All children in the United States were affected by COVID-19 in one way or another; especially in the form of school closures. Many schools reopened months ago, while others took a hybrid approach. The sudden shift away from traditional classrooms and into online education is something that changed the lives of children, parents, and teachers.
Before the pandemic began, there was high growth in education technology, including language apps, video conferencing, and learning software.
Education’s Response to the Pandemic
Many online learning platforms offered free access to their services during the pandemic. Since online classes began; there was an increase in attendance because students may not have had jobs and were inside most of the time.
EdTech has grown exponentially in the last year; with many platforms available to provide both students and teachers with the technology they need to succeed with online education. Services offered were:
- Video conferencing
- Smart calendar features
Public school districts began partnerships with EdTech companies to offer local educational broadcasts for different ages.
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Online Education: The Future of Learning
With the schooling of Kindergarten through 12th grade, many believed the rapid change to online with no training or preparation resulted in a poor experience for children, teachers, and their parents who could not sustain growth.
Others believe that while the shift was drastic and quick, there is a place for online education; especially a hybrid model with significant benefits as technology accelerates online learning.
As far as colleges and universities are concerned, online learning and test prep are nothing new. Because universities have had hybrid courses or courses entirely online; they could easily and successfully transition to a fully online educational system. Not to mention, they possess more money to do so than the public school system.
Online education has allowed professors to easily reach college students with group chats, video meetings, and document sharing. That engaged more students in their classes, courses, and certificates now than ever before.
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Challenges of Online Learning
There are still considerable challenges to overcome concerning online learning.
Challenges of Online Learning for Kindergarten Through 12th grade:
- Lack of Access to Reliable Internet: In the United States, many children don’t have access to a reliable internet connection, which leaves them unable to make it to their classes.
- Technology Struggle: Learning the new tools for communication can be difficult for both young students, parents, and teachers.
- Parent’s Schedules: Most parents work during the day while their children are at school, making it exceptionally difficult for essential workers to find childcare and monitor their children on the internet to ensure they show up for online classes.
Challenges of Learning for College Students:
- Lack of College Experience: College is about the entire experience, which can include things like in a dorm living on campus, getting your first apartment, and meeting new people. Many college students lost the opportunity to experience an actual freshman year; or some missed out on the chance of closing out their senior year in person.
- Disconnection from Courses: While many college students were engaged through online education, the opposite can be true for others. Without being in class, some may feel disconnected from their peers and their courses.
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Is Online Learning Effective?
Most people learn online every day without realizing it. Every time you Google something, you’re learning. For example, anyone can know how to open a checking account online by looking it up on a search engine on their desktop or mobile device. You can even learn more about the universities in your area or others you might want to attend with online brochures.
Online learning can be more beneficial than traditional learning for those who have access to reliable internet. In online learning, students can learn at their own pace, which allows them to go back over materials; re-read sections of their notes, and work through the curriculum as quickly as they want.
That being said, the effectiveness of online education varies among the ages. Most people agree that a structured environment is best for young children, so they’re not easily distracted. They also need parental guidance when they’re on computers and working with new technology.
To benefit from online learning, there needs to be an effort from students, teachers, and parents that goes beyond the effort required for traditional education. Children also need a range of collaboration tools and engagement strategies that promote personalization and inclusion.
For younger kids, making learning fun through technology is crucial. Things like games and excitement can increase engagement and motivation to learn through tech.
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Which Students Thrive in an Online Learning Environment?
Many different kinds of students thrive in an online learning environment. However, very few believe any education, whether primary school or university, should completely lack human connection. Young kids need to go to school to learn how to interact with others and develop the necessary social skills to thrive in the world. While older students need to know how to socialize, live, and become independent on their own.
The types of students who will thrive in an online learning environment are:
- College students who don’t enjoy large lecture halls
- Students with disabilities who need to learn at their own pace
- Students whose parents have the availability to watch them
- Moreover, students who will be implementing technology and the online world within their future career
Also Read: How Can Online Tutoring Bridge The Learning Gap Of COVID-19?
Is Online Education Here to Stay?
In many ways, online education is here to stay, while in others, it is not. As more young children’s parents go back to work; it isn’t feasible for them to continue to learn online when they could be in school. The entire system is based on the premise that students’ parents can go to work; while they are in school and pick them up at the end of the day. Most parents don’t have the type of availability to have their children in a fully online learning environment.
On the other hand, online education has always been a popular choice for higher education. With more college students learning the benefits of online learning; we expect these institutions to continue implementing more ways for their students to become educated online.
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Images by Mudassar Iqbal, Tumisu and mmi9