Does Remote Learning Offer A Different Learning Experience?

Remote learning seems to offer a different learning experience to children. Let’s get to know the reasons behind it and what the educators think about taking online classes.

By Arun Sharma

Does Remote Learning Offer A Different Learning Experience?

It was 17 March 2020. As the children were getting ready to go to school, I received an SMS from the school saying classes were being suspended because of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation. However, there was no mention of when the classes would begin again.

Only a week into the lockdown, we received another SMS from the school. And, this time, it was about the classes restarting, but through the remote learning mode.

This news made all the four of us happy, but for different reasons. While I and my spouse were glad that our children would get back to studies, the children were excited that they would get to lay their hands on the mobile phone.

And, the day finally came when the online classes began. Although, it didn’t get off to a smooth start, over the next three to four days, everything settled down.

In fact, our children were so impressed by the online classes that they would log in in a few minutes earlier and wait for the session to start. Observing them told me that, although the system was far from perfect, yet the children were enjoying the different learning experience. On talking to them, I found that their classmates were also excited about remote learning.

Can you guess why children are so enthusiastic about remote learning and why it seems like a different experience to them?

Remote learning — why children find it a different experience

Children, by nature, are curious, keen to learn, and imaginative. When online classes are conducted in a creative manner, they can offer an interesting and a fun learning experience. Remote learning appears exciting to most children because it offers an opportunity to:

Use technology for studies: The setting of a classroom is almost the same across our country. Typically, it’s a room where students sit in their respective places and listen to the teacher standing in front of a blackboard and giving a lecture. There is very little for the children to do other than take notes and answer the questions asked. But, with remote learning, things get more interesting due to the opportunity to use of technology. Features like chat and whiteboard, virtual teachers’ rooms, ability to record sessions, screen sharing make a class interesting and lively. Children not only learn their lessons, but also learn how to make the best use of technology and how to use technology in a responsible manner.

About her experience of taking online classes, Ms Simerdeep Kaur, teacher with Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, says, “The benefit of taking online classes is that virtual learning provides a plethora of tools like video conferencing, chatting, augmented reality and other graphical interfaces that make it easier for students and teachers to connect with each other. This is a great advantage compared to traditional classrooms, where there is only one channel of communication.”

Learn from a comfortable environment: Ergonomically uncomfortable seating, being asked to speak in front of their peers, eating a meal that may be different from what others are having are a few things that can create stress and trouble a child. However, remote learning gives a child the liberty to learn from home, a place which is she is familiar with and instils a sense of ease. Learning from a comfortable space along with a feeling of safety, freedom from distractions, and support from parents makes a child feel valued and motivated to learn.

Collaborate more with peers: Whenever we think of remote learning, the image of a child sitting quietly and staring at his laptop’s screen is what comes to mind. However, learning from home doesn’t mean being lonely or learning alone. Children form teams to complete projects and assignments, share their skills and provide support to each other. And, since teams are using technology to connect with each other, they can get together at any time of the day and for as long as they want to. Such extensive collaboration isn’t possible when children are attending school, as they stay there only for a limited amount of time.

Indulge in blended learning: Traditionally, blended learning or hybrid learning is considered a combination of face-to-face learning and online learning. But, with schools shifting classroom online, the concept of blended learning will have to be redefined. While conducting a class is easy, it’s not easy to dictate extensive notes, provide study materials and access to school library. So, children must browse the Internet and research on their own to complete their projects and assignments, often without guidance from the teachers. And, when doing this, they also learn to browse responsibly, use search engines well, understand the right search terms and cross check and verify information. While all this fosters a sense of self-learning, it also something that children have never done before and so can be deeply interesting.

Address different learning styles: Every child learns in a different way — some are visual learners, some prefer kinesthetic learning and some the auditory style. However, in a traditional classroom, children, irrespective of their learning styles, are taught by teachers the same way. But, integrating technology with learning allows teachers to address the needs of every type of learner. And, this is what is happening through remote learning. Interactive remote classes, break up of lectures into small modules, video presentations and offline assignments and projects, all cater to the needs of different types of learners. These not only help the students learn well but also enrich their learning experience.

Ms Kaur echoes a similar opinion when she says “A large number of students are visual learners, and virtual learning has reinvigorated their enthusiasm for learning. Even though it has been adopted as the last resort, virtual learning is proving itself to be an effective method of teaching and learning. There are several advantages like you aren’t required to wake up early; there is no fear of getting reprimanded, which makes learning comfortable. The only drawback is that the relationship between a teacher and a student is best developed in a classroom setting only. Virtual learning has shown itself to be a good alternative to classroom learning during the lockdown, but it has some limitations for now and it cannot replace classroom learning.”

Learn at one’s convenience: When it comes to performing in their daily lives, our children, like us, go through three phases — peak, trough, and recovery. Some children who are early birds perform well in the morning, some who are night owls do well towards evening or night, and some are at their best at some other time of the day. However, while fixing the time to attend school, these three phases are not considered, so there is a drop in performance of some children. With remote classes, children can record the classroom sessions and listen to the teacher’s lecture when they are in their peak phase.

Gain ownership of learning: In a classroom filled with 30 to 40 students, it is usually those sitting on the front benches who grab the teachers’ attention and contribute most to any discussion. Those sitting on the back benches or those who are shy are left out. But, with remote learning, every child attends the class from a different location. So, when students are called upon to take part in an activity or discussion, the teacher can ensure that everyone participates equally. Also, since classmates aren’t around to help, every student makes his own contribution. This way students gain ownership of their learning and learning experience.

Disadvantages of online learning

There is a flip side to everything. While remote learning definitely comes to the aid when a child is unable to attend school, it also has certain disadvantages. Here are a few of them:

  • Overdependent on technology: Remote learning isn’t possible without technology. A malfunction in the gadget or the Internet connection or the remote learning software can bring the learning process to a halt.
  • Vulnerable to cybercrimes: Allowing unmonitored use of the Internet can compromise a child’s safety and expose a child to cybercrime or inappropriate content.
  • Lack of social interaction: While a child can learn and become a part of online peer networks, these are no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
  • Restricted access to teacher: In a school environment, the teachers are always accessible to children. But this is not the case with remote learning. Here, the child has limited access to the teacher, usually during the time the class is going on.
  • Adverse impact on health: Research has found that increase in screen time can adversely affect a child’s sleep, increase obesity, and is related to behavioural problems.
Does Remote Learning Offer A Different Learning Experience?

When schools switched to taking online classes, we never imagined that this new system would be an interesting and enjoyable experience for the children. However, remote learning has some limitations and is not a replacement for attending classes in school.

In a Nutshell

  • Remote learning is an interesting experience for children and gives them a sense of autonomy and ownership of learning.
  • For teachers, remote learning offers multiple channels of communication like video conferencing, chatting and augmented reality.
  • However, remote learning has some limitations—for example, too much screen exposure can adversely affect a child’s health.

What you can do right away

  • To help your child do well with remote learning, provide her with all the necessary resources — software/app, gadgets, Internet connection.
  • Provide him with a fixed place to study, and ensure that the home environment is calm and happy, and motivating.
  • Since remote learning is new to your child, be with her for the first few days to guide and help her with any problem that may arise.

About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 29 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 29 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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