is spent virtually as on site. A successful hybrid approach is responsive to the needs and opportunities of the learners in whatever blend best suits, making it a very flexible approach that can leverage the best benefits of in person and virtual learning for catechists and students.

 

The pandemic forced many Catholic schools and parishes to make a quick and challenging shift to virtual learning, which provided an opportunity to field-test tools, approaches, and strategies.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous

Within a fully virtual or blended approach, there are opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous sessions. The word synchronous means “at the same time.” Synchronous virtual learning occurs live, in real time. In this approach, the students and instructors “meet” at the same time, and not in or from the same place but on the same online platform, like a virtual meeting or an online discussion forum. To give an example, remote students may join a synchronous class at a scheduled time in which their catechist provides instruction and then facilitates small group breakout sessions. Synchronous learning has a community building benefit that mimics a live experience, allowing students, families, and catechists to interact and communicate in real time.

Unlike synchronous learning, asynchronous virtual learning does not happen at the same place and same time. In this approach, catechists assign content, activities, or projects to students and students complete their work independently and submit it when it’s complete. To give an example, students complete readings, tasks, or activities assigned by their catechist in a classroom management system or virtual program in a self-paced way. They may get feedback from the catechists within the system or during a later one-on-one synchronous session.

Achieving the Right Balance

The pandemic forced many Catholic schools and parishes to make a quick and challenging shift to virtual learning, which provided an opportunity to field-test tools, approaches, and strategies. Now is the perfect time to consider what worked best and how – helping make the transition from thinking about what catechesis could look like and evaluate what it should look like for the long term. The right blend for your catechetical program will depend on the particular needs of the students and families you are trying to reach. Each blend is unique! It’s important to offer lots of meaningful opportunities for families to gather together in real time and in person. Using technology to support you in utilizing this time well is a great benefit of digital tools. Here are just a few examples to consider as you decide how to best put them to work in your school or parish.

 

Now is the perfect time to consider what worked best and how – helping make the transition from thinking about what catechesis could look like and evaluate what it should look like for the long term.

Rural Populations

For children and families in remote areas, it might be difficult or impossible to schedule face time. A virtual program that provides opportunities to connect synchronously but learn asynchronously is ideal for these families and the catechists who serve them.

What You’ll Need – A catechetical program that can be implemented virtually with flexible models that maximize the role of the family faith formation dynamic at home

Pro Tip: Be sure that access isn’t a problem for families in remote areas; in order to reap the benefits of virtual catechesis, families will need access to WiFi and connected devices. Support families in meeting technology needs if these are a hurdle to getting or staying connected.

Busy Families

Providing ample opportunities for families in your Catholic school or parish to access catechesis virtually means that you can reach more families whose schedules are incompatible with traditionally scheduled catechetical programs and events.

What You Need – A range of models to support family catechesis that combine opportunities for families to connect with content virtually in their own time balanced with in-person meeting opportunities and events

Pro Tip: Reach out to families and make them partners in your efforts from the start. Request and respond to feedback to tailor initiatives to their needs. Make the most of together-in-person time and gives families the choice to schedule the rest flexibility.

Tech-Savvy Students

Today’s students are accustomed to using digital technology in both their academic and personal lives. Enhancing catechesis with digital tools will boost engagement and relevance for tech-savvy Catholic kids and help them consider ways that they can be digital disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.

What You Need – Digital tools and rich media that complement and enhance learning

Pro Tip: Integrate applications and utilize networks that students are accustomed to using for learning, enjoyment, and communication. Familiar, intuitive tools will make activities more engaging and relevant for students. Be sure to vet and get approval before using any new digital tools with students.