The coronavirus pandemic has spurred the adoption of distance learning at all education levels all around the world. According to the World Economic Forum “the COVID-19 has resulted in schools shut all across the world leaving 1.2 billion children out of the classroom” and thus making the mass transition to online education the only choice. Although the deepest results of this option are left to the future to show, some consequences are already obvious to anyone willing to see them.
Text by Sofia Mouka
More and more young students report feeling lonely away from their schools and their classmates while teenagers seem to be seriously stressed and anxious due to the coronavirus. Even though there are parents who try to keep their kids in touch with their closest friends, bringing them to each other’s homes against the governments advice, it is the whole school environment that cannot be replaced. As far as the teenagers are concerned, it is the lack of their independence outside the home that they are missing the most. Now that the pandemic has forced them to stay longer in their homes, they turn their backs to their family and close even deeper to themselves, having their favourite online games or the social media as the sole window to the outside world.
There are massive difficulties which have proven unbeatable; rating on top of all, the unreliable internet access and outdated digital devices most students have that force them to struggle to keep up with a good pace of studying. It is a sad fact that not only in remote rural areas but also in major cities, there are still a big percentage of families who lack the chance of using the appropriate technology which can provide learners with an effective means of connection with their class.
The transition from face-to-face teaching to online classes has had a serious impact on assessment and evaluation. Although technology has been used to support teaching and learning, the assessment aspect is still under-developed. Therefore the exams are put on hold and the students who are attending exams preparation classes do not see the point of following a strict curriculum when the exam date remains blare. And even younger learners seem to miss their target when they do not have a specific evaluation process which would give an extra meaning to attending their lessons and completing their homework.
Together with the technical problems of online classes, students who come from a place that has reported high levels of coronavirus instances are facing discrimination and isolation from their peers. Not only youngsters but also adults tend to alienate fearing that they are potential SARS-CoV-2 carriers. This situation can lead to mental health problems, such as denial, stress, anxiety and fear. Hence we urgently need to address the mental health needs of kids who come from a background with reported COVID-19 incidents.
What is more, for as long as students are kept away from their classes, they feel even deeper the fear towards the disease. Students these days are living with the fear that their loved ones are susceptible and at risk of infection with severe, acute respiratory problems. They watch the TV to get the latest COVID-19 information which will determine whether they will be allowed to get in close contact with their grandparents or not and whether their schools will open or will have to continue having online lessons.
On the positive side, it is worth mentioning that today is a good time for technology and education. Online programs offer technology-based instructional environments that expand learning opportunities and can provide top quality education through a variety of formats and modalities. In order for an online program to be successful, the curriculum, the facilitators, the technology and the students must be carefully considered and balanced.
Concluding, although online courses are generally not as effective as in-person classes, they are definitely better than no courses at all. Right now, virtual courses are allowing students of all ages to access lessons and interact with their teachers in ways that would have been impossible if an epidemic had closed schools even a decade or two earlier. Therefore, even if we are skeptical of online learning, it is also time for us to embrace and improve it.