The future of distance learning depends on its technological elements working in harmony. Tech solutions that facilitate new learning methods are just one small piece of an enormous puzzle. Hybrid learning models won't be effective until students have consistent access to the internet and computers, the Economic Policy Institute says. But more than 9 million children in the United States do not have access to the internet, and 4.4 million households with school-age children do not have a computer at home.
Educators will need specialized training to meet online learning goals. Instructors often cannot quickly adapt to new, tech-dependent models. Teachers will need to know how to navigate new software and develop learning plans that leverage it, what to do when the software doesn't work correctly and how they can help students struggling with its learning curve.
Elementary distance learning has been especially challenging for younger students, as it does not provide the consistent instruction and social interaction they need to develop. And reduced instructional and learning time, the Economic Policy Institute reports, impede student performance. Attending school in the early elementary years is about much more than learning—it's about developing social skills. If children are not engaged with distance learning programs, absenteeism will become a factor.
Children and teachers are not the only ones who face challenges in elementary distance learning. Parents of homebound learners often assume the dual role of parent and teacher—and often face the same challenges educators do. Long days, complicated schedules and stringent attendance and participation policies place significant pressure on parents of remote students.