Virtual education in the early years

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This year the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc globally and disrupted everyone’s daily routines. The pandemic also highlighted the weaknesses of traditional learning, and students, especially young students, were forced to transition drastically into virtual learning without much preparation. Virtual learning is one adaptive measure that education institutions around the world have to implement in order to mitigate the effects of this pandemic. For young students who have just started school, this new approach is extra difficult, since they need extra guidance and support from their school and teachers. How can we make the best of this situation, and how can we make sure no one is left behind? This blog post will explore these issues.

What are the challenges of virtual learning?

Virtual learning, by definition, requires students and teachers to be online and have a stable connection. But with everyone online, internet connections become increasingly unstable, which causes unnecessary technical disruptions in the classroom. For students and teachers who are unfamiliar with the technical tools of online learning, figuring out how to use different features and troubleshooting issues can also disrupt the learning environment. These frequent disruptions cause unnecessary stress and confusion for both teachers and students, making school an unpleasant experience for everyone involved.

Traditional measures of holding students’ attention also cannot be implemented in virtual settings. The internet is full of distractions, and young students cannot focus on the lesson if there is no teacher around to discipline them. The home environment is also not ideal for learning, making it extra difficult for young children to pay attention. Without a proper level of attention, the quality of their learning will be heavily affected. 

Additionally, virtual classes are not productive in fostering young students’ social skills. In a traditional education setting, students get a chance to socialise in between classes, play sports or join student clubs. Without these activities, they will not have the opportunity to bond with other classmates and help them learn important interpersonal skills.

How can we cope with these challenges?

In a virtual learning setting, the role of the parents is more important than ever to make sure that young children do well in school. Implementing structures and discipline that stimulates a healthy learning environment, separating school time and playtime, and maintaining healthy conversations with their teachers are all important steps that parents need to take to make sure their child’s education is not interrupted during this difficult time.

In addition, parents need to make sure that the technical difficulties are reduced to a minimum. By establishing a stable internet connection, learning the common problems that the students experience in a virtual classroom and how to troubleshoot them, and working with the students to help them adapt to online learning tools, parents can ensure a productive learning environment for their children.

Adding social activities and bonding time with family members can also make up for the loss of human interactions between the children and their classmates and teachers. By creating a healthy, loving environment for the child to learn important social skills, parents can foster healthy social developments and help their child thrive when the pandemic is over.

Although virtual learning is an adequate solution for children in developed countries, many children around the world who live in poverty or do not have internet access can suffer significantly during this period. Therefore, providing access to these young children can minimise their learning loss and ensure that they are not left behind. International charity organisations like Save The Children are working to reduce the gaps in infrastructure worldwide to help underprivileged children gain access to virtual education.

These challenges cannot be solved by parents alone – countries and international organisations need to get involved to share resources with students in rural areas and students in poverty. Without the much-needed help from these organisations, these young students will suffer great learning loss which would prevent them from having the best start in life.

This article was written by Christina Hoey
Digital Content Director | savethechildren.org.nz 

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