Challenges Of E-learning Posed By The Coronavirus Pandemic

New challenges have emerged with our children switching to remote learning. Here are a few common issues being faced by children, teachers and parents, along with technological challenges.

By Arun Sharma

Challenges Of E-learning Posed By The Coronavirus Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant lockdown has affected every aspect of our and our children’s lives. The closure of schools has not only resulted in disruption of education but also the children’s social development.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, close to 1.2 billion children in 150 countries are facing challenges in education as a result of the lockdown. The number of children affected in India as a result of closure of schools is around 32 crores.

However, our education system is coming up with ways to continue children’s education — from switching to remote learning to using social media platforms to TV channels. But, the switchover is also throwing up several challenges for everyone involved.

Challenges in remote learning posed by Covid-19 lockdown

With no end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, most schools are turning to

online classes

to accommodate more and more children in the learning process. However, every entity involved in the process — technology, children, teachers and parents — is facing challenges. As parents, let’s understand these issues to support our children with remote learning.

Remote learning: Challenges of technology

  • Software: Most schools use online conferencing/collaboration platforms for taking online classes. These include quite a few features like screen sharing, waiting room, breakout rooms and so on. Understanding these features and learning to use them well takes time and is a must to get the most out of the software. So, the level of familiarity of the child and the teacher with the software plays a big role in determining the learning experience.
  • Internet speed: Most software or apps used for remote learning require a broadband/high speed Internet connection. Inadequate bandwidth or frequent breakage in connection could cause issues like inability to connect with the class, frequent disconnections, or sound and video drops. This can force children to miss the class or parts of the session.
  • Appropriate devices: Only computers and smartphones of certain technological specifications can run the remote learning software. Older devices may either be incompatible or their performance may be unsatisfactory. Also, there may not be enough gadgets in the house for each child to use. These factors can affect a child learning experience with remote learning.
  • Increased screen time: The debate about the appropriate amount of screen time is still on. But, attending online classes has increased the number of hours children spend with gadgets. A recent study by Madigan et al found that “greater quantity of screen use (i.e., hours per day/week) was negatively associated with child language, while better quality of screen use (ie, educational programs and co-viewing with caregivers) were positively associated with child language skills.” While this is a good study, it doesn’t address the point you’re trying to make about the duration of screen time. Instead it might help to look up guidelines by American Academy of Paediatrics, which give age-wise screen guidelines.
  • Cybersecurity risks: Children may not be aware of cybersecurity issues. So, when children get access to the Internet, in the absence of parental monitoring, they may be vulnerable to cybersecurity risks such as content risks (e.g., accidentally coming across inappropriate content), contact risks (e.g., unwarranted contact with an impersonator), and conduct risks (e.g., being the victim of harmful online behaviour such as cyberbullying).

Remote learning: Challenges faced by children

Children are used to going to school where they learn in the company of their friends and under the guidance of teachers. However, switching to remote learning in a matter of days has created problems for them, some of which are:

  • Curriculum: Subjects of humanities stream can be taught well through remote learning. However, this is not the case with subjects like science or music or arts, where children need to attend lab/practical classes. So, while children can learn the theoretical aspects of these subjects through remote learning, they can’t attend the lab/practical sessions. However, with schools closed, there is not much that we can do to overcome this problem.
  • Loss of attention and distraction: A classroom is a place where students learn under the guidance and monitoring of the teachers. However, while sitting at home and taking online classes, children miss out on the classroom experience. This can make them feel distracted or less attentive. They may log out of the session midway or engage in other digital activities like browsing the Internet or chatting. As a result of such distractions, a child may fail to learn well through remote learning.
  • Unhelpful home environment: The home environment plays an important role in motivating a child to learn. Happy families where parents show interest studies can help children do better with remote learning, whereas unstable families and unhappy home environment may adversely affect the motivation to learn.
  • No interaction with friends: Humans are social species. Playing, talking, sharing, doing activities together are a part of children’s daily lives. But, being forced to stay at home makes children miss all these. For teens, this routine is even more difficult to adjust with. Lack of social interactions can make children feel bored and distracted from studies.
  • Anxiety about the future: The Covid-19 pandemic has been in the news for a few months now, and is a part of most conversations — be it among family members or friends. Children can feel scared listening to such conversations. They may fear getting infected or losing their loved one to the disease. This can cause immense emotional distress to children and take their focus away from studies.

Remote learning: Challenges for teachers

Along with children, schoolteachers too have had to make changes. Most of them weren’t trained to take online classes but were forced to adapt in a hurry by learning on their own. Some of the challenges faced by teachers taking online classes include:

  • Preparing teaching materials: Textbooks and the blackboard are enough for most teachers to teach in a classroom. However, for taking online classes, teachers have to prepare extensive teaching materials and also supplementary materials to support learning.
  • Keeping the students motivated: In a classroom, teachers not only teach from textbooks but also hold discussions and conversations with students. They do various activities and experiments which keep the students motivated and interested in learning. But, in remote learning, it is not possible to do the activities that students and teachers engage in classroom. So, keeping the students motivated becomes difficult for a teacher.
  • Gauging the student’s response: When teaching in a classroom, teachers look at students’ body language and gauge their response to what is being taught. The students’ expressions help teachers recognise who is able to follow and understand the lessons, and who isn’t. However, this isn’t possible with online classes, so teachers are in the dark about how much a child has really understood.
  • Avoiding use of unfair means: When assignments are given to children learning from home, the teachers can’t be sure if the work turned in by the students are copied from their peers or completed on their own. So, with remote learning, preventing children from using unfair means proves difficult for teachers.

Remote learning: Challenges for parents

Like teachers and children, parents are also a stakeholder in learning. So, along with teachers and children, the move towards remote learning has also created challenges for parents. Here are a few issues that parents have to contend with:

  • Training children for remote learning: Like teachers and children, even parents did not know much about remote classes, before the pandemic struck. But, with schools switching to taking online classes, it fell upon parents to ensure their children attend online classes. From downloading the software/app, ensuring the availability of right gadgets and Internet connection, teaching their child how to use these, and taking care of any problem that may arise, parents have to now do everything.
  • Balancing work/household responsibilities: With children learning from home, parents have to take care of not only their child’s physical and emotional needs, but also academic needs. For working parents, this adds to not only their workload but also stress levels.
  • Creating a good home environment: The stress of providing for the family and safeguarding them from the pandemic is making most parents feel vulnerable and anxious. This can manifest in the form of disagreements, arguments and even violence between parents — all of which can adversely affect children. An added responsibility on parents in these trying times to make sure that the home environment remains relaxed and happy.

The Covid-19 lockdown has thrown up many challenges in education, but it has also shifted the spotlight on educational innovation. Hopefully, the reforms that will happen in the field of education due to this lockdown will make our system more resilient and learning friendly.

In a nutshell

  • Children may not do well with remote learning if they lack motivation, feel anxious and distracted, and are living in an unhappy home environment.
  • Teachers have to put in more effort than they would do in a classroom to make remote learning a success.
  • With children engaged in remote learning, parents now have the added responsibility of helping with studies, in addition to their usual responsibilities.

Is your child also taking online classes? Click here to know more about how you can help your child do well with remote learning.

About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 30 June 2020.
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips

About the expert:
Reviewed by Meghna Singhal, PhD, on 30 June 2020.
Dr. Singhal is a clinical psychologist and currently heads the Content Solutions Zone at ParentCircle. She has a doctorate degree from NIMHANS (Bangalore) and holds a post-doctorate in parenting from the University of Queensland (Australia)

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