Facing the Challenges of Covid-19 Distance Learning

There are a few topics that I considered posting about today. As a matter of fact, I have a rough list of topics that I plan to cover over the next few weeks. Distance learning is a topic that has jumped out to the front of the line recently due to our current situation with Covid-19. Today’s post may be a little shorter and more personal, but I will still provide some resource links for the topic. This post is a little personal because I am currently in my final semester of the engineering program and I’m doing it via distance learning. I’ve been working on a year long group senior design project that is scheduled to be completed and turned in by mid December. I must also complete traditional engineering classroom lab assignments that were designed to be worked on in groups, but now I have to figure out how to do those assignments at home (usually alone). I also have one class that seems to have a roughly ten second delay between the audio and what is shown on the screen. Along with that, I’m also committed to the assignments in my elective classes and the schedule that I choose to adhere myself to regarding this website. I do not bring up any of this to complain but to give readers a more personal account of some of the challenges faced with distance learning. In reality, I am thankful because my challenges are small. I have a nice setup for Zoom meetings, high speed internet, a computer engineering background, and plenty of friends and faculty from the computer engineering and science department ready to help me as soon as I send out an email. I do not have any major distractions outside of my school work. Even this site helps to reinforce subjects that I’ve learned over the years as well as introduce me to new ones. I believe that I have an ideal situation but I also know that my situation is in no way common.

Being Mindful of Others During This Time

There are many people out there facing a multitude of challenges with distance learning. When I say that, I am thinking about teachers, parents and students. I will focus more on current students in this post because they really are our future. In addition, their means of education is being directly affected in unprecedented ways in which future ramifications are still yet to be determined. Obviously, as a society we were not prepared for Covid-19 and a lot of well intentioned plans had to be rushed in order to setup multiple networks for distance learning. The reality is that there are students that do not have high speed internet, a distraction free environment, computer skills, and in some cases, the hardware necessary to complete a semester of distance learning. Can you imagine a kid out there that is constantly distracted at home trying to learn calculus, physics, or coding on a computer with the slowest internet connection affordable? Can you then imagine the stress on that kid during test time while they are depending on that that internet connection to help them move on to the next grade? Now imagine frustrated parents that would love to help their kids with these issues but they are busy trying to keep a roof over everyone’s head during a pandemic. If you take into account the number of the kids that are hoping to become first generation college graduates, and consider that some of their parents simply can not help them with higher level math, and tutoring is not an option, you can begin to see how things can just unravel.

The Achievement Gap

I’ll try not to ramble on, go off topic, and make this post too long but I would like to at least lightly address the education Achievement Gap in United States. Honestly, the Achievement Gap in the U.S. is a topic in itself that is more than worthy of its own post and or website. The depths of that topic can not be addressed on this short post about distance learning during Covid-19. So with that said, below is a short excerpt and link from Wikipedia detailing what the Achievement Gap is.

Achievement gaps in the United States are observed, persistent disparities in measures of educational performance among subgroups of U.S. students, especially groups defined by  socioeconomic status  (SES),  race / ethnicity  and  gender . The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including  standardized test  scores,  grade point average ,  dropout  rates, and college enrollment and completion rates. While this article focuses on the achievement gap in the United States, the gap in achievement between lower income students and higher income students exists in all nations and it has been studied extensively in the U.S. and other countries, including the U.K. Various other gaps between groups exist around the globe as well”.

Given the nature of this site, I do encourage readers to check out the link above and read more about the Achievement Gap in the United States and it’s persistent disparities in minority communities. I also encourage anyone interested in the topic to also read the Stanford study below on racial and ethnic achievement gaps. The Stanford study is a little older but it will definitely give the reader a more in-depth view.

Stanford study: Racial and Ethnic Achievement Gaps

How Does This All Tie In?

This site is important to me because of what I would like for it to stand for and accomplish. Considering today’s learning challenges, and an the ever present and historic Achievement Gap in the U.S., at risk students need additional help now more than ever. We are at a point where the ever present weak spots in our educational system will be exacerbated due to our current situation. That’s just the way it is. It the U.S. it seems like everyone is playing a game of “Guess the Creditable News Source”! Well I’m leave that to you. I’m just going to post a couple of links to articles below from reputable sources that also highlight this growing issue.

Washington Post: Why covid-19 will ‘explode’ existing academic achievement gaps

New York Times: Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions

Moving Forward

As far moving forward goes, I do believe that the little things do count. It will take a community effort to move our education system forward. Sharing educational resources in anyway that you can and reaching out to those individuals who are at most risk during these times may save someones future. By doing so you are also investing in your community and helping to advocate for a more educated society, which leads to benefits for all. In that spirit, I would also like to share a link from the Institute of Education Sciences. It serves to provide some good information about dropout prevention during Covid-19, and promotes student engagement for at risk youth.




 

I do not have a one size fits all solution for anyone in this current situation, but this website does provide a small forum which may enable me to help someone. Also, I doubt that there is any website out there that will have a quick fix solution to all of the issues that I’ve ranted about today. At the moment, all I can do with this site is share things that have helped me to stay motivated and on track as a student, along with resources that I’ve found. One tip that I would like give to anyone during this time would be to recognize the importance of staying active.  An occasional walk or home workout can often help to provide a little relief during a seemingly monotonous day. It usually helps me to adhere to a schedule that reinforces overall personal discipline.

Listed below are a few helpful links and resources that may come in handy.

CDC: Back to School Planning: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers

USA Today: 101 free resources for home-schooling during COVID crisis

Nova STEM: NOVA Resources for At-Home Learning

Zoom Tutorial: