Distance learning and its consequences

The pandemic forced the use of distance teaching. Before making this a common practice, boundaries should be set on how to do it.

Distance teaching has become a practice without any real reflection happening on how to do it and its future impacts, be it on students or on personnel. The health crisis was a real-life laboratory to document many distance teaching mechanisms: online, synchronous (real time) or asynchronous (on-demand), co-modal (the student chooses between distance or in-person mode) and hybrid (sometimes remotely, sometimes in person and sometimes simultaneously). What to learn from those experiences?

Real consequences

The Fédération du personnel de l’enseignement privé (FPEP-CSQ) conducted a qualitative study to initiate a reflection on the quality of the students’ learning in a distance learning context, document the transformation of the work for the union members and list the effects on the working conditions.

Ten findings were generated, including: technology did not motivate the students as much as studies pretend, the erosion of the teacher-student relationship is alarming, and the work is getting heavier and more complex, to the point that it generates a serious feeling of inadequacy.

“These results prompted us to call out the Education minister, Jean-François Roberge, on the reality experienced in our environments and to take note of the consequences this type of teaching has had on the personnel and students,” states FPEP-CSQ president, Stéphane Lapointe.

Students learn better in class

Following the summit on educational success, the Education minister publicly recognized that students learn better in class. The experiences lived remotely are not all bad, but it is clear they cannot reproduce ideal learning and knowledge transmission conditions.

Therefore, before some institutions make the mistake of normalizing an approach that should be exceptional, it is urgent to act to identify the conditions for applying distance teaching. “This path shouldn’t be followed for any one reason, says Marie-Josée Dallaire, first vice-president of the FPEP-CSQ. As paradoxical as it might seem, online teaching has the effect of disconnecting the teaching personnel and the students and of breaking a precious link that promotes learning.”

For a concerted and respectful digital shift

As long as the Education Ministry doesn’t speak out on clear markers to regulate the reliance on distance teaching, the FPEP-CSQ will continue to document the conditions where this type of education can enrich or undermine the pedagogical relationship between personnel and students.

Until a set of conditions are established to foster an increased engagement from the students, avoid an increasing burden of the teaching personnel, and bring a significant contribution to educational success, relying on distance teaching must remain exceptional.

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