April 23, 2021
Covid-19 and its Impacts on Forced Online Learning
In the wake of Covid-19, transition from classroom learning to online learning was inevitable as most college institutions pivoted to online instruction. Fortunately, internet proliferation has already created a space for more profound learning as numerous institutions already had e-learning for some of their programs. However, the unforeseen impact of Covid-19 in learning compelled institutions that were least prepared to engage in online classes to take this path. Unfortunately, such a transition was bound to experience a wide range of unprecedented challenges, which have greatly frustrated the learning process. Resource shortage is a major problem because a large proportion of students lack the devices and technology necessary to engage in the new form of learning. Apart from that, many teachers and learners lack the technical knowledge essential in such a form of learning. Also, the “at home” learning environment is unhealthy for some, which makes it incomparable to the class environment. On this basis, compelling learners to engage in online learning has done more harm than good due to existing inequalities as well as the ineffectiveness of this approach.
Compelling college students to learn online has led to inequalities in higher education because of resource shortages and high poverty levels. In return, online-learning is resource intensive because students require having internet as well as the essential computing devices such as smartphones and computers. While a majority of university students have access to these resources, a significant proportion of students lack these resources. In research conducted by Bacher-Hicks, Goodman, and Mulhern (104) in Pakistan titled, “Inequality in household adaptation to schooling shocks: Covid-induced online learning engagement in real time.”, students expressed that the online learning process was prevented by a lack of access to the internet and not financially able to purchase laptops or computers needed to attend online class. Besides, with the already low attendance rates in classrooms, this is a precursor to signify that a good number of students lack the resources required to participate in online classes. In some institutions, the class attendance rates were less than half of the total population. In a research study titled, “Covid-19 and student performance, equity, and the US education policy.” Authored by Elaine Weiss and Emma Garcia, it is proven that students, particularly from less wealthy families, cannot afford to pay for reliable internet service that ensures they can stream the online classes. From a critical perspective, such an approach to learning will translate to educational inequalities because some learners will be ahead of others. Unfortunately, education will become a benefit of the wealthy population while the poor will be sidelined. Such an outcome will undo the gains that most governments have achieved in ending social inequalities. Therefore, online learning is likely to revive the almost forgotten education as well as income inequalities.
Besides, the technical challenges associated with online learning are likely to make it less effective than in-class learning. Although technological investors were prompt to introduce academic-oriented applications such as Zoom and Google Meet to help in the implementation of e-learning, the usage of the software requires technical expertise, which many of the students and teachers lack especially for the older generation who did not grow up learning all new technological advances (including myself). Vast research has revealed that technical challenges have contributed to the low attendance rates in online classes. The study done titled “Barriers to online learning in the time of COVID-19: A national survey of medical students in the Philippines.” Authored by Ronnie Baticulon, it was determined that despite the fact that more than 90% of the learners had the essential resources for online learning the attendance rates remained lower than 50%. Such findings reveal the underlying problems associated with online learning. A majority of the students had connectivity issues because they lacked the technical expertise of joining the video classes or even installing the required software. At the same time, teachers faced the same problem due to technical skill shortage, which translated to the cancellation of many classes or premature ending of sessions. Dylan Rispoli writes an article titled, “Can online learning be as effective as traditional education?” Rispoli’s research reveals that even those who accessed the e-learning, a majority of them were dissatisfied due to lack teacher-student and student-student interaction. All these challenges point to the fact that online schooling remains a preserve for a few, which makes it less effective than classroom learning.
From a different perspective, online learning downplays the essence of an organized learning environment. Unlike the peaceful classroom learning environment, the home environment is often unsuitable for learning. In his research, Baticulon found out that most students failed to attend classes because the learning environment was toxic or unfriendly for learning (Baticulon et al. (1-12)). In the wake of Covid-19, more family members were compelled to stay at home, which means that students had to learn in an environment with interference from family members. Apart from that, the stress in the majority of households was bound to affect the learning environment. Most college students in poverty-stricken areas suffered from depression due to family-related financial challenges, making them less attentive to learning. Another adversely affected population are those students that lost their income sources when colleges were closed (Garcia and Weiss Para. 1-10). A significant number of college students have part-time jobs, which are the primary source of livelihoods. In worse cases scenarios, some individuals were homeless. Consequently, such distressed students lacked the necessary mental states and environments to engage in learning. Although a majority of them were willing to continue with learning, the conditions were unsuitable for learning. On this basis, online learning was bound to fail due to lack of ideal learning environment provided by a traditional classroom.
However, the proponents of online learning argue that it was a necessary alternative at a time of crisis. When Covid-19 struck in many countries, most classrooms remained closed and the return to school was almost unpredictable. Worse still, the recurring waves of COVID-19 are bound to interfere with schooling programs in an unexpected manner (Garcia and Weiss Para. 1-10). Therefore, the students were left with the alternative of waiting until the pandemic subsides or engage in online learning. Unfortunately, the decision to refrain from online learning would have serious impacts on the learning curriculum. A majority of the students would have to repeat their classes, which would complicate the transition of other students from lower levels. Besides, the argument that the future of learning is online suggests that more institutions are bound to launch online courses in the future (Rispoli Para. 7-10). Unfortunately, the outcomes of online learning have revealed that while online learning can be helpful in a time of crisis, it requires adequate preparation and intervention measures to cover students that face financial constraints. Even so, more than ever, online learning during this period has proved that it can only serve to complement in-class learning but not to replace it.
In conclusion, compelling students to engage in online learning was a rushed decision that failed to contemplate its undesirable outcomes. Poverty and resource shortage were bound to impair learning because long gone learning inequalities were to again resurface. Most students lacked the resources to purchase the technological equipment necessary to engage in online learning. Besides, there were low attendance rates because both learners and instructors lacked the technical knowledge essential in online learning. Even students with the devices faced connectivity issues as trainers cancelled and postponed classes due to such challenges. Also, the learning environment was unfriendly, which proves that although online is essential at a time of crisis it cannot replace the classroom learning.
Baticulon, Ronnie E., et al. “Barriers to online learning in the time of COVID-19: A national survey of medical students in the Philippines.” Medical science educator (2021): 1-12.
Bacher-Hicks, Andrew, Joshua Goodman, and Christine Mulhern. “Inequality in household adaptation to schooling shocks: Covid-induced online learning engagement in real time.” Journal of Public Economics 193 (2021): 104345.
Garcia, Emma and Weiss, Elaine. “Covid-19 and student performance, equity, and the US education policy.” Economy policy institute, 2020. Accessed from:< https://www.epi.org/publication/the-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-for-education-performance-and-equity-in-the-united-states-what-can-we-learn-from-pre-pandemic-research-to-inform-relief-recovery-and-rebuilding/ >[Accessed on 23rd April, 2021]
Rispoli, Dylan. “Can online learning be as effective as traditional education?” 2020. Accessed from < https://www.worldreader.org/blog/can-online-learning-replace-traditional-education/>>[Accessed on 23rd April, 2021]