How Coronavirus Is Impacting Education (And Ways to Make the Most of Online Learning)
Since the recording of the first COVID-19 case in Wuhan, China in January 2020, more than 5.2 million cases have been confirmed. Of that number, 336,000 have died worldwide.
As experts scramble to find a cure, governments ordered school closures, travel restrictions, and the shutdown of nonessential businesses to slow down the spread of infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website recommends avoiding exposure to the virus to prevent illness, frequent handwashing, and social distancing.
While necessary to preserve public health, coronavirus lockdowns are severely impacting people’s lives — jobs, finances, mental wellbeing, learning continuity for children, etc.
Education in the Time of COVID-19: Challenges
According to the World Economic Forum, “more than 1.2 billion children [around the world] are out of the classroom” because of COVID-19. The result is the rise in digital learning, with the online educator teaching remotely using e-learning platforms — and in some cases, Skype and Zoom meetings.
Although online learning has been in existence for years, it’s not necessarily widespread. One reason is lack of access to the right technology — computers, smartphones, and a high-speed internet connection. In the U.S., the Pew Research Center found that:
- Approximately 35% of lower-income households (income below $30,000 per year) with children 6-17 years of age don’t have a reliable internet connection at home.
- About 17% of teens aged 13-17 are sometimes unable to complete their homework because they either don’t have access to a computer or the internet.
Worldwide, data from the United Nations reveal that nearly 830 million learners out of the classroom have no access to a computer, while approximately 670 million don’t have internet access at home.
To address the digital divide:
- Public school leaders waived required grades and assignments for the first few weeks after school closures in certain U.S. jurisdictions.
- Teachers furnished students with hard-copy packets.
- Several school districts distributed Chromebooks to students — and even hot spots to families without at-home internet services.
But even with access to technology, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Additional hurdles include:
- Computer literacy: A certain level of technical competence is necessary to participate in remote learning. At the minimum, students must be able to log in to online courses, submit their work, and use collaboration tools to communicate with teachers and classmates.
- Low-quality learning materials: Remote learning curriculums that yield good outcomes are planned in advance. But with the COVID-19 situation, many teachers had to assemble, in just a matter of days, educational resources that would otherwise take years to put together.
- Student engagement: The move to online instruction has been abrupt, not just for educators but also for parents and students. For distance learning to work, students have to stay engaged and motivated.
Making Online Learning More Effective During COVID-19: Tips for Parents
If you’re a parent stuck at home with school-aged children, it’s okay to feel anxious. Or even mess up in the beginning. We’re all navigating uncharted territory, and not everyone signed up for this.
But even in the midst of uncertainty, the teaching and learning experience can be pleasant for both you and your child.
Address Coronavirus Anxiety
Explain to young children why they can’t go to school or be with their friends. It may take time for them to warm up to distance education, especially since the change is so sudden and unexpected.
Negative behavior during study sessions doesn’t automatically mean they’re unwilling to cooperate. It can be an indication that they, too, are already feeling the strain of the situation. Be responsive to their emotional needs. Allow them to test-drive the new system before asking them to commit to it.
Stick to a Routine
Keeping a schedule will provide structure to your child’s at-home education. Having a routine also gives them the impression that learning at home is similar to learning at school, only that it’s over the internet instead of the classroom.
Review your child’s regular school schedule if you need help creating your own home learning program. Inject everyday activities such as chores, playtime, and creative work into the agenda to vary things up. Be flexible and adjust as you figure out which activities at which time work best for your children.
Set Up a Dedicated Learning Space
Have a place in the house specifically for learning. Make the area conducive for studying by filling it with books, pens, and other essential tools for learning.
Make Use of Free Distance Learning Resources
“Learning resources” doesn’t mean just textbooks. There is also learning in activities children today find enjoyable, such as playing games and watching videos. To supplement the lessons provided by your child’s school, take advantage of ebooks, webinars, YouTube videos, podcasts, and even Netflix.
For younger kids, there are read-alouds by celebrities that you can include in your program, such as those provided by Storyline Online. Older kids wanting higher education lessons may look into the Ivy League courses offered by Class Central. The Museum of Modern Art also has free online courses on photography and contemporary art.
For more distance learning solutions, here’s a list of resources from UNESCO.
Encourage Socializing Through Video Conferencing
Allow children to collaborate with their classmates on activities like they would in the classroom. This will boost their morale and motivate them to continue learning even while at home. With Zoom, a video conference can accommodate up to 100 participants, making it ideal for classroom-type discussions.
Stay in Touch With Your Child’s School
If you need help, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your child’s teachers. Also, consider joining an online parent group in your community. This way, you can compare notes with other parents or guardians regarding learning styles and teaching methods.
In Conclusion: Look for the Silver Lining
The COVID-19 pandemic is, on one hand, disruptive in so many ways. It has upended life as we know it. On the other hand, it’s also forcing schools, teachers, parents, and guardians to be more creative and responsive to the needs of learners.