by Danny Wu

Amidst this pandemic, with colleges and universities moving to remote, there has been much frustration voiced by students all over the world over the difficulties of remote learning. “Roughly 20% of students nationwide don’t have access to the technology they need for remote learning” (Hawkins and Hobbs).  Not all students have quality internet access or devices to thrive in remote learning. Other issues are the lack of structure that are apparent with remote learning.  These types of issues lead to less engagement and overall a potentially worse education for the students. However, regardless of preference remote learning is here to stay. Although imperfect as it is, we can always try to improve upon it.

Engagement has been a thorn for students and professors alike when it comes to remote learning. Many students are “feeling lost and adrift” (Herman). Without the structure of “having to show up on, say, Tuesday and Thursday, 11’o clock, many reported that it was easy to let classes slide and not take them as seriously as before” (Herman).  In addition to lack of structure, distractions also play a part.  It is difficult for students to focus when at home they have “the biggest source of gaming, shopping and socializing right in my face” (Herman).  While these issues are very much happening, the perceived advantage of remote learning is the flexibility.  “Lectures do not take place at a specified time, but are recorded as videos or podcasts.  Assignments are done on a computer, often graded by a computer.  Not being tied to a classroom also means no limitations on enrollment.  Class size is no longer limited by room size but can grow to accommodate any number of students.” (Herman).  Students are “alone” (Herman), they feel that they have to “teach ourselves.  It’s like paying tuition to watch YouTube videos.” (Herman).

Despite these shortcomings, remote learning doesn’t have to be this way.  While remote learning may never compare to in-class learning in terms of structure and engagement,  it can always to modified accordingly to fit a particular class’s needs.  While many online classes may be structured with videos at the student’s own pace,  having meetings virtually at the same time as if it were in person can simulate a more interactive experience.  Software such as Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate can provide that sort of atmosphere.  To accommodate “face-to-face discussion” (Herman) professors can also set up office hours via sessions on Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom meetings.  Another option is to create an open discussion space for the students to interact with each other.  Blackboard can be utilized to create groups/ discussion threads for students to seek out assistance or work together on the course material. To in anyway replicate an in-person environment, both the students and professor need to be willing to proactively work towards one online.  It isn’t ideal, but definitely an improvement from what remote learning was initially.

Remote Learning was rolled out in unfortunate circumstances and no one was prepared.  However, with the mistakes and failures learned on the way it can definitely be improved to a level worthwhile for the students. Perhaps in the future with virtual reality, we can simulate an environment that can be on par with that of an in-person classroom.  But in the mean time we can only improve upon what is available to us and making the best of it.

Citations

Herman, Peter C. “Online Learning Is Not the Future.” Online Learning Is Not the Future of Higher Education (Opinion), Inside Higher Ed, 10 May 2020, www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2020/06/10/online-learning-not-future-higher-education-opinion.

Hobbs, Tawnell D., and Lee Hawkins. “The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 5 June 2020, www.wsj.com/articles/schools-coronavirus-remote-learning-lockdown-tech-11591375078.

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