The COVID-19 pandemic influenced school operations across the globe. In-class instruction gave way to remote learning, as a vast majority of teachers and students alike learned to embrace a new standard for modern education, away from the classroom.

93% of homes with school-aged children reported that some form of remote learning was instituted, most commonly by their child’s school. The pandemic also saw a sharp increase in the use of online educational resources as supplementary tools for online learning, together with increased paper materials mailed to students’ homes.

The modern classroom landscape remains changed by the recent focus on distance learning. Specifically, changes to the learning environment, faculty relationships with technology, and integrated IT standards represent major shifts in the contemporary classroom dynamic.

Changes in Learning Environment

Remote learning has yielded changes in the modern learning environment, regardless of the grade level. From kindergarten through higher education, the impact of not being in a consistent classroom setting has presented a unique series of challenges and opportunities alike.

Some students seem to prefer remote learning conditions, allowing them to ask questions and adopt new concepts at a more comfortable pace, away from social pressures felt when learning alongside other students. One study even found that students who learned online performed incrementally better than they did in class

Students also experience the negative effects of the distance learning environment. Some students — motivated by the in-class atmosphere and social aspect of traditional education — find it difficult to maintain motivation while learning at home. One study estimates that even short-term remote learning could result in up to six months of lost education.

Other students don’t have the necessary technology at home to facilitate distance learning.

Faculty Relationships to Technology

Often, an unexpected transition to remote learning has required that educators quickly adapt to new teaching environments. This change can mean that teachers must adopt learning-based technology at an accelerated pace, for both in-person and virtual education settings.

Ultimately, the introduction of technology into remote classroom environments can cause problems. These issues can include internet connectivity issues, breakdowns in communication between students and teachers, and other problems that can temporarily compromise the quality of online education.

However, the prevalence of technology as a major component of the remote learning environment has also fostered several distinct benefits. 

These technology-related benefits for faculty can include:

  • Improved peer-to-peer collaboration;

  • Student preparation for future learning environments;

  • Enhanced teacher-to-student connections;

  • Incorporation of unique learning styles.

Technology has ultimately allowed teachers to interact with students in environments where they feel more comfortable. In addition, faculty have discovered previously unused online resources that they have since adopted into regular curriculums.  

Increased IT Lesson Integrations

Especially in rural communities, the newfound importance of reliable internet access for remote learning has had a positive impact on the spread of internet bandwidth across the country. Though many rural communities still face limited access to consistent bandwidth, internet coverage across the United States has seen undeniable advances.

Reliable internet access has become an integral part of the remote learning environment. Internet access has arguably never been more of a priority in the home, especially now that teachers assign lessons that use online educational resources.

Many internet providers have taken steps to provide internet discounts for students, to ensure that every learner has access to the tools they need to thrive in a remote learning environment. In households with limited computer access, affordable tablet options can help facilitate successful distance learning and access to a variety of online educational tools.

Challenging Ideas About Educational Effectiveness

Despite widespread reliance on the remote learning model, some educators and students continue to challenge the effectiveness of the approach. In 2020, 55% of surveyed university presidents still felt that their universities were successful in pursuing high academic standards. According to the same source, only 41% of students claimed that their remote learning experience was an improvement over traditional in-class instructional methods.

While these statistics could be indicative of shared opinions across the United States, they are only averages. Individual opinions among teachers, students, school faculty, and parents of students could differ from these results.

What to Expect for the Future of Technology in Education

Technology will likely continue to play a prevalent role in student education. Despite its drawbacks, the benefits can mean good things for the future of education.

Hybrid Models

Hybrid classroom models allow teachers to organically combine technology with more traditional teaching methods, all while prioritizing the ways that students learn best. 

Sometimes, this can mean a classroom approach where students participate in both in-class and remote learning, depending on the environment they prefer. Other times, a hybrid classroom model can mean the introduction of smartphones in the classroom, or other devices that connect students with helpful online resources.

Increased Technology Literacy

The integration of technology in the classroom is actively driving demand for individuals with technology literacy. Much of the same video conferencing and communication technology used by students is also used by professionals in the workplace, making these skills desirable among professionals.

Students and teachers proficient in the basic use of technology — especially technology that involves video teleconferencing, text correspondence, file transfers, or online resource sharing — will find those skills coveted when searching for new opportunities in the workplace.

Trends Toward Cheaper Higher Education

With more accredited universities now offering remote learning as a possibility, higher education can be more accessible — and affordable — for all students.

As building costs and classroom utility expenses decrease with the parallel rise in remote learning, institutions of higher education are now able to offer curriculums at rates that are more affordable than ever. Cheaper higher education can mean increased enrollment rates, with more students now fiscally able to pursue collegiate degrees.

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