There has been a lot of talk recently about the impact of the coronavirus on learning and how the pandemic treats students unequally. The coronavirus has created a new unusual situation in which services that help and structure everyday life in society have been discontinued or partially withdrawn. After the schools closed in the spring of 2020, every parent and child found a new kind of everyday life to be true.
Teachers were particularly affected by the new everyday life and distance learning. Municipalities did not have time to comprehensively train teachers to implement distance learning, teachers only had to survive and take over distance learning themselves. A hat tip for teachers: they survived mostly well. Of course, there are always a number of exceptions, and perhaps the content and quality of teaching changed somewhat.
Challenges of distance learning – distance learning was challenging for almost everyone
One everyday problem with distance learning in homes has been the adequacy of laptops and other terminals. For example, in a family with three or more children, there has surely been thought about how distance learning is organized and whether there are enough suitable equipment for even every child?
Another practical finding has been the fuss five minutes before the start of teaching to get each child’s teaching session to begin. Once teaching began, providing usage support initially took time. In the end, these things were part of everyday life. Gradually, the mornings and the start of distance learning sessions became routine and the children skillfully learned to go to their own teaching session. But what did the children remember about this distance learning session?
For parents, distance learning has been an additional burden. When parents are telecommuting and children are in distance education, everyone must strive to find their own peaceful place where they can perform their duties. In small apartment buildings, suitable space may be running out. In addition to their own teleworking, parents must support their children’s learning or, at the very least, ensure that the learning goes smoothly.
Preparing lunches for the whole crowd has certainly not been quite effortless either. For example, making lunch for five people takes its time, unless the family is content with yesterday’s leftovers, bread, or ready-made food and snacks from the store. Repeated, easy, and unimaginative lunch choices gradually begin to saturate everyone. Leftover meatballs from the weekend are made one day, spinach pancakes are eaten the second and chicken strip sauce and rice are eaten on the third. Every Finnish parent has certainly thought of thanking the school for a free lunch when the home has run the food supply for a week and a weekend.
Teleworking makes work and time more efficient
There has been a lot of talk that teleworking is more time efficient and productive. What about when the home school and the above-mentioned maintenance tasks related to distance learning are connected to it? It would be interesting to have research data on how effective telework has been since the pandemic. I would guess that for the most part, time and work efficiency have improved if the tendency for too many meetings at the beginning has been brought under control and the work rhythmized properly. This experience is of great importance for how the work is organized in the future.
The previous practice before the coronavirus was to have one remote work day a week. We are now in a completely opposite model. I could predict that in the future, the work will be done somewhat remotely, but certain fixed points and internal meetings will still be held on site. Their number will also decrease and remote meetings are an increasingly common way of meeting. One of my acquaintances mentioned years ago that he had never seen his own boss live. The boss sat in London and he here in Finland. The work had already been done then, so why not now.
Meetings of large international companies have run remotely for a long time. In addition to distance, the challenge is also the time difference between different people. However, the cooperation has been successful nonetheless. Teleworking is strongly influenced by the employee’s motivation and ambition to do their job and develop, and to advance through their career. Being open to new technology and activities – this also brings new career opportunities.
What has followed from the coronavirus – observations
The concept of quarantine has become clear. At the same time, it has shocked how extensively those exposed after an incident of infection are quarantined. At the most recent event held in a restaurant for foreign students in Jyväskylä, 100 students became infected and 1,000 were quarantined. Fortunately, one can work in quarantine, and it is therefore not a stop to work, for example. In the case of young children and young people under the age of 16, quarantine also has some effect on parents’ daily schedules and work. During quarantine, there is a duty to care for the child, as is normally the case when the child is in pain, with the difference that the child is not in pain and has full-fledged power at his disposal. Quarantines again guide the distance school and the challenges it brings.
When discussing the costs and effects of the coronavirus afterwards, it will be interesting to see which issues are highlighted. As usual, the challenges faced by lonely elderly people and children with learning difficulties may fall under the news of government debt. Unfortunately, information about mental disorders and their reporting only becomes available after the studies have been completed, when the best time to deal with the matter is over. The 3 % drop in GDP and the issue of returning to pre-pandemic levels will get a lot of column space and screen time in the economic debate. Of course, this is a key issue for the long-term functioning of society as a whole. However, every company laid off, laid off and gone bankrupt is a human manifestation of GDP dripping.
For their part, companies are exploring their own experiences. Teleworking doesn’t harm routine tasks, they run even more efficiently. Meetings can be held and there are various instant messaging services that can be seen by other attendees. In innovative and competitive projects and work assignments where seamless, spontaneous, often even wordless communication and informal corridor discussions of the team are important moments of crystallization and iteration of ideas and innovation, are left out. Companies are currently losing this important input to telecommuting. How can this lost contribution be assessed? At least in terms of extended schedules, lost competitive advantages, declining sales of existing products and services, declining margins, etc.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, an increase in learning difficulties has been highlighted. The skills of children with learning difficulties are declining. Special children are interrupted when it is difficult to organize a learning situation that requires structured support. For a child who suffers from excessive activity or some other learning limiting factor, learning may simply be too difficult to arrange at home. During the longer quarantine period, it was possible to provide education for special children in schools. Was this opportunity real for everyone? I guess it wasn’t.
Many of the young people, e.g. graduates preparing for the final exams, lamented the rhythm of the day and the challenges of starting their studies. This is a significant observation: when the rhythm of the day disappears from life, getting other things done can feel challenging. It should be clarified how much underperformance has occurred. It has consequences for the development of the competitiveness of society and for the young person’s own development.
Some of the students, on the other hand, were able to take advantage of distance learning. Older students and high school students in particular, who were able to schedule their studies and hobbies that supported their studies, benefited from the situation. Self-reliance and talent as an equation have produced the best results, and students have been able to progress in their studies faster and thus save time. One lesson from the coronavirus is that teaching and learning should be able to be supported individually. It would be possible for every student with modern technology to guarantee different ways to complete their studies. One fits the lessons and the things they go through and do the tasks, the other just the self-study of the theory and the tasks. There are also a variety of technology platforms and software that can support students. Decision-makers should be aware of the different learning solutions on offer and be open-minded, start experimenting and invest in new solutions. In this way, Finland is at the forefront of learning and our vision of new methods and solutions is the most advanced in the world. In this way, the learning outcomes will remain high.
The work of the teachers has been drilling in the middle of the pandemic. Consider the situation: the teacher works from home, and there are also the teacher’s own children who need to be arranged for a distance school. After this, the teacher must start their own teaching for their class. Teaching should strive to progress according to the curriculum, and the weakest should not be forgotten. Time should be found for preparing classes and exams as well as conducting support instruction. My own experience was that the number of hours the lessons decreased and the children were given more homework. This is because the planning and tools of teaching do not correspond technologically to this point in time.
As a result of the coronavirus, it should be analyzed how distance learning can be implemented and new technologies introduced so that they enhance the work of the teacher and relieve stress. Yes, teachers can withstand the current pandemic, but this must be used as a lesson for the future development of teaching, so that both in the ordinary and special situations, teaching and learning can be provided more effectively for all young people and children.
Children and young people suffer from distance learning. I heard about the incident during the distance education of a young student’s suicide, it surely raised some thoughts, despite the fact I did not know all the background to the event. Children and young people both at home and elsewhere have hoped that distance learning will no longer come. Let’s hope so.