Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), many economies have shut down, business and commerce have come to a halt, and entire populations are now under lockdown. This, unfortunately, includes schools, forcing students and institutions to cut the school year short to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But this doesn’t mean that learning stops with the closing of campuses. Thanks to the power of the internet and modern technology, going to virtual classes and accessing lessons can be done at home. There are lessons and programs now available online that students can access amid strict quarantine measures.
However, this abrupt shift to online learning is not a foolproof plan. Both faculty and students are facing challenges, such as the lack of interaction with classmates and teachers, inadequate discussion forums, and even the threat of failing bandwidths or slow internet speeds.
Let us take a look at the pros, cons, and possible deal breakers when it comes to online learning.
What’s great about distance learning is that it can be done anywhere, even at the safety of your own home. With the rampant spread and transmission of the coronavirus, physical distancing has become one of the key preventative measures to flatten the curve. Studying at home follows this protocol, keeping students and their families safe.
The list of free lessons, tools, and resources are increasing each day as more organizations do their part in helping students, from those in kindergarten to those completing post-graduate studies.
Schools are also implementing their own online learning platforms, which are designed to help faculty and students maintain their regular schedules and curricula.
In addition, online learning eliminates the need to commute to class, which translates to less time spent traveling and more study time sitting on one’s couch and going through one’s materials. It definitely entails discipline and a strong sense of routine, but there’s no snowstorm, external threat, or pandemic that can get in the way of classes in the virtual arena.
Although e-learning presents plenty of convenience during the crisis, it is not without its downsides. One of the major concerns of students who will be switching to distance learning is that there is not enough interaction with online classes.
Engagement plays a big role in learning. It helps a student remain motivated while studying and adds lessons that go beyond the curriculum as students share their views on subject matters.
The atmosphere of a classroom packed with students who openly communicate with their professor is indeed different from a virtual classroom.
In online classes, the interaction is mainly between the student and the teacher. Although there are video conferencing tools that allow multiple users to log into one call, there is a different dynamic among participants from that of a physical classroom. There are conversations that may become disjointed due to slow internet connections.
Further, not all professors are tech-savvy. Some of the classes have not resumed online because the teachers do not know how to migrate their lessons to this
new platform or even how to navigate the virtual classrooms.
Bearing the brunt of the abrupt transition are arts and creative classes, too, that rely on physical interactions and networking in order to break into industries and the local community.
What could be deemed a deal breaker for distance learning is that some students do not have access to high-speed internet services at all. Such a situation risks students missing out on classes for a month or more.
This is especially true for international students who rely on university facilities to access the internet. Now that they are banned from the campuses and are unable to go home to their countries, how can they continue their classes?
Early into the crisis, experts have also cited the need to break into the so-called Great Firewall of China, or reconciling the need for online learning and the strict internet and firewall restrictions of the country.
The onus is on colleges and universities to provide a sense of continuity in the students’ programs and courses, and prove that “the new normal” – virtual learning, e-courses, online modules – is a potential necessity in the not-so-distant future, right here in an increasingly fragile world.