Remote learning was something which was becoming increasingly popular even before the coronavirus pandemic. However, as the outbreak spread around the world, it brought numerous challenges, not least in education, but with it also came opportunities. Indeed, many students actually appear to be thriving with distance learning, and this has been noted amongst teenagers who look to be appreciating new, more relaxed methods of learning.
With schools in around 100 countries around the world being forced to close their doors due to the virus, many schools, including some of the best international schools in Hong Kong were required to come up with innovative ways to educate their students. Often this has involved the use of various Microsoft and Google apps as well as Zoom, an app previously designed for conferencing but has lent itself perfectly to the online classroom.
Here are some of the benefits of online learning that teachers around the world have noted.
- Fewer distractions at home
A teacher in Washington DC spoke about the benefits that she had noted in a student who she described as the “class clown”. She felt like the pupil had developed both mentally and academically from time away from the classroom. Perhaps feeling the need to live up a reputation in the class, he could focus more on his studies at home with fewer distractions. Indeed, it was felt that the student was actually enjoying learning and was growing and developing, now gaining some of the highest grades in the group, compared to previously being at the lower end.
- Schedules that suit students
For many parents and teachers, they will be only too aware that the majority of teenagers don’t appreciate early starts. With most school days around the world starting at around 8am, the fluidity of online learning has given students more flexibility regarding when and how they work. Not being micromanaged and having more independence has resulted in an upturn in some students’ scores.
Having the option to start, take breaks and exercise when they want is something that the students have relished. They can spend time with friends, work out and even sleep while also doing their work at a time that suits them and without distractions.
- Appreciating that some students are overextended
During the pandemic, it has been highlighted that previously some students were always on the go. Breaks and lunchtimes could be filled with groups and meetings with many also taking part in after school activities. In addition, many have part-time jobs and even look after other family members meaning that they often had less free time than many adults. The enforced reduction in many activities has also benefitted many students; meaning that they can incorporate some much-needed rest into their schedule.
- Less pressure
The coronavirus has lowered the expectations of some parents, students and teachers which appears to have significantly reduced the levels of stress that some pupils were under. With remote learning, there has been more emphasis placed on ensuring that all tasks are accessible and that students understand the topic, rather than on gaining high grades. Students, particularly those in the bottom quartile, have recorded improved results and displayed a far greater understanding. The reduced pressure and better understanding has also seen more capable students doing further reading and enhancing their knowledge without pressure to do so.
Fear of failure appears to be a bigger problem than had previously been thought amongst students. Standardised testing and increased scrutiny has had a detrimental effect on student performance. This has diminished in no small extent with distance and online learning with students benefiting both emotionally and academically.
- More studying time, less chatter time
Not surprisingly, students are reporting that the biggest thing that they missed during the pandemic was the interaction with other students and the personal relationships which they have with others. However, teachers reported that one of the problems that students have is that many of these relationships and the socialisation bring stress and anxiety to the student’s life. Alarmingly, a study by the Center for Education Statistics found that around 20% of students had been the victim of verbal or physical bullying.
It would appear that chatter, or more accurately, gossiping behind students’ backs has a negative impact on academic performance. While socialising should be encouraged, it is perhaps not as beneficial as had previously been thought. Although not harmful per se, it does appear to provide a significant distraction and in the worst incidences, intimidation. While online bullying certainly exists, remote learning allows students to express their opinions without fear of bullying and the associated social anxiety.
- Enough sleep
Sleep is something that is commonly associated with teenagers, so there are sometimes eyebrows raised when we suggest that they may not be getting enough sleep. Students are now waking later, often naturally rather than to an alarm call. As a result of more natural sleeping patterns, most students are getting the required eight to ten hours of sleep per night recommended for 12-18-year-olds.
Due to more sleep, results have shown a marked improvement with teachers also reporting better behaviour, better focus and increased levels of concentration. It has brought back the age-old topic of putting the start of the school day back to help students to achieve their potential in school.
- Prepare students for university or the workplace
For older students, the thought of going to university or entering the workplace will be more prevalent in their thoughts. Remote learning and the greater independence which it affords students is more akin to what they will experience once they leave school. It will mean that the step up, a significant one and a big change for many students, will be easier to adjust to. Studies show that the quicker students make this transition, the greater success they will enjoy both in the short and medium-term.
One of the key roles that any school plays is helping to prepare students for adult life, and it would appear that remote learning has a vital role in fulfilling this duty.
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