Taking your child’s learning online is fast becoming far more of a necessity than a choice given the continuing closure of schools around the world during the Coronavirus pandemic. Understandably, parents are concerned about the ramifications that this switch might have for their children’s education. Remote learning can present a veritable minefield of potential pitfalls, but done right it can be an improvement for all concerned. Clearly, a huge positive to take into account in the current climate is the reduction in Covid-19 transmission rates that the closure of schools enables and this is why so many governments have enforced the measure. However, this is not the only positive to be gained from adapting to the new schooling experience.
Scheduling your schooling to embrace the flexibility that online classes allow can be a real time saver, and as we all know, time is a precious commodity. Taking advantage of being able to fit studying in around work, illness, or the mood swings of tired and emotional teenagers can make life a whole lot easier, and allow for greater efficiency and productivity of all concerned. Remote learning also cuts out the need to commute which can save some children as much as two hours per day; valuable time that could be dedicated to more worthwhile pursuits and extra-curricular activities.
Another argument for distance learning is the ease with which it can be adjusted to suit the individual’s needs. Online classes can be skipped or repeated at will depending on the speed of your child’s learning, with no need for them to feel embarrassed about their ability. Students can select the subjects that they need to work harder on and adjust the quantities of lessons they require in order to suit their natural ability. This saves even more time, allowing for extra learning in the place of “dead time” spent going over things they already know for the benefit of others.
Location, Location, Location
Creating the right environment in which to learn is one of the most important factors to consider. On the plus side, the flexibility of being able to learn anywhere provides a giddying amount of freedom to both students and parents who, provided they can adapt well to changing settings, can multitask by studying whilst baby-sitting for example. However, while some students tend to learn better at home in an environment that they feel is safe and comfortable, others can find it harder to concentrate in this type of setting despite having less disruption or negative influences on their behavior from unruly classmates who waste time.
Particularly in the case of younger children, distractions such as siblings, pets and toys can spell disaster for levels of focus!
Something many families will want to weigh up carefully, is how this lifestyle change is going to affect them financially. While home-schooling requires less investment in accommodation, uniform, resources and travel, the costs of additional learning resources can add up with not all apps and databases being free to use. For some, just the additional cost of a secure internet connection, let alone the expense of multiple devices that require constant upgrading is enough to tip the balance unfavorably.
Many parents spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to get their children to spend more time away from their screens, so allowing them to sit at a computer or use their phone as a learning device can seem counter-intuitive. This is not without reason either; lengthy exposure to the blue light of screens can lead to poor eyesight, much like lengthy periods of sitting down can contribute to health issues such as obesity. The effects that remote learning could have on children’s mental health is also a relative unknown, with many fearing that such isolated learning could lead to increased rates of depression, addiction to social media and a loss of meaningful connection with reality. These are all worrying prospects, but if time spent studying is managed well and care is taken to balance time spent indoors with activities outside involving others, they are problems that can be avoided. To provide further positivity, some individuals could actually find distanced learning beneficial to their health, for example, in the case of disabled children who are able to function better if they can include breaks in their learning schedules when necessary and adapt their own environment to suit whatever needs they have for physical access, comfort and impairments. Obviously though, for some students with visual disabilities, learning alone without the aid of a teacher present merely creates yet another obstacle to overcome.
Quality of Learning
Again, high on the list of a parent’s priorities is the quality of their child’s education. Online classes are increasingly innovative and use a variety of high quality technologies to provide interesting and interactive learning methods that are easily accessible. We also know that solo learning can improve focus, the ability to memorize information and also the ability to apply that information in a way that makes sense for the individual. Despite these encouraging reports, concerns over the credibility of sources and fairness of examination processes can make it difficult to trust online qualifications, although advancements in automated grading are being made all the time.
Motivation levels are also a key player in this equation and one of the hardest tasks that parents face nowadays is getting young children and teenagers in particular to pay attention, organize themselves and form a good work ethic autonomously. It is a good skill to have to learn, but without physical supervision from a respected figure of authority, whether that be a parent or a teacher, and without good role models to follow, it can be a difficult discipline to instill.
Depending on family situations, the increase in parental involvement required (especially if the child does struggle to stay motivated) can be seen as a positive or a negative. Some parents will enjoy the opportunity to spend more time with their children and have a greater input into their child’s education ( just ask the many parents who chose to home-school their children even before Coronavirus was a thing and remote learning became a global norm). Parents can ensure that their children are actually studying rather than skipping lessons or pretending to have no homework (many online sites provide separate login details for students and parents so that the learning process can be monitored). However, for parents with busy timetables such as key workers or single mothers, sending a child to school can be the only way to ensure their child is being cared for appropriately and receives an adequate input to their education from qualified professionals. If a parent does not have enough time to devote to helping their child with their remote learning or cannot physically be there to accompany them because they have to be at work, then eLearning is not a viable option and can be extremely stressful for both the parent and the child, which is damaging their relationship and will also greatly reduce the likelihood of effective learning taking place.
E-Learning while young is good practice for learning how to use online resources later on in life, which will be an increasingly important skill to develop in an age where technological advancements are being made so rapidly. It is also important to note that such advancements mean that relying on old-fashioned learning and research methods such as textbooks can mean that information can quickly become outdated, and while sources must be checked for their credibility online, they are a fast and easy way to obtain the absolute latest information on a topic. After all, what is the point in spending time memorizing information that is obsolete?
Of course, not everything can be learnt online. While children may theoretically have more time on their hands to engage in outside activities if they can organize their time well enough to get their work done quickly and efficiently, some subjects and skill-sets simply cannot be replaced. Practical knowledge gained from first-hand experiences in topics such as physics and chemistry or sports classes are very difficult to translate through online demonstration alone, and it is completely impossible to re-create any kind of kinesthetic learning that relies on senses such as smell and touch. We need to remember that the opportunity to play is also a part of learning, and while we can feed our children as many online resources as we like – we also want them to learn how to be good humans and how to find their way in the world. The social interaction that being in a school environment provides should not be underestimated here, as children learn how to communicate confidently and effectively and to work in teams which they will be required to do whatever career they are aiming for in later life, no matter how academic it may be.
Ultimately, this all hangs on one big hinge. Remote learning is just not possible without access to the internet and technological devices. For many, weighing up the pros and cons of learning online is a choice, but for those living in remote or impoverished areas, it creates a severe level of inequality. Of course, make the best of what resources you have available to you and use the information provided here to tailor your child’s education as best you can, but always remember how lucky we are to have so many considerations to make.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Douglas is a business coach and blogger at Gum Essays. Born in Connecticut, Angela is an entrepreneur who had founded her own showroom at the age of 21. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and writing about her experiences.