Online Jewish Education
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a massive realignment in the delivery of Jewish education. Seemingly overnight, schools, synagogues and other Jewish Educational institutions moved their programming online and developed new programs. More American Jews are studying Jewish texts online than ever before.
But the sharp discontinuity of COVID-19 may have merely accelerated an ongoing trend. In the spring of 2020, a group of researchers (Kelman, et. al.) published a report describing the rapid growth of online Jewish education. They argued that Jewish education online makes Jewish education available to a wider population than ever before, allows individuals to customize their Jewish educational journey and connects them to a broad and diverse community of learners and teachers.
And yet, at this moment of radical change in the delivery of Jewish education, little is known about what is happening in these online environments. What outcomes do they seek to achieve and how effectively do they achieve them? Beyond satisfaction surveys, we know almost nothing about what teaching and learning looks like in synchronous online settings and whether it works. Specifically, does it work to:
build interest in Jewish life and practice?
build foundations of knowledge?
build language and text skills?
build interpretive skills?
build connections between people and communities?
To address this gap in knowledge and to prepare the field of Jewish education for a future which will almost certainly include an enormous online component, scholars and researchers investigated the implications of synchronous, online learning for the future of Jewish education.
Across life-stages and settings, but focused on the teaching and learning of Jewish texts online, the studies explored the following questions:
How does traditional text learning transform when it moves online?
What new approaches to teaching and learning, if any, do synchronous online platforms make available?
What barriers do teachers and students experience in synchronous, online settings? How do they overcome these barriers?
What advantages do teachers and students experience in synchronous, online settings? How do they utilize these advantages?
On Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, 2021 the researchers explored their findings in discussions with study participants. Watch the videos from the events.
- “Dropping the Mic Online: How Educators End Class Well,” Daniel Olson
- “Text Discussion in a PreK–1st Grade Virtual Bible Classroom,” Hadassah Stanhill, Natalie Ann Fenwick, Geraldine Marie Alexandrine Bogard, Gavriella Troper-Hochstein & Ziva Hassenfeld
- “Face to Interface: Instructional Strategies of an Online Talmud Class,” Joshua S. Ladon
- “Meaningful Zoom Israel Education?: A 2020 Coronavirus Case Study on Emotionally Engaging Israel Learning,” Matt Reingold
- “Teachers Learn and Learners Teach: Enacting Presence in Online Havruta Text Study," Mindy Gold, Miriam Raider-Roth, and Elie Holzer