Debate #8: Is Online Education Detrimental to the Social and Academic Development of Children?
The last class debate, and certainly one that I was looking forward to. The Covid-19 Pandemic thrust the education world into an unplanned version of emergency online learning. While this unprecedented time was certainly a change for everyone, the high majority of our population now has some experience with online learning. Although emergency pandemic learning and properly planed online learning should certainly not be compared as equals, the growth in the student number and discussion on the benefits of online learning have grown exponentially. Therefore, educators, policy makers and the public are starting to ask, Is Online education detrimental to the social and academic development of children?
Kayla, Britney, and I certainly enjoyed debating with Kat, Chris and Arkin. I appreciated several of their insightful points, and in particular starting their opening statement a land acknowledgment. Within the last few years, I have become quite interested in Treaty and Indigenous Education, and I appreciated the respect and time given to read the land acknowledgment before their side of the debate.
Throughout the debate, my conclusion was drawn from a mixture of one of our points, and one of Chris’. To me, online education can be a good alternative to a brick-and-mortar classroom for a small percentage of the overall population orused as a supplement to traditional education courses. The main points that led to this are outlined in paragraphs below.
Online education benefits affluent, mature, self-motivated students, who are capable of learning and working with little to no direct supervision. Unfortunately, this means that online education remains nearly impossible for those of a lower socioeconomic status, young students (particularly those in early primary years,) and those who run into internet speed/access issues based on their location. Through one of the articles our group shared, a study was done in 2013 (important to note as it’s prior to the pandemic,) in which the research team investigated the lack of access for Indigenous Australian students. They found that “online learning will in fact be hugely detrimental to this section of Australian society and will see the potential for a widening of the gap in education.” It is important to notice the parallels between this study and the lack of quality internet access found on some reserves and rural land here in Canada.
Throughout Britney’s portion of the debate, she touched on the differences in mental health supports and concerns in an online teaching environment. The online environment, with a possible lack of webcams, makes it easier for students to ‘disappear,’ while also make it difficult for teachers to pick up on the behavioral cues of their students. The lack of recognition of what could be considered obvious cues within the traditional classroom, can result in less teacher directed support for mental health issues. Additionally, counselling or learning support looks very different in the online world. It is much easier for students to avoid/hide from tough conversations, which can make it difficult for all supports to be confident in knowing how a student is truly feeling.
For students with disabilities, technology and online education can have a large variety of affects. For students who are able to engage with computers and technology with a high degree of independence, online education can be extremely beneficial. Apps, software and assistive technology, can be extremely helpful with communication skills, diagnoses such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, while being in a separate environment may also help those with high amounts of anxiety. Furthermore, as written on onlinedegrees.com learning online allows the “ability to work at their own pace, reviewing materials and video lectures as needed. For students with certain types of disabilities, like dyslexia and visual processing disorder, the ability to manipulate digital texts — by, say, changing the font style or size — can help them process and retain written information more effectively than they would viewing PowerPoint presentations in class or reading through traditional textbooks.” However, students with disabilities that affect their life to a higher degree physically or cognitively, can find great difficulty engaging in an online environment, particularly without the numerous direct or one-to-one supports that are common in a traditional school setting. This can also be tough for parents, as many are not prepared or able to fully support their student during typical school hours.
Throughout my section, I explained that while some classes can be taught to a high quality online, many classes that contain a major practical component, such as practical and applied arts, physical education or science classes, cannot be matched to the same degree online. While it is possible to teach a large portion of the theory online, practical, or hand-on projects that require specialized equipment are nearly impossible to replicate in every home. This fact alone can greatly affect the academic development of students, as it has the potential to affect their decisions for postsecondary schooling, along with potential career choices. Good points about hybrid learning were brought up in the debate, and while I recognize that this cannot be beneficial for every student, the possibility of seeing hybrid models increase in the future certainly interests me.
I also touched on extra-curricular involvement, and the differences in the online world. As many extra-curricular programs are athletic or performance based, it is quite difficult to replicate this in an online setting. Athletics and the arts alike vary greatly when you try and replicate them virtually. Additionally, many students learn and develop social, group and life skills while participating in extracurricular activities. Not offering these same opportunities to online students can certainly affect their social development.
To wrap this up, I’ve come to believe that online education, or a hybrid of such, can be beneficial to a small percentage of students, but also has the potential to be detrimental to many. Students that are mature, affluent, self-motivated, and self-disciplined may be able to succeed online, while granting themselves the flexibility that comes with online learning. However, students that benefit from the traditional supports within brick and mortar schools, struggle with motivation, lack access, or are simply are younger in age/grade, will benefit from the utilizing the traditional school system in comparison.
I’d like to thank Dr. Katia Hildebrandt and all the members of EC&I 830. This class was extremely enjoyable to be a part of, and I’m happy to have shifted some of my own teaching philosophies as a direct result from the meaningful discussions this term. Good luck to everyone going forward in their programs, and congratulations to those who are finishing their degrees! Have a great summer all!