Dr. Meagan Stanley
The Obstacles and Opportunities of Distance Learning
Understanding what students face and the impact of online school on learning in the age of education and COVID-19
Working in grade schools for several years, I saw the impact the classroom can have on a child very quickly. Supportive teachers, routine and structure, positive peer interactions, and a day balanced with work and breaks all do wonders for a student’s emotional wellbeing. Now in the age of COVID-19, many of these aspects of traditional education will be disrupted as most California schools move, at least temporarily, to distance learning.
For students at all ages, there is a sense of mourning of their previous of learning. Especially with students who struggle with time management, self-directed education can be incredibly challenging. Although teachers are available, students may feel less comfortable reaching out for help and peer-to-peer assistance is virtually gone. However, many children feel comfortable at home, enjoy the relaxed hours/schedule, and feel freed from of social pressures. In general, distance learning is a mixed bag of opportunities and obstacles.
Positives of distance learning:
· Flexible hours often lead to more time available for a better balance of school and leisure activities, more enriching family time, and better time for quality sleep
· Down-time has helped students recharge, slow-down, and be more mindful
· More adaptive learning and ability for students to work at their own pace, which is helpful for both students who typically struggled to keep up and students who may benefit from a faster pace
· Less focus on social comparisons can reduce social pressure and stress
· Time away from friends can lead to more quality interactions and less friendship burnout
Negatives of distance learning:
· More down-time and less physical activity can lead to boredom, anxiety, and/or depression
· Fewer opportunities for organic dialogue and discussions, which can hinder critical thinking
· Difficult for parents to juggle their own tasks while overseeing and managing schoolwork
· Increased interactions with parents and children can lead to conflict
· Technology issues and delays can inconvenience teachers and obstruct learning; issues might disproportionately impact some students more than others
· More difficult for tactile learners who benefit from hands-on activities
· Social learning and peer-to-peer support can be limited
· Time away from friends can lead to social isolation and feeling left out of distanced from friend group
· Self-directed nature of online learning can be challenging for students who struggle with time management, attention, and/or motivation issues
Although it may be disheartening to see a long list of possible negative impacts of remote education, it is important to remember that we are learning how to adapt. As the year goes on, it is possible that many students will find solutions to some of the challenges they are facing and feel more acclimated to this new way of learning. For younger children, it’s important to reinforce effort over outcomes and help your children look for workarounds to some of the issues they may be experiencing. Learning to be resourceful, creative, and flexible are all valuable skills to acquire for students of all ages.