The news has been littered with stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives and the educational system. Announcements from the Prime Minister imposing strict stay-at-home orders and imploring Australians to heed all social distancing guidelines. Headlines reporting that schools across Australia have been closed, then reopened, then closed again due to the unexpected outbreaks. Interviews with parents who were left confused over the sudden and constant changes in school directives. But what about the children and students - what do they think about all of this? To date, very little has been shared on how they feel about returning to school and the pandemic overall.
Between May and July of this year, our team surveyed over 13,000 students and over 550 teachers across Australia to help us answer the question: What do the students think? We gave them the opportunity to express their opinions on online educational tools, the impact remote learning has had on their learning, their productivity whilst learning from home, and the social-emotional impacts of remote learning.
Here is what they had to say:
After experiencing online learning for some period of time, 60% of students agreed that they would like to add more online tools to their educational experience. Even a resounding 82% of teachers indicated a desire to involve more online tools in their lesson plans. This is particularly reassuring, considering the fact that technology will play an increasingly important role in education now and for the foreseeable future. As for the remaining students that are opposed to adding more online tools to their studies, it is important for teachers and administrators to find out why. Identifying the impacts that online learning has had on these students can help improve implementation of the virtual classroom and provide them with the support they need.
62% of students also noticed that they worked harder while learning remotely as opposed to the traditional classroom setting. The lack of a commute to and from school afforded students more time in the day to work on their studies. And, online learning offered them more flexibility to focus on those topics and subjects they enjoyed the most - fostering an environment of student autonomy and self-directed learning.
When asked which subjects were the easiest to learn from home, maths was ranked the highest. (English came in as a close second.) And interestingly, teachers agreed; 74% of the teachers we surveyed felt that maths was the subject most suited for online learning.
71% of students indicated that online learning can never replace their teachers. While we all know that the future of education lays within technology and online learning tools, the role teachers play in education can never be replaced. It is essential that regardless of the technology being used, teachers should always be afforded the ability to build the teacher-student connection and provide their students with guidance and feedback. Once again, our teachers echoed this sentiment, with 85% saying that technology can never replace their role.
Additionally, despite the positive sentiments expressed towards the online learning experience, students also shared just how much they missed various aspects of the traditional classroom setting. An overwhelming 80% of students indicated that they missed their friends and 50% said they missed their extra-curricular activities the most. This is a clear indication that administrators need to see beyond the academic needs of their students and facilitate changes that also address their social-emotional needs.
The report overall provides an opportunity for department heads and principals to address the concerns expressed by their teachers and students, along with the challenges they'll face in a pandemic school year.
- What changes will be made to the blended classroom format to reduce the impact that future school closures will have on student learning?
- How can distance learning plans be improved to ensure students don't continue to fall behind academically?
- How will teachers be better supported as they teach remotely?
- What precautions can be implemented to afford students a safe and effective way to interact with friends and participate in extracurricular activities?
It is our hope that our findings encourage decision-makers to consider and implement the voices of Australian students as they establish policies and changes that directly affect them.
(Our team also ran a concurrent survey with students across the United States. Interested in learning what they had to say? If so, click here.)
One way to help support teachers and improve student performance in the digital classroom is to ensure that the right technology is being used. To find out how Mathspace has helped students teachers around the world navigate learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, schedule a quick chat with one of our implementation specialists.