As students and teachers continue to engage in online learning, many parents are facing the burden of remote working and serving as teachers and caregivers, noted Rachel Paula Abrahamson of Today, a news website. For instance, a disgruntled mom went viral when she joined with frustrated parents who are choosing not to engage with distance learning during the outbreak.
Archaeologist and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Sarah Parcak told Today Parents, “This isn’t working.” Parcak sent an email to her son's “wonderful and compassionate” first grade teacher, saying that her seven-year-old son would no longer be attending virtual classes.
On the other hand, Don Seaman, a media and marketing professional, works in the family room to assist his kids’ virtual learning while his wife works in the bedroom every day, reported Erin Richards of USA Today, an internationally distributed American daily middle-market newspaper. According to Seaman, virtual learning is not working despite the teachers exerting their best effort. “The older kids were saying 'This is hell.' My kids feel isolated, and they can't keep up, and they're struggling with it," he added.
The Challenges and Dissatisfaction With Online Learning
A survey conducted by youth market research consultancy YouthSight for the Higher Education Policy Institute found that 42% of 1,000 undergraduates were either “very satisfied” or “quite satisfied” with the online learning provided amid school closures, down from 49% in March, reported Anna Mckie of academic and university news site Times Higher Education.
Alternatively, 63% of students were “very satisfied” or “quite satisfied” with the way their institution handled their assessment while 20% were very or quite dissatisfied. With regard to accommodation, 57% said they are living away from their usual term-time residence while 30% said they have received a refund on accommodation costs or early release from a contract, cited Will Hazell of iNews, a British national morning paper.
For the next school year, students expected increased hygiene (75%), some online learning (71%), and social distancing measures (71%). Further, they expected limitations to courses (26%), a delayed start to term, and all learning to be online (18%). In another study by survey platform Survey Monkey, 32% of students would want to get updates from their school whenever new information about the virus becomes available while 29% would want to get updates every two to three days. Only 25% want to be contacted daily.
57% of students were connecting with their professors at least a few times a week and 53% would find virtual office hours extremely or very beneficial (87% of those who answered at least somewhat beneficial.” However, transitioning to online learning can be a challenge for students who felt prepared as 86% found it to be disruptive while only 37% are extremely or very prepared to shift to an online learning environment.
Among students who find themselves the most prepared for online learning, 71% said their school experience was disrupted by this transition. Some of the top concerns about transitioning from in-person classes to distance learning were keeping up with coursework (45%), losing contact with instructors or professors (33%), being physically isolated from classmates (31%), and juggling other priorities like child care and family care (30%).
Why Do Parents Not Like Online Learning?
1. Lack of Research
Many students struggle to engage with their classmates and class. For teachers, it is challenging to help struggling students and build solid relationships via chat, email, and video call. Exhausted parents—who also serve as their children’s tutors—said it’s unsustainable if they are also trying to work remotely. Brian Fitzpatrick, a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame and former middle school teacher, commented that there is a lack of research about the techniques that constitute high-quality virtual learning. He added, “The COVID pandemic has certainly drawn attention to the need to identify best practices."
Fitzpatrick and his team wrote on liberal think tank Brookings Institution that the effect of participating in virtual learning on student achievement is “uniformly and profoundly negative.” However, for students who have a committed parent at home, online learning can be “highly tailored and effective,” explained Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections.
2. It Depends On Experience
For example, Karen Reyes, who teaches kids who are deaf or hard of hearing at Linder Elementary School in Austin, Texas, said she recorded herself doing videos for students and their parents. Sadly, her youngest students had difficulty using the technology, and reading to them virtually was challenging.
When they are at school, Reyes’s students would ask questions or make comments to correlate the story to their experiences. But in online learning, her students are silent. Meanwhile, Florida’s sixth-largest district Broward County held workshops for teachers in traditional schools to help them learn Canvas, said Daryl Diamond, director of innovative learning. Broward County hosted its virtual school since 2001 and before spring break, approximately half of its teachers published courses on Canvas, the district’s learning platform. After spring break, the number skyrocketed to 98%.
3. No Internet Access
Tawana Brown of South Bend, Indiana, drives her family to a parking lot where WiFi-equipped school buses are parked ever since schools in the South Bend school district closed in March. At home, Brown’s family does not have affordable, reliable internet connection, but she wants her kids to keep learning.
This issue remains to be a glaring problem no matter how teachers are trained to conduct better online classes. Low-income households are least likely to have a computer and high-speed internet for virtual learning. Across the US, remote learning is mandatory unless school districts say otherwise. Jon E. Pedersen, dean of the University of South Carolina College of Education, stated that some districts are providing hard copies of materials, including the talk of extending the school year or if possible, starting school during the summer.
4. Not Being In School Full-Time
Parents who are dissatisfied with online learning are pressuring districts to put children to school full-time even if they don’t have to follow social distancing measures. Health experts argued that wearing masks and other preventive measures can help curb the virus. However, Kim Collins, a parent who lives near Boston and is part of Bring Kids Back MA, countered, “If our children do not return to school full time in full capacity, the achievement gap between different districts is going to widen."
Online learning may not be a viable option for some families, especially those that do not have access to a computer and stable internet connection. Families may also have difficulty juggling work, as well as being a tutor and parent.