Is distant e-learning the ideal alternative during a crisis?
Following the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), UNESCO issued a report on the state of education around the world: We should sound that alarm that nearly 421.4 million students have stopped learning. Schools have been closed entirely in 39 countries, and partially in some regions in 22 countries. Despite the continuous efforts exerted by the educational institutions in countries in order to keep operating education, under the pandemic the world is going through, WHO recommendations have always been pushing towards social distancing and preventing unnecessary gatherings in all institutions. Therefore, educational institutions around the world were the most affected victim. In a recent report, UNESCO has shown that 1.37 billion students around the world have stopped learning due to the crisis, after closing schools in nearly 138 countries.
As a result, points of view were divided into two parts: some views are keen to prove that the education process has to continue and advance under no circumstance and, therefore, a large number of teachers around the world try to prove this idea in order to ensure the sustainability of education by promoting the online distant education system. The other side of the spectrum believe that formal education has to be stopped, and institutions must find the right mechanism to end the school year without studying the rest of the curriculum.
This raises the following question:
Is distant e-learning the ideal alternative to formal education, especially under the COVID-19 pandemic crisis?
“Distant e-learning ensures the sustainability of education, and it is a huge leap in the educational system.”
1. The education process must continue permanently to achieve the development of societies.
The importance of sustaining the education process stems from two aspects: the first is the cultural and cognitive formation of the society that education constitutes. Disruption of education because of crises – especially the long ones – will affect this formation in one way or another, especially in the early educational stages. This is because disruption will generate a time gap for the learner between what was learned and what will be learned. This will negatively affect the connection between previous and subsequent knowledge and the consolidation of acquired skills. In order not to accumulate the curricula, educational institutions in countries will be forced to cancel or integrate, which means not to gain sufficient interconnected knowledge in the school stages.
On another hand, educational outcomes are concerned with the development of society, which means that any harm that may affect this cultural and cognitive formation in the outcomes of the educational process will inevitably affect the development of society. Thus, we have to ensure the sustainability of the education process, even in crises, through online distant education.
2. The importance of distant e-learning lies in the impact it has on the educational process.
E-learning will push the curricula to be more dynamic, and it will affect the students’ trends in order to generate with them a desire and motivation towards self-learning. Online distant education is achieved through the student’s ability to deal with knowledge and skills on the web, and such system makes the student develop a passion for research and reading to extract what needs to be achieved from the learning process, according to the criteria and requirements specified by the educational institutions, and under the supervision of a responsible teacher, in contrast to the rigid curricula indoctrinated in schools that have characterized most of the curricula around the world.
By this, the student begins to strive towards knowledge until he acquires it, and parents will be the catalyst towards achieving this. Educational institutions will begin to reformulate the curricula according to this idea and provide data and knowledge appropriate for the student, a fact which develops a generation that is aware of the importance of learning and contributes to the development of the society.
“Distant e-learning will not achieve what is needed from the education process for everyone.”
1. Distant e-learning will not be available to all segments of society.
Launching any new educational project or system relies upon foundations, most important of which: Preparation and Capabilities. By looking at the Preparation process, we find that educational institutions will face a major problem; if we say that they have been able to train and prepare all teachers, such institutions will face huge issues in spreading awareness among parents, especially those whom technology does not fall within the circle of their interest, or even those who are ignorant of technology (they are abundant around the world). This will hinder the process of interaction as required due to the lack of parents’ conviction and support to the idea.
As for Capabilities, we will find that many countries, including developing ones, lack the required capabilities. Even in some rich and developed countries, the capabilities are not available to all of them. When we count the capabilities required for a single student while considering the low-income or poor families, we find it is difficult to provide all of these financial capabilities on one hand, and it is also difficult to provide a home environment that is suitable for learning on the other. This means that the use of technology for distant e-learning will not be available to everyone.
2. Distant e-learning will not serve all academic disciplines.
It may be useful in teaching theoretical subjects, which depends on dialogue and discussion or viewing and observation to develop student’s knowledge, trends as well as some personal skills. However, there is an important aspect, namely the applied craft skills, which will be missed in online distant education, especially those scientific field disciplines, such as handcrafts, engineering, medicine and other disciplines that depend on application with sensitive tools and accurate steps that cannot be simulated through online distant education.