On March 11 2020, The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic and issued a global call for countries to take “urgent and aggressive action”. Since then, several disruptions to school learning have taken place, affecting students from prep to Year 12.
The push towards online learning
Amid school closures, many fear that the increased reliance on remote learning has caused Australian students to fall behind the curve. Since students have been taught in classroom environments for years, many difficulties are expected to arise as students navigate through this different mode of learning. The main issue proposed lies in the ability of teachers and parents to regulate student behaviour, to help them with their questions and to ensure that they remain on task.
Is online learning less effective than face-to-face?
However, studies appear to indicate that only students below Year 12 are finding remote learning to be stressful. In contrast, most Year 12 students are enjoying the freedom and flexibility of online learning as they can learn at their own pace and be independent with their study schedule. Apart from the practical advantages of studying online, such as accessibility and safety, online learning has appeared to allow students to decide their workflow and it seems to be favoured by older students.
What this really highlights is that a large part of the stress caused by online learning is attributed to a lack of learning structure and guidance. With younger students, these factors are incredibly important to ensure that students remain focused and on track. Students in earlier year levels often need step-by-step guidance more than older students. Of course, considering the sudden impact of the pandemic on the education sector, it could not have been possible to create the most effective curriculum built for online delivery in such a short amount of time. However, it also highlights that if parents and schools work together to improve the engagement, structure and ease of use of their online learning platforms, online learning could potentially propel Australian education forward.
For example, increasing the use of multi-modal approaches during online lessons has shown to effectively maximise student learning. As opposed to passive learning in a classroom, this can encourage students to actively take part in lessons which not only improves student engagement, but also increases knowledge retention and help students to develop important collaborative and social skills.
Overall, as schools begin to re-open and society begins to navigate through this new reality, the pandemic has shown us that online learning and technology are incredibly powerful tools that have the potential to change our education system. In time, we can expect more online-based learning pathways to be implemented in our schools. We can also expect an increased reliance on online tutoring to supplement student learning, especially in areas that are still facing the impact of the coronavirus.
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