August 31, 2021

On/Off – an open question

The Predicament

Educational institutions have experienced the vacillating state of on-school and off-school teaching where, in times of lockdown, online teaching is the only way to go. This off/on, zero/one states have been challenging, with impact and results that, though at the moment could be a bit early to nail down, are starting to show form.

The Categories

Essentially, in these on/off time, we need to divide the student base to see how its components are performing independently. It is fair to proceed as such: elementary school students are one component, middle and high schools are another, and college students are a third. It is intuitive that the impact of this on/off situation varies from one category to another.

College students could be the least susceptible to and affected by this change. Of course, they are the most to miss parties and games and pubs and pranks, and all that. We know that all these are essential and pivotal aspects of college life, and that future college students eagerly look forward to them. Still, in this article we concern ourselves with teaching, that is, an instructor delivering content to a learner, and will not wade into the social aspect of colleges and schools.

In the online world, college students handle themselves pretty well. They organize, plan, and execute without much guidance, and they assimilate online streamed material, as well as recorded material, quite effectively. It is worth noting that colleges give a good space to recorded material, given that its students are spread across a wide array of time zones, thus leaving it to the student’s comfort to access and learn.

In comes the second category, the middle and high school. Here, students can proceed online, with the high school students surely being more adept than the middle school ones. Still, all of them can do well. These student have had plenty of educational foundation years and discipline, and are well on their track. They might need minimal overseeing by the parents, and they will proceed fairly well in their online environment.

Now, what about the elementary school students, let alone the pre-schoolers? They haven’t been guided through the necessary learning discipline, nor are they good at reading and writing, nor are they eager to be taught in the first place. And they require continuous, dedicated attention. So, how does online teaching impact those primary-years students?

… that’s the question(s)

It would seem that we all have answers to the above, or at least we know how things look like, supported by the past two years of experience. Still, could a future retrospective assessment, once more years have passed and provided more substantial data, yield different perspectives? Besides imposing itself as the only way in critical situations, will we say that online teaching is effective and applicable in normal conditions? As effective as in-school? Better? Not so? Will it always be an answer to a crisis mode only? Could it become a standard way of teaching? Or how about a hybrid way?

Educational effectiveness and social interaction in schools being on one side of the balance, what about the items on the other side: time and cost efficiency? And environmental effectiveness, such as reducing carbon footprint by reducing commuting and electric consumption? True, these are still fresh questions in the educational world, nevertheless, it seems that some sound indicators are emerging and showing directions. Moreover, a look at the business world will help; they are at the forefront of technology and innovation most of the times. There, the use of the online medium is now standard, giving back substantial cost reduction in the categories of time, facilities, commuting, and accommodations, for example, and raising yield in production, comfort, health and personal and family time. Many corporations concluded that productivity and output are on the rise. Also, in an elastic and comfortable time schedule, employees have even clocked in more working hours.

Human interaction is and will always be fundamental in our lives, whether at home, in school, or at work. Yet, given the fundamental benefits of online education, we must now look at delivering information to students in a way different than what has been standard over the past hundreds of years. Throughout history, crises have been the catalysts for inevitable change. Today, COVID 19 has imposed online education on schools. The data returned is quantitative and measurable. Let’s make good use of this data and think of better education, efficiency, cost reduction, family time, and the environment.