Reimagining A World of Learning


Power of Ideas

Reimagining A World of Learning

Lori McFarling
Lori McFarling
(President, Corporate & Community Partnerships, Discovery Education)

The numbers are staggering. Close to 90 percent of the world’s students are impacted by COVID-19 school closures—that’s over 1.5 billion children out of traditional school for the foreseeable future.

With public safety of paramount importance, closing schools is one critical strategy to help flatten the curve. Much like the health community’s need to rally to find solutions, industries are quickly moving to respond to the new normal. As an ed-tech company, Discovery Education is in a world that’s rapidly reimagining learning at an unprecedented scale. How can we best support students, teachers, parents, and caregivers in the struggle to adapt? 

When I think about Discovery Education’s mission to “Take Learning Beyond the Classroom,” never did I imagine a time like this. As a digital-first company that serves more than 45 million students and 4.5 million educators around the world, we’re in a unique position to immediately support districts as they contemplate how to transition to virtual learning environments. 

It’s not hyperbole to say that what’s being asked of our schools is herculean. Their world changed, literally overnight. It’s one of the proudest moments of my career to witness our team seamlessly pivot to help support millions who are now forced to make full-time virtual learning an immediate reality. Teaching for the foreseeable future will no longer be done in classrooms, but rather virtually, on couches, in bedrooms, on kitchen tables, across the country.

Teaching for the foreseeable future may no longer be done in classrooms but rather virtually, on couches, in bedrooms, on kitchen tables, across the country.

In response, Discovery Education announced in early March a large-scale commitment to provide K-12 schools access to comprehensive tools and foundational teacher supports, at no cost, as they rapidly adjust to meet student needs through the end of the school year. We’re also helping students explore the science behind the pandemic through a special collection of digital assets, the ‘Viruses and Outbreak Channel.’ Found within Discovery Education Experience, our most widely distributed digital service, this content helps communities build understanding. 

We’ve also introduced a parent toolkit—Daily DE—to complement our comprehensive response to educators by serving as a one-stop-shop for families to engage and support their children. Curated with our like-minded partners, the themed ‘grab & go’ daily activities inspire students to explore their world through virtual field trips from the American Heart Association and the NFL, TGR Foundation (a Tiger Woods Charity), RFK Human Rights, Toyota, the USC Shoah Foundation, and more. Students can participate in hands-on challenges from innovative companies like TCS, LG, Siemens Foundation, and 3M that are each providing a range of dynamic, no-cost activities that help students continue to thrive outside the classroom. We’re also working with our STEM Careers Coalition partners to spotlight how professionals in member companies are pivoting their skills to meet current community health needs. As students hear about first responders, virologists, PPE manufactures, and the multitude of STEM careers at companies like Boeing and Microsoft that are solving for Coronavirus solutions, we’re putting careers in context for students and sharing real-world stories of how STEM can make the world a better, and safer, place. We’re leaning in with our partners because together, we recognize that empowering families with tools that connect the dots is critical to the learning continuity equation. 

In the US, 1 in 3 students and their families now have access to Discovery Education’s learning tools that support student achievement. And we’re not done yet.

Realizing that for many schools, the move to virtual learning was sudden and that educators need support in making this challenging transition, Discovery Education expanded its response to support them, too. With access to professional support, thousands of educators are experiencing the fundamentals of virtual learning and are empowered to put those skills to work. Through “Ask Me Anything” sessions, teachers connect to support for delivering virtual instruction. At our recent Virtual Conference (VirtCon), we collaborated with thousands of educators in a two-day event that explored best practices for engaging students in this new paradigm.

As we move forward, it’s our commitment to continue to listen, learn, and innovate in support of the educators and students we serve. If you’re a company wanting to join in our work to empower teachers, let us know at Virtual Learning Response Fund.

Discovery Education is a company whose mission is to prepare learners for future success by connecting them to the world outside the classroom. When the world outside the classroom threatens instruction, we believe it’s our moral imperative to support teachers, administrators, and families everywhere in this shared work to maintain continuity in students’ learning. Like all of you, we’ll continue to monitor this evolving crisis and look for ways to help educators everywhere prepare students for success, no matter where they are. Won’t you join us?

Published April 29, 2020