• Anthony Siradakis

The Shift to Online Learning Isn't as Easy as It Sounds

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

COVID-19 has forced administrators from around the country to move in-person instruction entirely online. The process is far from simple.

It's no secret that for decades online education has continued to permeate higher education. Colleges and universities have long touted the flexibility of offering online courses and programs. In fact, entire colleges are dedicated to supplying eager young adults with education through computer screens rather than dry-erase and chalkboards. Whether this delivery of education through an internet connection serves as an additional revenue stream for the institution, adds to existing programs and offerings increasing the robustness of curriculum, or, allows an institution to create satellite and global campuses, virtually all schools have toyed with the notion of moving some of their programs online.

COVID-19 has not only forced many colleges and universities to rely solely on online delivery, but also K-12. While it is seldom argued that online education will not keep students, faculty, staff, and families of these groups safe during the pandemic, there are several glaring issues with primary and secondary schools moving their instruction entirely online. Such items include:

  • A lack of infrastructure/equipment – Many often neglect to acknowledge the cost of moving physical instruction online. The transition is not as simple as it sounds on its surface, and can quickly become unaffordable for the families of students. Purchasing computers, iPads, and school programs all add up quickly just to get a student in the position to learn. More importantly, some families lack access to expensive broadband/high-speed internet often required to engage in online programs.

  • Quality of teaching – Face-to-face teaching has long been heralded as the preferred form of instruction. The teacher/student experience is invaluable, allows for the connection of ideas and concepts, and aids in student development. Critics of online education claim the method during developmental years prohibits these connections from being made.

  • Lack of daycare/supervision – With roughly 60 million primary and secondary students across the United States, a tremendous demand for daytime care naturally develops as a byproduct of children being out of school due to the pandemic. Millions of families rely on school to serve as daycare while parents are working. What's more, millions of parents have lost jobs due to COVID, and may not be able to afford the programs and services naturally offered through K-12 education.

  • Food – While the circumstances listed above are certainly substantial and carry with them significant implications, perhaps the largest single issue regarding the shift from in-person to digital learning is the concept of food and nutrition. Millions of students nationwide rely on meals provided at school, not at home. Given the millions unemployed, food banks have generally been unable to cope with the extreme demand placed on them during the pandemic, as both children and grown adults seek nourishment. Removing students from school while the pandemic recedes ultimately places nutrition as a top concern for both government and school officials.

While COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of millions across the United States and abroad, the debate between face-to-face instruction and online delivery rages on. While it is likely that no general sentiment will be agreed upon, the significance of the virus, its impact, and the long-term affects it may produce, remain a central concern for administrators nationwide. It is likely some schools will respond effectively to the pandemic come fall, while others will struggle, and some may be forced to close.

As always, despite these challenges school leaders continue to march forward.