As COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline and the country begins to look forward to a post-pandemic future, one thing is certain: the way we look at remote learning will never be the same. While remote learning existed and was even trending upward before the pandemic, COVID-19 catapulted it to a whole new level of relevance for every student, teacher, and professional.
So, how will remote learning evolve going forward? Below are five things COVID-19 taught us about remote learning:
1. Accessibility Matters
Before we can plan for what effective learning might look like, we must realize that not every student has access to the technology needed to participate. Many students struggled to keep up throughout the pandemic because they lacked access to a personal computer or had no reliable internet connection.
Many libraries, universities, and school systems have computers that students can use, but those resources are not easily or safely accessible in a situation like the pandemic lockdowns. So the leadoff question for effective remote learning: How can this course be made equally accessible to all students?
2. Personal Connection Is Key
After overcoming the accessibility hurdle, the next most important aspect of a remote learning course is a personal connection between student and teacher. Most students both want and benefit from a personal rapport with their instructors. Before the pandemic, online courses often featured little, if any personal interaction. The pandemic forced teachers and professors to get creative in finding new ways to connect with students, even through a screen.
Going forward, educators should optimize the interaction aspect in their remote learning courses. Not only will this increase students’ comprehension and retention, it also will provide much-needed social interaction for those who may be more socially isolated.
3. Students Learn Differently
Similarly, it is critical to remember that each student has a unique way of learning. Some prefer to learn by reading, some via hands-on activities, some by listening to a lecture, etc.
It is unrealistic to expect every course to be tailored to each student, but it is quite feasible to plan a lesson that includes all of the above methods. By having aspects of each learning style, a course will be much more successful in engaging students and keeping them interested.
4. Keep It Fresh
Speaking of engagement, COVID taught us that it can be challenging to keep students’ attention in an online course. We learned many things that do not work very well, like lecturing to a blank screen. But we also learned several ways to change things and keep the course fresh.
Many of these things go hand in hand with the previous point; if professors vary the coursework in a way that engages several types of learners, the course is less likely to become monotonous and boring.
No, professors do not need to become comedians or entertainers for the sake of keeping class interesting. Still, a little effort in keeping the material fresh by delivering it in new ways and new formats can go a long way.
5. Remote Learning Is NOT for Everyone
Lastly, COVID-19 taught us that remote learning is not for everyone. Regardless of accessibility or how dynamic the coursework is, or how much time a professor may spend on a video call with students, it just is not the right fit in some cases.
Remote learning is an excellent tool, and it will only continue to integrate into the everyday practice of educators everywhere. However, it is essential to remember that the future is not all remote learning. As exciting and new as designing online courses and gathering everyone under the digital tent can be, there will always be a place for in-person teaching.