Distance learning has become the norm through the Covid-19 pandemic however it is saddled with challenges for both schools and students.
When schools started closing down due to the coronavirus pandemic, many had to scramble to get their classes up online. For those schools that already had most of their class materials and assessments on digital platforms, the shutdown has been less of an adjustment. Teachers and administrators have had to develop a uniform way of communicating with students for class and office hours. A digital class schedule needed to be created and delivered to all students, so even kids stuck in another timezone, halfway across the world, could still be able to attend “class” and complete assignments.
Lack of Resources
Unfortunately, not all schools are equipped for online classes. Many public schools, particularly those with a high number of low-income students, are currently struggling with what to do. Non-profit organizations and edtech companies have reached out to offer free access to their online communication platforms, but the problem lies in the hardware. Students at these schools often do not have access to the internet at home. They may not own a laptop or iPad or even a smartphone. Ultimately, it is the school’s responsibility to get these devices to the students, but that’s easier said than done.
Before handing a student a school devise, there’s a long list of technology issues that must be addressed. Certain URLs must be blocked and restrictions on what settings the student has access to must be set up. If a school with 1,000 students needed to give devises to 10% of its population, that’s 100 set ups. And the problems don’t end there. Schools have to think about what happens when a student loses or damages the device. How are they going to be able to keep up with learning and who ends up paying for the device?
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Online learning may be the new, hottest thing, but the reality is that education taught remotely is different than the face-to-face, classroom experience. Content can be delivered online and students and teachers can log on to the same platform for virtual chats, but anyone who has taught in the classroom knows that learning is a two-way street. And unfortunately, with online learning, much of the relationship-building between a student and teacher is lost. Another issue is that delivery of information through a medium requires lesson preparation that is different from the preparation needed in a classroom.
Our kids and their teachers will have to struggle through this emergency with the hope that things return to some form of normal relatively soon. But it is likely that this forced change will have a long term effect and the normal we return to will not be the same as it was.