Could Distance Learning Remain an Option After the Pandemic?

Could Distance Learning Remain an Option After the Pandemic?

Rares Rusalim, Staff Writer

As the 2nd anniversary of Covid-19 comes around in March, many of us are likely expecting governments around the world and the community here at GEMS to decide whether or not to allow distance learning after the pandemic. Around March 2020, the whole world started to go online and develop a brand new method of learning that was never before used at that scale, a learning method over Zoom.  Now, for this article, I wanted to try and look at the student perspective and a few ways that teachers might have to deal with distance learning becoming a mainstay along with whether or not it might be a good idea, with the suitable developments, of course.

Let’s take a look at some of the background of the pandemic and how it affected our lives. When online learning started, everyone was still trying to get set up, and for some, there was an almost excited mood for a “break” from school and the idea of a new form of learning. As the pandemic, and subsequently, distance learning stretched past the summer and into the following year, many of our moods started to darken. One student at GAA even described distance learning as “A punch to the face for those who have busy lives.” A survey was done by McKinsey & Company, one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, found that the majority of teachers around the world would only rate the success of distance learning a 5/10, teachers in America and Japan would even give an average rating between 1 to 3/10. Now, this will most likely bring out a different result for opposing sides, with the one in favour of distance learning wondering how it could keep improving, and the one in opposition of distance learning could use this as evidence for distance learning not being a viable option and as one that needs to be removed.

Different Viewpoints

We should now delve into the two potential opposing views that may come with the idea of distance learning continuing, the one in favour and the one opposing. The side in favour will support the idea that distance learning can and will be a strong method of learning, and one that has a significant benefit of not needing to use a physical classroom and allowing for students even from different countries to all learn in one class or lecture. For that side, all distance learning needs is a course revamp and a new way of learning, like a former maths teacher said, “It could work, but only if you adapt it for online, as it’s not good to keep a child in front of a computer for 8 hours.”  The other side believes that distance learning has so far failed and will most likely continue to fail due to all the complexities surrounding distance learning for education. One student at GAA even mentioned the idea that “Distance learning is proven to be less effective.” and another discussed a different side of the story, how teachers could be affected by it, saying, “We have to think about teachers too, and it’s put in their contract that they will teach students in person.” Teaching students online requires a whole different set of skills and has another added layer that in-person learning doesn’t have. Adding to this, GEMS’ method of simultaneously teaching students online and in-person is yet another unnecessary layer of stress that we may be putting onto teachers by continuing distance learning. 


There is another dynamic of mental health issues arising from spending 8 hours minimum inside without much social contact of any kind and eye-strain from spending a long amount of time on a computer screen. According to the APA (American Psychological Association), there is a trend of students struggling with motivation and inspiration due to online learning and the pandemic. Of course, mental health issues from Zoom don’t apply to everyone, but there have still only been a couple of years for researchers to conduct their studies, and mental health issues often take time to display themselves. The unfortunate thing is that, without having enough time yet, we don’t really know what could happen to kids and students that learn exclusively online, but with the current trends discovered by researchers, things seem rather grim. There is also the effect of screen time leading to eye-strain, something that is well researched by organisations like Cleveland Clinic and WebMD. Schools, and especially GEMS, don’t do enough to educate students on just how much screens can cause issues with eyes, and like one student at GAA said, “Students should be educated about different tips for learning online, such as the 20/20/20 rule.” There are even issues caused by wearing headphones for too long, especially in-ear ones. Wearing earbuds or IEM’s (In-Ear Monitors) can lead to problems such as Earwax buildup or even blockage, yet another studied medical issue that can be associated with online learning.

What Next?

Looking at the massive list of flaws with online learning, many are likely quick to forget that some schools have already been doing online learning since before the pandemic ever happened. According to Community College Daily, around 25% of community college students were already doing courses online, and it isn’t a massive stretch to see how the architecture used by these colleges could also be used for regular schools globally. There are benefits to distance learning, like ease of access for students in some areas, being able to learn in a more comfortable place, and potentially easier access for those with disabilities. There are people with chronic illnesses or other issues that might not let them be able to go to regular school as easily as other people, and keeping online learning as an option massively benefits those people. There is legitimate cause for online schools and online courses, and these things should not be overlooked.

 In conclusion, Distance learning will most likely remain as an option in the form of separate online schools for those who choose to go that way, but a mixture of online and in-person learning will most likely not be a thing that remains in GAA after the pandemic ends.