Typically we refer to university when we talk about distance learning, but let’s apply it to students learning at home – away from brick and mortar (or traditional) schools. Covid-19 and all the lock downs brought about e-learning and a new understanding of different ways of learning. Distant learners suddenly popped up overnight as it was thrust upon them and they did the remarkable job of adapting so well, even amidst their personal struggles with quarantine and online learning.
I remember back at school and watching a program about the “School of the Air”, which was Australia’s distance education program for children who were living on the large sheep and cattle stations with no access to local schools. They would have their lessons sent to them and they would do lessons over the air waves with a teacher. There were teachers who would rotate through the different families and stay for a week or 2 in order to assess and assist the students. It was fascinating. Nowadays, with internet access and the ease of online programs, the School of the Air does not exist in that format. But there are still many students who learn as distant learners. It is the only option for them.
E-learning has become a valuable asset in education. So, let’s look at distance education in terms of e-learning.
There are many programs like K-12 online. They provide all the curriculum, assessment and reporting you need for learning. Many parents will choose options like these when it come to homeschooling as everything is there for them, and it eases up what they need to do.
When lock down started for Covid-19, schools started offering e-learning from classroom teachers. This was the only way some students were taught during the 2020-2021 school year. Some loved it. Some hated it. It had its benefits and also a bunch of disadvantages. Is this the new future of education? Is this something we might see more of in the future? If we do, I would hope that teachers don’t have to do both face-to-face in the classroom teaching AND online teaching. That is too much for them, especially in light of the fact they were not paid any extra for teaching this way.
ADVANTAGES OF DISTANCE LEARNING/E-LEARNING:
There are quite a number of advantages for distant learners. Not all of them are applicable all the time. It will really depend on the curriculum or academy you are using, or if your child is doing e-learning from their classroom teacher (rather than being physically in the classroom).
- It provides more access for your child to learn in a way that suits them best.
- There are teachers who can provide support. Many online academies have teachers assigned for each class and will have mandatory check-ins.
- There can be the possibility for students to learn at their own pace (though some online curriculum has set times and deadlines).
- It is easier for introverted students to join in the discussions, especially if they are typed responses in real time.
- You can make individualized schedules (depending on the option you have chosen).
- E-learning can provide more education or class options. (For example, they could learn a foreign language their local school does not offer.)
- Being at home can provide less distractions.
- It can be a much more comfortable learning environment. (PJs anyone??)
- Parental involvement can be easier.
DISADVANTAGES OF DISTANCE LEARNING/E-LEARNING:
Just like with the advantages, these disadvantages can be dependent on the style of distance learning or e-learning your child is doing.
- It can be very constricting for young learners, and being on the computer all the time is not the most beneficial learning option for them.
- Feedback can be limited and may take a longer time than you would like.
- E-Learning requires strong self-motivation and time management skills.
- Not having classroom banter and active discussions can hinder communication skills development.
- It can be difficult to prevent cheating for an online test, especially if the parent cannot be physically present.
- Online instructors tend to focus on theory rather than practice.
- E-Learning lacks face-to-face communication. There is a lot of working on your own, and this can be frustrating for some students.
- E-Learning can be limited to certain subjects and can, in the case of schools having to provide e-learning options in place of classroom, can be limited in how in depth they can go due to time and physical constraints.
- Online learning is dependent on internet and computer access. You need to have a decent computer and good internet. You also need to be reasonably computer literate.
- Depending on the curriculum, and if it is important to you, there can be lack of accreditation.
- So much screen time!
I am sure that we will see more development in e-learning and hybrid options over the coming years. Distant learners were made overnight for many students. Many countries were thrust into e-learning options in 2020 and have continued to develop them. Love it or hate it, I do believe that it is here to stay and we will only see improvements and a greater understanding of how it can effectively work.