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Distance education: The pros and cons of remote learning

School districts must adjust to the new normal

August 03, 2020

Distance education: The pros and cons of remote learning
Public education is in a serious state of flux. After schools nationwide suffered abrupt closures in March, remote learning, or distance education, became the norm. And with a new academic year rapidly approaching, school districts everywhere are asking similar questions:
Where will we be in September? Where will we be in a year from September? Will the temporary move to remote learning be the start of a sea change in the way we view education?
As a public sector reseller, it’s a great time for you to engage in the conversation and support school districts as they hustle to secure their plans. Here’s some information that can help.
Pros of distance learning

It’s highly effective for most students. Many students excel with distance learning—especially those who have been reticent to participate in face-to-face settings.
Self-paced education works for multiple learning styles. Whether students are quick or slow learners, remote learning reduces stress and increases satisfaction, without the pressure of keeping up in a classroom setting.
Students gain valuable technology experience. Not only can students bolster their computer and internet skills, they can transfer the knowledge gained to other facets of their lives, including their future careers.
It improves accessibility. Distance learning can address physical accessibility issues that students with limited mobility encounter when taking traditional classes.
Distance learning doesn’t require commuting. Teachers, students and families will save time and money by not traveling back and forth to school.
Timing can be flexible. Many school curriculums are asynchronous, which means students don’t have to attend lectures at a particular time. They can review the online assignments and do their homework whenever it’s convenient.
Cons of distance learning
Many districts don’t provide devices. Many students across the country are equipped with tablets and computers provided by their schools. But that leaves out many school districts where such devices aren’t provided, as well as many students, particularly in rural areas and from low-income backgrounds, for whom home access to the internet or a personal digital device is out of reach. 
Last year, the Associated Press analyzed census data and found that nearly 3 million (18 percent) of U.S. students lack home internet access, and 17 percent had no home computers.
Student engagement can be an issue. Making sure students are engaged with teachers and classmates when they’re in virtual meetings like Zoom or Google Meets can be difficult. Developing bilingual programs for many districts’ substantial population of English-language learners can also be a challenge.
Technical difficulties are a risk. Sometimes students have technical difficulties with online learning. There may be days when their internet doesn’t work, when programs and software are down or they’re unable to access their courses.
Distance learning doesn’t offer immediate feedback. In a traditional classroom setting, a student’s performance can be immediately assessed through questions and informal testing. With remote learning, a student has to wait for feedback until the instructor has reviewed their work and responded to it.
It’s hard to build relationships online. Education includes relationship-building, and it’s much more challenging to develop friendships and relationships over an online platform. Students are still social creatures and need face-to-face interactions—with teachers and other classmates.
Students can suffer from too much screen time. During the school day, students are online for teaching and homework. After hours, many continue to use technology for entertainment (e.g., video games, movies, television). That’s a lot of screen time. Structure is required to ensure students get proper sleep and physical activity each day, too. 
How can you help? The full impact of recent events on the future of public schools remains to be seen. But you can offer hardware and software that can directly enable remote learning, such as laptops, headsets and collaboration applications, as well as other adjacent technologies required to create a complete and secure solution.