How to Take Advantage of the "Learning Pods" Trend

Learning pods are a hot trend in education right now, and they may be the key to success for some students as schools adapt to new routines.

Because of their size and personalization, learning pods offer unique benefits to young learners both academically and socially.

If you overcome some of the challenges that accompany this opportunity, your child can flourish in their educational journey. Follow some of these steps to take advantage of the benefits of learning pods.

What are learning pods?

Also known as “pandemic pods,” learning pods are small groupings of students (often five or less) that meet to work with a teacher or tutor. These groups usually meet in a private home setting, and students in the pod don’t mingle with students from other pods or groups. Some pods even encourage distancing between students within the same pod.

Learning pods have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. The small size  gives families more confidence in their child’s safety and enables more personalized instruction. Learning pods offer a huge advantage to students struggling to keep up with their academics. They also provide additional supervision and guidance to students whose guardians are currently working.

Advantages of learning pods?

Learning pods decrease overall contact with other students. Therefore, a child’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 also decreases. Pods are often seen as a safer or healthier alternative to traditional daycare services and afterschool programs.

The smaller size also offers an improved student-to-teacher ratio. This enables more one-on-one instruction for students, which can help them keep up with their studies. For students who are currently online-only or have limited attendance at school, this is especially valuable.

Learning pods also improve students’ sense of normalcy compared to online-only learning. Kids can socialize better in-person than in a virtual classroom, and going to a learning pod every day creates a routine that includes a designated time and space for learning. Learning pods also can fill the role of childcare for working parents who previously relied on school, daycare, or afterschool programs.

How to overcome potential challenges of learning pods

Expense. Many families are understandably concerned about the high cost of elite, suburban backyard pods with private educators. To lower the cost of a learning pod experience for your child, consider hiring less-experienced but passionate tutors. College students pursuing education degrees would love a chance to work with children on days when they don’t have class. You can also have a different tutor each day of the week if they have a particular subject focus like math or art.

Exposure. Even in a small group, some families may be concerned about pandemic risk. Keep pods as small as economically feasible, and encourage children to continue distancing practices (including proper mask-wearing and washing hands) while in pods. Learning pods should meet outside when possible to improve recirculation of air. Outdoor learning also helps with children’s energy levels and provides opportunities for physical activity.

Environment. Backyard or spare-room learning simply isn’t an option for many families, especially in urban areas and for those that live in apartments or condos. Accessibility to learning pods can be hindered by distance, transportation, and special needs. If you live in an area with public parks that are safe and easy to access, these can be a great option for learning pods. Otherwise, reach out to your community. Religious institutions, small businesses, and community centers may have available spaces for learning pods to meet. Community-focused groups may be willing to offer these spaces at low or no cost, so call around!

More tips for learning pods

Virtual learning pods. If cost, location, or weather are an obstacle, try virtual learning pods! Although an online pod might not be as hands-on as an in-person one, your child can still benefit from the increased instructor attention and greater opportunity for social interaction in a small group. 

Pods at school. Reach out to your child’s teacher or school administration about the possibility of implementing learning pods in the classroom, both online and in-person. Many schools using remote learning have reduced or altered schedules with large time gaps for independent work. This is often referred to as asynchronous learning. Ask about staggering these schedules among students so that online pods can work with teachers during these asynchronous periods. Similar models might be possible for in-person classrooms, too!

IDEA Lab Plus. Many of our locations now offer a learning pod experience for students in our program IDEA Lab Plus. Children enrolled in IDEA Lab Plus work in learning pods while their IDEA Lab teacher helps them through their online school schedules. Our teachers provide additional assistance by mediating activities when the school hub crashes, filling in learning gaps with IDEA Lab’s STEAM curriculum, and using an SEL (social and emotional learning) model to teach empathy, respect, and responsibility. Call your nearest IDEA Lab Kids location to ask about IDEA Lab Plus and take advantage of learning pods!