Leveraging Online Education during a Natural Disaster

Education Technology Insights | Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Due to the devastation witnessed last year with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria, students, parents, and educators across the US are anxious about it yet again during the hurricane season. However, online learning can help students stay focused while schools rebuild what was demonstrated in Southern Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. When Houston was hit with Hurricane Harvey, the Lone Star College had to shut down its campus. Nevertheless, they had an online portal prior to the hurricane. After Harvey, 90,000 students enrolled in online courses. The total number ultimately increased, and it enabled the system to continue operating.

After disaster struck in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria destroying the island school, it would take a year to rebuild. Many families migrated to the U.S., mainly in Florida, following which, the Florida Virtual School (FVS) increased the number of programs and employed additional Spanish-language instructors. The CCO of Florida Virtual School, Doctor Polly Haldeman, stated that they learned a lot about their ability to respond, including internal communications. The level of crisis management was different. The school needed to learn about logistics, and since there was no power in Puerto Rico, it created a bigger challenge. Other than internal coordination, they realized there needed to be contact on the ground. Now that educators are enhancing online education to better respond to disasters, there is good enough assurance that students will be able to focus on education during such times.

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