Ontario Wooden Discusses the Benefits and Disadvantages of Online Learning During a Pandemic
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, thousands of educators across the country were forced to adapt their curricula to continue teaching online. Despite the teachers’ ability to adapt to remote learning, this transition was not without its challenges. Ontario Wooden is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success at North Carolina Central University, and is interested in online learning as an alternative to face-to-face instruction, but is aware of both its benefits and its difficulties. As someone who is passionate about helping low income and first-generation college students, Ontario Wooden weighs in on the advantages and disadvantages of online learning in the middle of a pandemic.
Mitigating the Spread
As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the United States, there is growing concern around re-opening schools this fall. In addition, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, there has been a 90% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among children in the United States over the last four weeks. Ontario Wooden hopes that with student and staff safety at the top of mind, online learning has naturally become the most viable option. Focused on collaboration and communication, Ontario Wooden believes that online learning has the potential to be effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 among children. However, he understands that online learning has certain limitations that need to be addressed.
Navigating Technical Challenges
One of the first challenges of online learning is technical ability and accessibility. Not everyone has access to a personal computer at home or a strong internet connection. Of course, this is the biggest challenge to online learning, as it may impact vulnerable, low-income communities the most. In schools where children are unable to participate in online learning, alternatives like socially distanced, limited attendance classes should be organized for their benefit. Ontario Wooden strongly believes that no student should be left behind as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
The second challenge of online learning is in motivating students to stay engaged with the curriculum. Online learning requires motivation to stay on track and make continual progress, which is more easily maintained when students are surrounded by instructors and peers — versus at home. Time management in this environment is crucial to success, and can be mitigated through the implementation of schedules and habits. Ontario Wooden notes that it might be beneficial to encourage students to have a designated work space at home, where all distractions are removed. In addition, encouraging the creation of a to-do list for the day or week can help you break down big projects and responsibilities into smaller, more manageable ones.
A collaborative environment that is made possible by in-person classes can often be lost in an online learning environment. Ontario Wooden reports that collaborative engagement motivates learning and promotes a deeper and more critically aware approach to the subject matter. Daily check-ins and actively encouraging discussion online can be a useful way to continually engage students.
Online learning on this scale is likely to pose as many challenges as it does benefits, but Ontario Wooden is confident that with hard work, collaboration, and determination, it may be the safest option for students and educators across the United States this Fall.