No matter their socioeconomic status, people all over the world are grappling with the issue of having their children continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more and more students, families, and schools deal with the fact that schools will probably be closed and students will have to take classes virtually, it’s important for everyone to understand the benefits and challenges of remote learning. Let’s look at several positive aspects and potential drawbacks to distance learning.

Positive Aspects of Remote Learning

More Freedom to Take Breaks and Sleep

A child's hands on a laptop computer.

Image via Flickr by shixart1985

For many students, the fact that they can sleep in a bit later, take restroom breaks as needed, and eat when they’re hungry is positive. When kids need to wake up early for a long commute to a brick-and-mortar school, they can get sleepy during the day and have trouble focusing on their in-class learning.

Having to wait for timed class breaks at school to use the restroom and eat snacks can make kids fidgety, distracting them from the teachers’ instructions. Kids participating in distance learning at home can do their schoolwork and still take care of their physical needs at their own pace.

Students Can Learn at Their Own Rate

Students who learn at a quicker rate than others typically enjoy remote learning since they aren’t held back by classmates who learn at a slower rate. As work is scheduled for them, they can focus on the assignment and finish it so they can move on to other assignments. In addition, if the student is a morning person or a night owl, they can study and do their work when they feel the most alert and are able to absorb the information presented to them.

Students Develop Deeper Problem-Solving Skills

In many remote learning cases, students have to figure out a problem on their own, as the teacher isn’t available immediately to answer a question. The student develops research skills, takes more time to think deeply about the information, and even formulates their own answer. When a student can figure out a problem and solve it on their own, it helps them build confidence and self-esteem.

Families Spend More Time Together

In a busy and hectic world, many families spend very little time together. Parents have their own work and commute schedule, and kids have varying school start times, extracurricular activities, and social engagements that keep them from home. When kids are learning at home, siblings get to know each other better throughout the day, and if the parents are also working from home, family members can engage with each other more often. During work and class breaks, family members can take walks together, play games, or have thoughtful conversations that help create a family bond.

Potential Drawbacks for Remote Learning

Mental Health Issues

One of the more challenging aspects of remote learning is maintaining positive mental health. Not only are students stressed about the state of the world, but many of them feel isolated and depressed. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and not being able to hang out with friends and engage with classmates can lead to a lack of motivation and feelings of deep sadness. It’s important for kids to try and have some kind of normalcy in their lives, so setting up routines and talking openly with them about their feelings may help them keep a positive attitude. 

Lack of Social Activities

Most kids have after-school activities, sports games, and extracurricular events that they participate in. With remote learning and practicing physical distancing, many of these activities are on hold. To keep kids engaged and from getting bored just hanging around the house watching television or focusing on homework, have them participate in activities like board games, scavenger hunts, and fun exercises. Make sure the kids connect with friends online so they can spend time talking and laughing with each other.

The Technology Learning Curve

Finding school assignments listed online and navigating through Google Docs, Dropbox, Zoom, and other online platforms are often frustrating for those who are technology-challenged. Parents need to figure out how to log in to accounts to communicate with teachers, and students not only have to do their work assignments but also have to learn how to use technology that may be new to them. 

Not being able to communicate with teachers in person is often frustrating for kids, and they may quickly lose interest in trying to fumble through their lessons. Internet connections in many parts of the country are often spotty and don’t provide the necessary bandwidth for the kids to load their assignments or connect to live video conferences. And for some families, the internet is too expensive. Lots of kids don’t even have computers or mobile devices to take online classes.

To help alleviate these issues, teachers should try to minimize the platforms they use to post assignments so it’s easier for the student to find and access them. Schools and companies that can afford to can donate much-needed computers or mobile devices, and internet providers can help by providing stronger connections or reducing internet fees.

Juggling Being a Teacher, Parent, and Employee

Parents and guardians who work from home have their own struggles as they try to juggle work hours with kids’ online school hours and helping their children with homework. Teachers go to school and get degrees to be able to not only comprehensively understand their chosen topic, but also to learn presentation and teaching techniques. Many parents don’t have the type of training that teachers have and can get frustrated trying to help with school assignments. 

If the parents work away from home, trying to find daycare and someone to help the kids with their assignments is another challenge. Reaching out to fellow parents, contacting teachers, and finding other resources to help parents juggle their multiple roles can help with the mental health of the parents or guardians.

As remote learning continues during the pandemic and in some situations, beyond, it’s important for school districts, teachers, community, and parents to overcome the challenges of remote learning and embrace the positive side of it. If you have any questions or thoughts about distance learning, feel free to contact our team.