At least forty four million K – 12 students in the United States are adjusting to the sudden change to online learning. (1) Rather than waking up, getting dressed and walking, driving or riding the school bus to school, we are (hopefully) waking up and turning on our laptops, ipads or iphones to see our teachers’ faces. Will this change in learning style work? I contend that online learning during COVID-19 will not work for most students.
School can be stressful on it’s own and when you add the threat of illness and death from a relatively unknown virus, the stress level is increased substantially. A student learns best in a non stressful environment and the current state of things is not conducive to learning. Some colleges have already recognized the effect of COVID-19 on grades and have offered students the option of taking their Spring courses on a pass/fail basis. (2) Other schools should consider this option so as to not punish the students who are having difficulty adjusting to the sudden change.
Another important factor to consider is that teachers have been tasked with adapting their materials that were prepared for in class teaching to online teaching practically overnight. Robin DeRosa, the director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at the Plymouth State University believes that “an excellent online course can take a year of development and collaboration among people with different skills.” (2) If it takes a year to develop a good online course with the collaboration of different people with different skills there is no doubt that expecting students to learn from online courses adapted by a teacher over a period of a few days will not work.
Interestingly, the research on homeschooling shows that homeschooling is more beneficial to the student than traditional classroom learning. A 2009 study showed that the percentage of students homeschooled that graduated from college was 67% compared to 59% of students from public schools, 54 % from Catholic schools and 51% from other private schools. (3) The research also shows that the biggest advantage of homeschooling is the ability to personalize the learning to the student. (3) The online teaching currently going on is not personalized to the student but rather a temporary fix. This online learning going on now is expected to be temporary in nature so most teachers and students are of the mind frame that when this is over we can get back to the real work. In the meantime we will try to make this work. Frankly, it is not working. Schools should realize this and figure out ways to assist their students so they do not have to carry the stain of COVID-19 into the future. Agreeing to give pass/fail grades during this time would be a start.
1. Darling-Hammond, “Learning in the Time of COVID -19.” March 19, 2020. Forbes
2. Kamenetz, Anya, “Panic-gogy: Teaching Online Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic.” March 19, 2020. NPR https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/817885991/panic-gogy-teaching-online-classes-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
3. Well, Chris, “Homeschooling Could be the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century – Here are 5 Reasons Why.” Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/reasons-homeschooling-is-the-smartest-way-to-teach-kids-today-2018-1