More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, there are certainly some things we can look back on and learn from. Although many of us have had to deal with numerous sacrifices and life changes, students have probably had to adjust to some of the biggest. Not only are many of them being forced to learn remotely and online without in-person support from an educator, but they are also limited socially during one of the most important stages of social development in life.
Remote learning in and of itself has led to some challenges that students are struggling to work through effectively. Many are looking forward to getting back to being in the classroom, but for now, addressing some of the issues is one of the best things schools and local governments can do for them.
It probably isn’t too great of a surprise, but many families with school-aged kids aren’t exactly rolling in funds. Stay-at-home orders with remote work and education has put an even greater strain on family finances. For many students, not having a computer available to complete school work from home is the first issue they run into when trying to keep up with the rest of the class.
Some students have had to resort to sharing the family’s one computer with siblings, meaning not everyone can be online for class at the same time. This can present challenges when it comes to making sure each child is getting a quality educational experience. There is also growing evidence that this was a struggle students and teachers were dealing with long before the pandemic started.
Anyone who has been working from home during any point of the pandemic can testify there are far more distractions at home than in the office or classroom. This is equally, if not more so, truer for young students. Not only are there things to do around the house that aren’t school work, but it is also easy to get distracted online. Internet safety concerns amongst parents are on the rise as their kids spend more and more time connected to a screen.
It can also be hard for students to focus for other reasons. The pandemic hasn’t been easy and many students are working through trauma and stress associated with the dramatic changes in their lives over the past year. It can be hard to accomplish any school work effectively when dealing with mental health issues. For this reason, some schools are striving to make online counseling available to students who may be struggling; unfortunately, these services are the exception and not the norm.
For college students who have had to return home after living in dorms, living with family again has presented its own problems. The distractions of college life are not the same as those at home, where parents and siblings may demand more immediate responses. One way college students can be successful at learning remotely is by taking a cue from remote workers: set specific office hours and make them public — then no one is allowed to disturb you during your office hours.
Online learning, no matter the level, has the potential to open up a lot of opportunities for the right students in the right situations. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic was not one of those situations and many students are struggling in numerous ways. Connection issues, distractions, and mental health are major factors that can limit student engagement and that need to be addressed for long-term success.
BIO: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.