The year 2020, has shown us all how vulnerable educational institutions are to sudden changes to their teaching methods. The technology was there but not all institutions felt it necessary to really invest in these alternate methods of teaching.
The pandemic and the need for social distancing has now made change essential to the continuation of this academic year and the academic years to come.
The greatest problem faced by institutions was not just purchasing the right SIS systems or Communications platforms. The real problem was the change of mentality and the adoption of new methods of teaching that would complement the use of distance learning and the tools involved in its implementation.
Educational institutions now have adapted and completed the academic year 2019-2020 with the use of Remote Learning methods and Online Tools.
Is the current situation going to last? Will we need distance learning in the future? To the first question, the answer is honestly we do not know. Two the second question we must emphatically say yes! Distance learning is not a one-off solution, it offers great convenience to both educators and students. The ability to learn without needing to be in one specific location e.g classroom offers a lot of freedom and time saving for all. Distance learning can provide access to education to people who previously were challenged by issues of distance from school, inability to move, and more.
The statement that remote learning and online learning is the new norm is still a stretch, but it should become a regular option for all educational institutions. This crisis has opened the door for distance learning to become a regular fixture in the normal operations of an academic institution.
The tools of the trade: The Synchronous and Asynchronous process for Distance Learning
What is Synchronous Learning?
The learning process that happens online but in real-time, so this process includes Teachers and Students communicating in a virtual environment at a predefined time and with the use of specific tools. These tools can be Teleconferencing, live streaming, video conferencing, or live to chat. It was one of the go-to methods that institutions first used when distance learning became a mandatory requirement during the various lockdowns around the world.
Pros and Cons of Synchronous Learning
- Superior Student Engagement – Due to the online nature of synchronous learning, students and teachers are able to have more detailed conversations and question and answer sessions. Students can discuss with each other and be more engaged in the class. The teacher is able to receive questions mid-session as students come up with questions.
- Superior Comfort and Access – All parties involved have the ability to attend sessions from the comfort and safety of their homes. Students who may previously have issues with the distance to school can now just open their laptops or mobile device.
- Team Building – Students will need to co-operate and communicate more often between each other as well as with their teacher. Achieving learning goals will require greater co-operation and leadership skills from students and their Teachers.
- Inflexible Scheduling – This method of distance learning has its advantages and comforts but in essence, it can be confining due to the amount of planning for each session. Sessions need to be planned and the time and duration agreed upon by teachers and students.
- Technical Requirements and Malfunctions – All activities held online require some specialized knowledge and require time for adoption by students. Getting students and teachers to adapt to a new technology-based environment can be a challenge for institutions. Technology as good as it may be may also present issues such as malfunctions or internet provider issues.
Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Learning
- Flexible Schedule – The ability to pursue your education at a pace that meets your time requirements. As there is live-action learning like in the case of synchronous learning, a student can gather the learning material and start learning at a more comfortable pace, but still within a specific timeframe.
- Within the Means Learning – Asynchronous learning methods are a golden opportunity for price-sensitive students to have access to education and vocational learning. As there is no day to day lectures and the greatest amount of work is handled by the student, the program can be offered at a lower cost.
- Motivation Needed – To pursue such a path a student must be highly motivated and able to manage a full educational workload along with their everyday responsibilities. The Asynchronous method of distance learning is harder for younger students to follow as it requires a lot of discipline and organizational focus.
All that has happened in the world these past months, has led to the rise of Distance Learning/Online Learning. Educational institutions that formerly had not considered alternate methods of teaching have had to adapt to the situation. The partial adoption of online and distance learning has provided educational institutions with a taste of the possibilities these methods have to offer, and it would not be a stretch to say that distance learning will become a permanent option for students in the not so distant future.