The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 plunged the world into a compulsory stay-at-home. Everywhere was shut down to preserve lives by curtailing social interactions to reduce the chances of the spread of the disease from person to person. As days became weeks, and weeks turned into months, with COVID seeming not to have an end in sight, there had to be a way out to avoid delay in education. And so, classes resumed online- a great development, especially for students of the Nigerian public universities who had spent beyond the duration of their chosen course, no thanks to the incessant strikes. That form of learning the world adapted to at that point is known as remote learning. You ask “Is that not the same as online learning?” Well, not really. Follow me.
Remote Learning vs Online Learning
Yes, both forms of learning employ technology and take place outside the traditional classrooms of bricks and mortar. However, remote learning does not displace the traditional classroom as against online learning which replaces the traditional classroom. Online learning is specifically designed to leverage technology such that the syllabus and all structures have been fitted to take place outside the physical classroom so students can earn their degrees without necessarily being in an academic setting. Remote learning mostly serves emergencies so the physical syllabus has to be made suited for online purposes temporarily, pending the time when the crisis is over and students can return to the physical classroom.
The Happy Side of Remote Learning
You would agree with me that life was much easier knowing you could attend school from home without the worry of waking up so early to prepare and catch up with class. It also doesn’t matter what location you are in; as long as you can access the internet, you’re good to go.
Also, remote learning saves the cost of transportation to and from school. Imagine how much you would save up by cutting down on transport expenses.
It allows for balance regarding academics, family life, and even work if a student decides to take up a job. Since your physical presence is not required in remote learning, you can work on other activities in your schedule at whatever time you want.
The Down Side of Remote Learning
For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. With remote learning serving as a solution– looking at COVID-19 as a case study– did it not also come with its downside? These impacted negatively on the mental health of students. Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. That is what mental health is, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Adapting to a new system of learning coupled with the outbreak of a pandemic took a toll on the psychological and mental health of students and teachers as well. Let us look at some of the ways remote learning poses a challenge mentally.
Lack of Social Interaction
There is an absence of face-to-face interactions among students and between students and teachers. The meaningful relationships that could have been built through physical communication and interaction become almost non-existent. It could lead to loneliness particularly if the student does not have someone her age group in the house.
“Sir, we can’t see your slides.”, “Can anyone still hear me?” and other similar sentences are the order of the day especially in a country like Nigeria with a poor network. It gets discouraging when you keep getting logged out of the class due to reasons beyond your control such as a terrible network. Sometimes, some students forget to mute their mics or have them mistakenly turned on in the course of movement, thereby disturbing the class. Both students and teachers can be frustrated by this kind of problem faced during remote learning.
The syllabus that has been designed and spread over a certain period to take place physically now has to be made compact in online classes. This results in a whole lot being covered in a single class. The student is being “hit” with a whole lot of stuff to read, in a very short time. There is no blame on the teacher either, for he or she is just trying to cover the syllabus as expected.
It is hard to pay attention when you are not seeing your lecturers face-to-face as, most of the time, the videos are turned off over the online learning platforms. You could have students log in, leave their phone somewhere, and go ahead to do something else, say cook or wash clothes or even gist with friends. Some that do stay with their phones have their minds fixed on everything else than the class or wandering from one issue to the other.
No Motivation and Proper Evaluation
There is little or no motivation to read. From the slides covered being a lot, distractions even from family members, and the network acting its part, the student is not moved to study as he or she should. Procrastination becomes the norm and the school work keeps piling up. The teacher on his part is not able to have a proper evaluation of the progress of the student. It is not so easy to judge the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process in remote learning.
Poor Academic Performance
All the challenges listed above culminate in poor performance for the student, academically. It could affect their self-esteem and confidence in the long run.
Learning is supposed to aid the student in every aspect of life. Therefore, methods employed in learning should be made to pass through a sort of integrity test that would ensure that it is not counter-productive to the end goals of learning. Furthermore, we know that no solution is perfect but we must be willing to look at the disadvantages and have a plan to minimize them as much as possible so that they do not pose a threat to the mental health of teachers and students alike.
Written by Oluwatoyosi
For the Editorial Team, God is Love Educational Foundation