Learning pods, micro classrooms, nanoschools, pandemic pods—whatever you may call, are not new concepts, but they’ve become increasingly popular, especially, among parents seeking an additional support and, are willing to split the cost of a tutor to help their children with online school work. 

Learning pods, in actuality, are formed by parents struggling to juggle their own remote working needs with monitoring online school, especially, during this COVID time. This learning option follows a variety of pedagogies using alternative operational structures with a lot more offerings and ifs & buts that we would discuss further.  

Conventionally, homeschooling and unschooling attracts personalized, pro-project-learning philosophies, from Montessori-theory to nature-based programs. And this unique education-career option with safer parameters has some traditional teachers jumping ship. These learning pods provide them an opportunity to teach in-person with limited exposure and a more consistent schedule than other schools are currently able to provide. Not only this, it allows educators to better connect with students on a deeper level than any online or traditional class. 

But, when we talk about learning pods, we need to know that there’s broad variety in what the pods look like. Some include paid tutors or instructors; while in others, children might have to rotate from one home to another during the week to aid in child care and maintain social contacts. 

The Expenses of Learning Pods 

Learning pods that include outside instructors are growing in popularity for parents who can afford the added cost. So, the like-minded parents together form a learning group with a handful of students and an educator. The parents share costs and responsibilities to create an invite-only co-op system. This unique and dynamic pedagogy allow the students’ parents to wander into the classroom at any given moment, and feel entitled as the teacher’s bosses. This is one reason teachers should be cautious of entering into a position via Facebook posting or other social media call. Many parents presuppose they could join up with parents from their Friday night wine sipper group or from the game room, drop in a credentialed teacher, and create a perfect micro school.  

Already mentioned, pods including outside educators is a great option for those who have the means to pull their children from public school and enrol them in a private school pod. Portfolio School in New York City and Westchester County, New York-based Hudson Lab School, along with San Francisco-based Red Bridge Education are few of the great examples to it. They have partnered to offer learning pods that can either provide a private education or can work with the curriculum of the students’ current school. For elementary pods, grades K through 5, it costs $68,750 for a five-month semester. For a pod of three, they charge $23,000 per pupil. While for full academic year, the charge is $125,000 per pod, or almost $42,000 per pupil in a group of three. The more the children, lesser is the cost. For example, if broken down hourly, it could cost as little as $15 an hour for a pod of nine or so. 

While those with low-income unable to afford such pods, can pick communities that have created socially distanced, free learning hubs or learning labs with computers, Wifi connections, and adult supervision or tech assistance on hand to help students navigate their public schools’ hybrid or remote learning plans. According to NPR, New York City has pledged to create 100,000 such spots, and San Francisco some 6,000.Not only this, few local organizations, such as the YMCA, are helping to set up similar hubs in communities such as California's Silicon Valley, Boston, Chicago, Houston and more. 

Hiring a babysitter or nanny is also a way-out. According to Nicole’s Nannies, based in Madison, New Jersey, it could cost about $30 an hour for three children or up to $50 for five, The company is also hiring teachers to match with learning pods, with the pricing still being scrutinized. 

Besides these, several pod companies have emerged; and are doing their part to help bridge the gap between the rich and poor. They offer scholarships for those who can’t afford it and some, like Hudson Lab School and Swing Education, are working to assist public schools with pod learning. 

Outschool, based in California, has also started a foundation to bring the opportunity to low-income communities. This platform is setting aside $2 million for those in need, split between free virtual classes for the fall semester and funding in-person learning centers, and is looking to raise $8 million more.  

Challenges of Learning Pods 

The more people in a pod, the more is the risk of getting exposed to coronavirus. That's why parents should keep the number of kids as low as possible. Once you add in a teacher, siblings and other family members, the pod could end up being linked to dozens of people. 

Ideally, just like in social pods that people have formed during coronavirus, families joined in learning pods shouldn’t socialize with people outside the pod unless they wear masks, remain socially distant and must adhere to the COVID-19 protection guidelines. Also, pod members should be open and honest about their families’ health and activities with each other. Members should also have an agreed-upon plan for what happens if someone tests positive, gets sick or is in a high-risk situation. 

Last but not the least; undoubtedly, learning pod is a unique learning approach, especially, when kids are locked inside their home in an effort to protect them from COVID- 19. For many pod leaders, this is a unique opportunity to take students struggling to be independent learners and inspire accountability and resilience. The unique alchemy of pod learning prioritizes students’ social and emotional well-being, safely developing the skills they require to keep developing over a lifetime. But, at the same time, it is found that this transition from public to private school is a threat to public schools and non-profit organizations. Also, given the high costs of learning pods, they may exacerbate inequalities between those who have the time and resources to network with potential pod-mates or hire private tutors and those who can’t. 

How Can You Create A Learning Pod? 

Despite all, if you want to create learning pod here’s few tips that you may follow: 

Create boundaries and stick to them. 

 Working closely with families can be dicey. You, being a Pod teacher, need to clearly define expectations for the learning environment, health and safety standards, their role, and their responsibilities as both an educator and facilitator to student’s parent or care takers..  

Prepare to troubleshoot online learning.  

Regardless of their academic level, students are expected to operate with remote learning proficiency. Stress for all parties involved should be reduced, by educators familiarizing themselves with the students’ tech (both software and hardware).  

Keep students present and engaged by creating structure. 

 To have students aboard and engaged, you have to provide an organized schedule, assignment logs, appointments with teachers and individualized study plans. Screen-break time can also become opportunities for furthering concepts and promoting creativity through hands-on inquiry. 

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About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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