Distance Learning (DL) is a virtual pedagogy utilized to conduct lectures and classes online, particularly during abbreviated academic periods such as summer, winter and spring vacation. However, 2.7 million students in the United States were thrust into the DL environment after the Coronavirus halted a large share of in residence curriculums. Educational disparities amongst students who attend public schools remains a critical factor in the fabric of society. Moreover, the sudden transition to remote instruction during the pandemic is predicted to widen the education gap by almost eight grade levels within a single classroom.
Reduced Teacher-Student Contact
According to the Economic Policy Institute, public schools reported losing approximately 13.8 percent of faculty following the conclusion of the 2012-2013 academic year. Furthermore, teacher turnover has quadrupled between the years 2012-2018. The aftermath caused by the pandemic has exacerbated a glaring problem associated with such shortages. DL diminishes in person, quick and accessible guidance from instructors as students are faced with the difficulty of asking questions during bustling online lectures. Additionally, pupils are subjected to long wait times for one-on-one meetings with instructors.
Lack of an Educational Milieu
Students who are members of large families are placed at a greater disadvantage than their counterparts. Parents raising multiple children are subjected to the onerous task of creating a distraction-free domestic environment while navigating online workspaces for the first time. Caretakers assume the responsibility of ensuring homework completion, in addition to scanning and emailing assignments for submission. Although theoretically plausible, a substantial majority of guardians report “feeling ill-equipped” and overwhelmed.
Adverse Effects on Mental and Physical Health
International and out of state college students are confronted with adjusting work schedules for online lecture attendance, which could adversely affect sleep cycles. DL also extends personal electronic usage as students become increasingly immobile, thus negatively impacting physical health. Moreover, students with disabilities enrolled in DL require specific online arrangements. Unavailability of assistive technology may discourage learners who require additional assistance within the classroom.
Time Management and Technical Issues
Void of a strict agenda outlined by public schools, DL forces students to personalize their own study schedules. Yet, scholarly, peer-reviewed research has not substantiated the efficacy of the aforementioned strategy. Educators have struggled to gain proficiency with the technology required to effectively teach online classes. The tedious exercise of correcting software glitches must be enacted prior to the commencement of each remote instruction period.
Public schools located in low-income regions struggle to provide scholastic services online, particularly if resources were unavailable during the pre-pandemic academic year. Financially disadvantaged students are often excluded from utilizing the recommended digital platforms; specifically pupils without access to computers or broadband internet service. The transition from in person instruction to DL is less challenging for educational institutions with higher tuition rates and larger class sizes as compared to institutions that employ paper packets for remote instruction. Students are confronted with a litany of monetary and academic obstacles while engaged within the DL platform. The education system has yet to establish academic standards and standardized test scores that account for such subjective impediments.
Distance Learning perpetuates an environment that favors students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and small family units. Learners attending under-funded schools face greater academic exploratory restrictions than those enrolled in affluent institutions, amplifying the education gap throughout the United States.
2050 EDT – Author: Tanzil Fatima