Benefits to Remote Learning
The past 11 months have been a learning curve for all in the education industry, with the transition to remote learning becoming a necessity during the pandemic. With so many challenges, there’s an overwhelming number of articles and negativity surrounding remote learning, especially as the stats clearly show that children benefit best from face-to-face teaching. And latest evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation show that school closures “will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing progress made to narrow the gap since 2011. The median estimate indicates that the gap would widen by 36%.”
However, here at Future Education we wanted to use our creative space to focus on the positives after a year plagued with difficulties. Like with everything new and untrialled, there are some advantages to remote learning that are only starting to emerge now a year after putting digital teaching into practice.
1. Students have had an opportunity to improve their accountability and self-discipline:
Ok, so we understand that not all pupils will be sitting at their screens ready to go, without a push from their parents in the morning. But for many it’s become an integral part of their day and a crucial element into maintaining a routine. Children naturally have a fear of missing out, and want to keep up with their peers. Like adults, children are getting fed up of the pandemic too and want a bit normality. There will be many children who never thought they’d miss school but now understand how important it is.
2. The shy students have a chance to participate anonymously
When teaching a class of 30 students, it’s easy to assume that your class is grasping your topic based on the responses you receive when you ask questions. But what about those students that consistently stay quiet? Are they quiet because they are timid, don’t understand or both? Utilising online technology has meant educators can use anonymous polls to get a sense of their classes understanding of the topics being taught. Those shy students are more likely to participate and this is an excellent way to ease them into further participation in the future. Depending on the video software you use, they can send private questions direct to the teacher and not worry about their classmates listening in.
3. Mischievous students have less of an opportunity to be disruptive
Even though it seems live video teaching is the most used method, some schools have utilised technology even further by scheduling pre-recorded lessons followed by a live Q&A/Discussion session. This means disruptive students have less of a chance to mess around, either by playing with their microphone or trying to be entertaining on camera. This means focused students benefit, and those that struggle can re-watch the content as often as they want until they understand. The most successful way of overcoming disruptive students is by disarming them, and with less opportunity to provide entertainment to their classmates, the traditional class clown may now sit down and focus.
4. Many pupils have realised they WANT to learn and value school
At first, even though the pandemic was scary, it came with an element of excitement too for children. The thought of not having to go to school for a month and endless days to play seemed a glorious idea! Now that the novelty has worn off, there’s nothing left to do and children have realised that in actual fact, it can be a pleasure to grow and learn. It’s utterly boring standing still! It’s also in their nature to be inquisitive, so having finally got to experience what life is like with no school, children now appreciate it.
5. Equipped children with an element of independence and ownership
It’s been hard for the parents too during lockdown, having to become the TA overnight, digest all the school emails, yet potentially juggle working from home too. Depending on their home set up, some pupils may have to help their parents understand what is going on rather than the other way around!
6. Spending a year online will equip students for the future:
There’s no doubt about it, the past years experiences with technology will firmly form our future. Video interviews could become a normality, as well as frequent webinars and having had this experience at a young age, students will feel comfortable and confident with the technology. Engaging other via digital tools may come naturally to them and moving forward, they’ll be able to adapt quickly to new software.
These are just a few elements to shine a positive light on remote learning and highlight some of the opportunities this experience would have bought to a generation of children impacted by the pandemic. Despite constant assertion that pupils benefit best from face to face learning, there are also some contradicting research that shows on average, students retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online, less disruption and the fact they are of a generation born in the digital era.
E-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, go back and re-read, skip, or accelerate through content. The physical school day needs to account for breaks, questions, disruptions and time wasted trying to gain students focus and settle down.
Although there is no denying that the pandemic has utterly disrupted the education system, this experience may change the way we teach forever, and we will have to wait and see to access the true impact. In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, scholar Yuval Noah Harari outlines how schools continue to focus on traditional academic skills and rote learning, rather than on skills such as critical thinking and adaptability, which will be more important for success in the future. Could the move to online learning be the catalyst to create a new, more effective method of educating students?