Distance learning is not online learning.
What is Distance Learning?
California Department of Education defines distance learning as:” means of instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations. This may include interacting through the use of a computer and communications technology, as well as delivering instruction and check-in time with the teacher. Distance learning may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the student and instructor is online interaction, instructional television, video, telecourses, or other instruction that relies on a computer or communications technology. It may also include the use of print materials incorporating assignments that are the subject of written or oral feedback. This page provides guidance and information for teachers, students, and parents who are transitioning or have transitioned, to a distance learning model.
The key component of distance learning is “the instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations.”
What is the main purpose of Distance Learning for K-12 schools?
The main purpose of distance learning is not to replace traditional learning permanently. The quality of distance learning will never match in-person teaching for K-12 education. It lacks many social and academic components of in-person teaching. Policymakers designed Distance Learning to continue education during a pandemic such as COVID-19. During a pandemic, large group gathering drastically increases the risk of spreading the virus through the community. Infected students spread to other students in schools, and these students would infect their family members at home. By implementing distance learning, we prevent the virus from spreading within schools and throughout the community.
However, the implementation of distance learning after school closures causes many backlashes from parents, students, teachers.
What do we learn about Distance Learning after school closure?
Distance Learning’s primary purpose is to provide: “the instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations,” so we can slow down the spread of the virus in the community. As schools implement Distance Learning after school closures, we have learned a lot about the process.
Lack of consistent schedule: Teachers’ accountability is much important as student accountability. During normal school, teachers have to teach students based on their school schedules. Likewise, students are required to attend their classes based on the same schedule. However, distance learning ignores school schedules to accommodate students and teachers during the crisis. Instead, schools have minimum requirements that teachers need to meet–each teacher sets up their own teaching schedules. It causes much confusion for students, teachers, and parents.
For the coming fall of 2020, schools have fixed bell schedule for all students and teachers.
Grades: Distance learning after school closure has demonstrated the significant impacts of grades and student accountability on students’ overall learning and achievement. The reality is that very few students care about learning if their effort and progress our not graded. Teachers on social media share stories of how their high-achieving students stop participating or attending distance learning classes because they already have a B’s or A’s. For struggling students, they stop attending once they have D’s or C’s in the class.
Are teachers ready for distance learning in the fall?
Most teachers are not ready for distance learning. As districts and schools scramble to explore technologies and strategies to help their teachers prepare for distance learning, they throw many different technologies at their teachers and students. Now, many districts are afraid of introducing or exploring new technology. Some districts now force teachers to use a specific technology.
What is the worst things to do right now for your teachers?
Distance learning is new to every educator. Some educators may adapt to distance learning more quickly than other. However, it does not make them experts in this form of teaching. It would take years for teachers to figures out how to successfully implement distance learning. Heck, it has been thousands of years, and we still have a lot to learn about our traditional education.
If there is no such experienced person who has mastered the art of distance learning, why would district limited teachers to use specific technologies or strategies for distance learning? The most harmful thing that a district or school can do for teachers and students is limiting teachers’ freedom to explore different tools and strategies to best support their students. Of course, it is the responsibility of teaches to explore only technology that does NOT requires site-license. This freedom will be the driving mechanism for teacher’s collaborations os love the challenges of distance learning.
In conclusion, we don’t know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. With certainty, we know that it will not be the last virus we will see.