This seismic shift has occurred without the luxury of time. The global pandemic, the pressing need for social isolation have meant that the shift to online-home-remote learning has been abrupt and somewhat brutal. Schools are working it out, and making adjustments along the way. Shifting from the physical place of learning, to virtual learning environment cannot be a cut and paste exercise. The context of each learner is unique – their home, their family, and of course, the individual.
Two newspapers, Sydney Morning Herald and New York Times recently sought feedback from students about their experiences of home learning. More than 70 student responses were recorded. After the initial excitement of home learning, students report feeling overwhelmed and socially isolated.
Students commented on challenges for parents trying to work while supervising learning at home, older students with responsibility for younger siblings, their ADHD and anxiety, as well as the fear and uncertainty of the global situation, which is taking its toll. A number of students responded positively, and were thriving with self-paced learning, they appreciated being able to put together their own schedule (and to sleep-in!). Others mentioned that after the initial excitement, they now miss the ‘everyday’ of school. They missed their friends, the routines and being able to ask questions and receive immediate feedback, rather than waiting for an email reply. The responses showed the unique context of each student.
The outward signs of engagement and wellbeing are not as evident via video-conference, when teachers and students are in physical proximity. Empathy for individual learners unique context is critical. There are those who are adapting well, yet this cannot be assumed for all students. The key is to keep learning, tweaking and adjusting, as we learn from our students.
In summarising the data, there are seven key areas to consider:
A strong theme emerged that students felt that they were overloaded and overwhelmed, some feeling like their workload had doubled. Other students noted how much they enjoyed self-paced learning and it was working for them.
There were many comments about missing social contact with friends. From working together, to playing handball, catching the bus and “just seeing my friends everyday”.
Students like the idea of being comfortable. One student whose school required school uniform at home, wore PJs out of sight of the camera.
A number mentioned the difficulty of being alone, especially those without other siblings around. The global situation is also weighing on some of the students.
Motivation seems to be associated with how students feel about being away from their friends, distractions around them and the level of encouragement received from their teachers. some were self-motivated, and appreciate the opportunity to work at their own pace.
Home and family circumstances differ so greatly, even within this small sample. The impact on student learning included the quality of devices and connectivity, responsibility of supervising younger siblings, and the positive and negative of being with family for extended periods of time.
Students are grieving the loss of memories. Many have been looking forward to their senior year, only to feel like it’s been taken away.