Is online learning detrimental to the social and academic development of children? This is a quite the loaded question to pose to educators that have recently been forced to abandon ship and convert to online teaching at the drop of a hat, due to the covid-19 pandemic. Yet that is just what the brave debate teams from my last EC&I 830 class did. Many of us, especially those of us who are also parents, may face some PTSD when recalling this point in time. It is this perspective that led me to choose in favour of this argument initially. I struggled to adapt like everyone else, my daughter with an ADHD and LD diagnoses particularly struggled which was hard to watch. Britney S, Kayla and Colton from the agree team addressed digital access, which became an issue for many of my students during the pandemic. Many did not have access to technology and it was impossible to connect with them. My own family had to purchase an iPad so we had enough technology for both children. It was not an ideal situation, and our students and children are still recovering emotionally and academically from pandemic online learning.
However, partway through debate I began to feel conflicted. Arkin, Kat, and Chris of the disagree team made a crucial distinction between reactive online pandemic learning, and learning that has been specifically created for delivery online, such as this course for example. I began to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t giving online learning fair consideration. I have had the experience in my graduate studies of attending more than one class that was online because of the pandemic, versus one that was designed specifically to be online, namely this one, and I must say I am a fan. Well that is if they are all designed similarly to this one.
I know what you’re thinking, that woman sure knows how to suck up to the professor! In all seriousness, this is the only course I have taken that was designed specifically to be online, by someone who has the knowledge to deliver it effectively. I’m sure the pandemic has crated a steep learning curve for some profs too. What I appreciate about this course is that expectations are clearly laid out, the documents are neatly organized and accessible via hyperlinks, and when in a pinch, help is just a Dischord message away. These things have made my life easier in many ways, especially when working on my assignments. Not only that but the classes have been interactive and engaging. I’m totally inspired to try debate with my students next year.
Although online learning may not be the best fit for everyone, especially in an emergency situation with unprepared teachers, it can be the best or even the only choice for other students. It can provide a flexibility that brick and mortar school cannot, and allow access to students who may struggle in a “regular” institution. Online learning during the pandemic was far from ideal, but as Kat mentioned during the debate discussion, it was “better than nothing”. With that being said, I ended up switching sides in the final vote. I wouldn’t recommend online learning for everyone, but it is certainly a viable option for some without being of detriment.
Now it’s your turn to chime in. How did your teaching fare during the pandemic? How did your students or children fare? Do you think there is a place for online learning? What things do you think are important to consider and include in online course delivery? Do you have an edtech background that has allowed you to consider this on a deeper level? I’d love to hear your thoughts. C’mon, spill the tea!