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The pros and cons of remote learning

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by the 6th International Conference on E-Education, E-Business & E-Technology (ICEBT2022).

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). A cost-benefit analysis on remote learning: A systematic review and implications for the future. 6th International Conference on e-Education, e-Business and e-Technology (Beijing, China: 26th June 2022). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4104629

(image source: CrushPixel)

After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions were expected to adapt to an unexpected crisis situation. In many cases, they had to follow their policy makers’ preventative measures to mitigate the contagion of the pandemic [1, 2]. As a result, they introduced contingency plans, and disseminated information on the virus, among students and employees. In many cases, educators were coerced to shift from the provision of traditional, face-to-face teaching and blended learning approaches, to a fully virtual remote course delivery [3, 4]. This transition resulted in a number of challenges to students and instructors [5]. Educators were pressurized to utilize digital technologies including learning management systems (LMS) as well as video conferencing programs [6]. Very often, they relied on their institutions’ Moodle or virtual learning environment (VLE) software to share digital resources including videos, power point presentations and links to online notes [7]. During the pandemic educators also acquainted themselves with video-conferencing platforms [8].

Subsequently, when COVID-19 restrictions were eased, a number of educational institutions reopened their doors to students and employees [9]. They introduced social distancing policies and hygienic procedures in their premises [4, 10]. At the time of writing, a number of academic members of staff, in various contexts, are still utilizing learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs [6]. Currently, student-centered educators are adopting hybrid/blended learning approaches, as they deliver face-to-face lectures in addition to online learning methodologies. Very often, they do so to support students who are not in a position to attend their lectures on campus.

A synthesis of the literature on the costs and benefits of remote learning

The costs

Many researchers noted that Covid-19 disrupted the provision of education. In the main, they reported that there were various challenges for the successful implementation of remote learning [17, 23-25]. For example, one of the contributions implied that the prolonged use of virtual platforms might negatively impact the efficacy of synchronous learning [27].

Various studies indicated that the research participants were not always pleased with the quality of education that was provided by their educators, during the pandemic [28]. Academic commentators indicated that faculty members were not experts in the delivery of remote/online instruction. They implied that instructors could require periodic developmental training to improve the service quality of their courses [4, 10].

While a few researchers noted that students appreciated the availability of recorded lectures [29], others reported that educators were not always recording their lectures and/or did not share learning resources with them [21]. This issue could have affected the students’ learning outcomes [30, 31]. In fact, some students were worried about their academic progress during COVID-19 [32]. In many cases, they encountered a number of difficulties during remote course delivery. For instance, online group work involved additional planning as well as institutional support [33]. Previous literature suggests that students necessitate counseling, tutoring and mentoring as well as ongoing assurances to succeed [34, 35].

In many cases, the researchers discovered that course participants required adequate training and support to complete their assessments [23, 24, 36]. A few of them also hinted that was a digital divide among students could have been evidenced among those who experienced connectivity and equipment problems, among other issues [5, 37]. Other authors argued about the individuals’ challenges to focus on their screens for long periods of time [6]. Notwithstanding, educators and students may develop bad postures and other physical problems due to staying hunched in front of a screen. Therefore, students ought to be given regular breaks from the screen to refresh their minds and their bodies.

The benefits

Generally, a number of contributions shed light on the benefits of using remote learning technologies, including learning management systems [1, 21, 29, 32] and interactive conferencing programs (1, 6, 17, 33]. Such educational technologies can help in creating rich social interactions [38-40] as well as positive learning environments – that foster learning and retention [41, 42]. Previous research indicated that digital learning resources can enhance the students’ knowledge and skills [43]. Remote instruction approaches can also provide supportive environments to students [39] and could even increase their chances of learning [30, 31]. Virtual lectures may be recorded or archived for future reference [29]. Hence, students or educators could access their learning materials at their convenience [44-46].

Several researchers underlined the importance of maintaining ongoing, two-way communications with students, and of providing them with appropriate facilitating conditions, to continue improving their learning journeys [6, 47-48]. Video conferencing technologies allow educators to follow up on their students’ progress. They facilitate online interactions, in real time, and enable them to obtain immediate feedback from their students [1, 49]. Notwithstanding, there are fewer chances of students’ absenteeism and on missing out on their lessons, as they can join online meetings from home or from other locations of their choice.

Conclusions

This review implies that online technologies have opened a window of opportunity for educators. Indeed, learning management systems as well as conferencing programs are useful tools for educators to continue delivering education in a post covid-19 context. However, it is imperative that educational institutions invest in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees. They should determine whether their instructors are (or are not) delivering high levels of service quality through the utilization of remote learning technologies to continue delivering student-centered education.

This paper can be downloaded from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360474225_A_cost-benefit_analysis_on_the_use_of_remote_learning_technologies_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_literature

References (these are all the references that were featured in the full paper)

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