As the surge of COVID-19 cases forced the closure of educational institutions for extended periods, students may have lost out on an entire year of learning. In fact, studies suggest that disadvantaged learners will have suffered a setback which may impact their futures.
The forced shift to remote instruction, which left educators unprepared to deal with the momentous task in front of them, has literally separated the grain from the chaff. It lays bare the critical need for all teachers to be schooled in online education. Students must also be prepared to learn via the digital medium. The smart thing to do is to make it part of the curriculum.
Before the pandemic e-learning was seen as the way forward but still optional. However, an unintended consequence of COVID-19 is the necessity to promote digital learning for all students. It’s about saving learning, not jobs.
No doubt the lack of preparedness and resources are largely responsible for the disruption of education for the majority of the school year. However the situation was made worse by the unwillingness and inability of several teachers to transition to e-learning and the lack of any oversight by their respective educational boards. The result is a learning gap that many students might find difficult to bridge.
As little kids struggled to cope with digital learning, high-schoolers had too much time to play around, and college and university students were forced to make sense of the goop dished out under the guise of online classes.
Parents forced to supervise their children’s remote learning while working from home were tearing their hair out. But they also got eye-opening insights into the classroom. While some were disappointed with the teaching methods or curriculum, others were shocked by their kids’ behaviour.
Many high-school and post-secondary exams were cancelled because of cheating. But the students’ joy was short-lived as tests were replaced with meaningful projects or useless essays for grading purposes.
With the exception of a few educators who found creative solutions to engage learners, the majority were left floundering much to the annoyance of their students. Imagine having to give your college professor a technology one-on-one during every class! Or, having to sit through pre-recorded lessons. Post-secondary courses with practical classes suffered the most. Yet students will spring forward to the next year while hoping the learning gap doesn’t cost them.
As a school volunteer I had first-hand experience of some challenges . Teachers grappled with new technology and a lack of devices to access it. School boards must factor this into their budgets along with creating secure online platforms for learning.
Adapting to digital instruction and changing directives brought the kind of pressure many educators were not equipped to handle. After all, online teaching is more than a computer and an Internet connection. It involves the use of interactive lessons using audio and visual aids that go beyond making students watch YouTube videos the entire day. Yet some resourceful teachers and parents found engaging math and language digital games to teach, test and keep students’ active.
Kids from marginalized families suffered the lack of resources. Not just devices and Internet access but also a quiet space to attend classes.
So we all have lessons to learn from the breakdown in education systems during the pandemic.
The first one comes for the government, school boards/post-secondary institutions and teachers who must now make provisions for digital learning.
Parents might also find themselves having to play a more active role, especially if they have young children who are still learning to read and unable to navigate the online medium.
The best place for kids to learn is in school and with their peers. But there’s no telling whether the COVID-19 variants or some other pandemic might force schools to shut down again in the future. So we must prepare for quality remote learning at warp speed!