Challenges to Online Learning in Schools During Pandemic - MRU

4 February, 2021
Challenges to Online Learning in Schools During Pandemic
Faculty of Human and Social Studies

The current situation in the field of education raises many different questions and reflections to which there are no easy answers. There is much discussion about the quality of distance education and the smooth process of its organisation. During the first half of the school year a large number of schools implemented distance learning. It is now possible to assess the experience of organising distance learning during the quarantine. MRU Faculty of Human and Social Studies Educational Sciences and Social Work researchers Assoc. Prof. Dr. Asta Railienė, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Romas Prakapas and Prof. Dr. Odeta Merfeldaitė studied experiences of schools regarding distance learning.

Experience of General Education Schools in Organising Distance-Learning During Quarantine

In order to evaluate the experience of general education schools in organizing distance learning during the quarantine, researchers of the Faculty of Human and Social Studies conducted a study. General education school deputies participated in the study. There were discussions about distance learning organisation problems and useful experiences for organising future learning. Despite all the challenges that have arisen connected with -Internet disruptions, lack of IT competency and the need for technical maintenance, - a positive aspect of the crisis is effective development of distance learning. It turned out the necessary conditions are: computer equipment, high-quality Internet connection and computer technology management skills. Implementation of these conditions poses a number of challenges. They include a lack of IT solutions suitable for schools. It was also  noted that there is a lack of hardware and a lack of high-quality Internet connection, which is not always ensured.  As a result, financial, technical and legal assistance should be sought at institutions on the national and regional level including through social partnerships. This would allow all participants in the educational process to properly prepare for distance learning and reduce inequalities between learners.

Distance Learning Advantages

The study has shown that distance learning, despite all the challenges it faces, also has a number of advantages. From the acquisition of unique knowledge, skills and abilities by teachers to the development of distance learning curricula (such as conversion of available resources to digital format and the creative organisation of independent work) to the changing role of the teacher, facilitator. Interpersonal relationships have become very important. They have a significant impact on students' successful learning, but also on behaviour and social integration. Thus, distance learning provides the flexibility to use a variety of learning resources. But one of the main conditions for this is that learners take responsibility for their own learning. Also, effective distance learning is unthinkable without qualified academic staff having exceptional planning, preparation, and time management skills as well as the and the ability to incorporate skills and abilities. These conditions allow education officials to apply previous forms of teaching and learning. Educational processes go beyond traditional realization and move towards digitalisation.    

MRU researchers Assoc. Prof. Asta Railienė, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Romas Prakapas and Prof. Dr. Odeta Merfeldaitė note that proper teacher training is one of the key components of the learning ecosystem that influences the sustainability of distance learning. Distance learning can be a catalyst for teacher activity, encouraging experimentation, development, research and rethinking of their own teaching practices, highlighting individual teacher leadership. However, this requires the support of school leaders in times of change in order to reduce the tension and anxiety of teachers and thus help them to overcome the challenges they face.