The challenges of e-learning
Right now, in Canada, I am fortunate enough to receive a high-quality education. In-fact Canada, for the most part, has a reputation for consistently providing education to citizens, but in this time of confusion surrounding COVID-19, this education is placed in jeopardy. Canada’s Response: e-learning. This is the practice of teaching and learning digitally often involving video calls, electronically posted assignments, and instant messaging. Though we are yet to see how effective this form of education will be.
One of the most major issues facing e-learning is student engagement. In a brick and mortar school student engagement is guaranteed based on the classroom dynamics and physical nature of a classroom environment, but digital classrooms and e-learning posses none of these aspects of a physical classroom. Because of these, there is a potential that students become disengaged with the subject matter which is highly disadvantageous to learning itself. Though students can actually become more disengaged then just school.
When you take students out of the social environment of a classroom and ask them to social distance (the practice of keeping distance from others and limiting social interactions) they can feel extremely isolated. The impact of this on mental health is profound. As a result, many schools are making a point of advertising services like Kids help phone and other mental health hotlines.Though at this point we are in uncharted territory in terms of isolating millions of youth for a matter of months.
One of the key ways that youth have been coping with this isolation is by interacting online. For the time being this has proved to be a useful way of communicating in this time, yet those without internet and tech are at a disadvantage.
This disadvantage of not having a computer and Wi-Fi is a huge issue for many students. If you don’t have either of these then it becomes impossible to talk to friends, maintain relationships, and most importantly to continue learning. The main response from schools has been either handing out worksheets for a matter of weeks which is disengaging but effective or responding on a case by case basis. This challenge of having adequate technology is unique because it disproportionately affects people who are lower on the socio-economic ladder which has the possibility of creating an education gap that resembles the wealth gap. This is against the Canadian ideal of equity in education. When you do relay on technology you run not only into issues with students and technology, but schools and teachers.
Though teachers have the absolute best intentions, many school boards don’t use technology often meaning that many teachers are unfamiliar with how to run a classroom online. This leads to confusion about how to e-learn and best practises for online education. Most school boards are taking steps to educate the teachers and providing resources to teachers.
As we can see, there are huge challenges with, but right now it is our best option to provide an education to youth. All that we can do is to continue to be engaged by the education process and support teachers and administrators as they do their part in this global pandemic.
Siegel, B. E. (2020, March 9). Coronavirus Is Closing Schools. What Does That Mean for Kids Who Rely on School Meals? Retrieved from https://www.eater.com/2020/3/9/21170472/coronavirus-school-closures-free-reduced-priced-lunch-student-meals
Barnum, M. (2019, February 9). 17 studies that tell us something about how school closures affect students. Retrieved from https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/02/05/list-school-closures-research-studies/
Clary, G., &Asmelash, L. (2020, March 14). School closures of 8 weeks or more may better mitigate coronavirus spread, CDC says. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/us/school-closures-cdc-long-term-trnd/index.html