In the last week, my school announced that for the foreseeable future, classes will be conducted remotely, over video conferencing software. I was upset that I’d be stuck at home, unable to play cards with Sean or Julian during office hours, run out to a deli during break, and worst of all, have to endure the pain that is calculus all on my own. When I looked online to see whether other corona-affected schools are opting for it, I was surprised to learn that in the last ten years there has been a growing trend of students opting for distance learning.
For some students, distance learning offers a range of unique advantages. The most obvious benefit is that students can pursue an education from anywhere with only a computer and an internet connection. This has proven to be particularly effective for ambitious students living in rural communities, who might not have access to broad rigorous course material at their local public school (see “The Effectiveness Of Distance Education In A Small Rural High School”). Moreover, working from home, means less time wasted commuting. There are also significant cost savings that come with not having to contribute to the upkeep of a brick-and-mortar school that relies on a pricey tuition to maintain its institution.
There are, however, downsides that come with completing your education remotely. First, there is a much higher chance that students will be distracted during class (Buffalo.edu). I know for myself, part of what keeps me locked in during physics class is the fact that Mr. Rubin will scold me if I doze off, go on my phone, or turn and talk to a friend. When you are the only person accountable for your learning, these pitfalls become much harder to avoid. In addition, the lack of social interaction that allows a mind to wander can be a problem in its own right. School has taught me just as much about friendships and social interaction as it has about academics (Wiley Online Library). Finally, in our current education landscape, online degrees and certificates of remote-learning are seen as much less prestigious than a traditional college degree (Inside Higher Ed).
Still, many families have found that the unique advantages of distance learning outweigh the potential challenges. This has made distance education “currently the fastest growing form of domestic and international education” (Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology). While a remote education might not be your first choice, at least for this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are going to experience it firsthand.