I think that we can all agree that the sudden shift to eLearning in the Spring caught us off-guard – and there were a variety of challenges.
No matter how often we’re told that students will be able to go back to school in the Fall like normal, the evidence suggests that eLearning is going to play a part in it. Maybe a big part, depending on where you’re located. While it’s going to be up to the schools and teachers to provide a variety of learning styles, establish reasonable goals, appropriately reward progress, and find ways to keep students engaged, there are other challenges at home over which schools and teachers have no control.
Teachers and schools are responsible for the how, what, and when aspects of eLearning, but for all that, success or failure will most likely depend on the where.
In our Guide to Working from Home, we discussed adopting the right Attitude, and several Security and Technical Considerations. Although we were talking about employees effectively working from home, many of these same concerns will affect a student’s ability to learn from home. There is nothing more important than education, as such, it is imperative that we strive to provide the best possible eLearning environment for our students, beginning with their workspace.
As much as possible, a student’s workspace must be:
- a consistent place where only learning takes place
- semi-private to allow for distraction-free learning
- able to provide reliable, consistent computer connections
All homes are different. While it’s almost certainly not possible to provide students with their own home office space, setting them up in a room or area – other than one filled with distractions where they play games – will help. Since the average American household has 2.5 televisions and so many students have smartphones and other mobile devices, establishing boundaries for when these can be used is an important part of providing a positive eLearning environment.
Part of this environment includes the attitude towards eLearning. There are two primary elements to establishing a positive learning attitude.
- Morning Routine – students should wake and get dressed as if they are going to the classroom. This will be an indicator to the student that it is time to learn. Mindset is important, and having the right mindset will make everything else easier.
- Positivity – this is as much for parents as students. Study after study proves that children take after their parents and parrot back their beliefs, so parents who complain about the effectiveness of eLearning are only setting their children up for failure. Encourage a positive outlook towards eLearning – your children are worth the effort.
To be successful, students will need a positive atmosphere and a consistent workspace with clearly defined rules that parents will have to find ways to enforce.
Slow internet, dropped connections, and screens that are too small are just a few of the technical issues that can inhibit eLearning. When you have multiple students eLearning in a single home, along with one or both parents, these problems and the frustrations that go with them will get much worse. With all of the devices, gaming, and media already present, home networks are often pushed to their limits, but when Facebook is running slow, you aren’t missing out on vital learning or work information.
On top of this, schools have security requirements to keep student information safe, and some of these will require specific log-ins using website portals. This could allow students to use their own computers, whether or not the school is able to provide them, and that raises significant security concerns. Viruses and malware are a constant threat that can potentially corrupt the eLearning experience for everyone.
On the list of computer concerns are:
- Hardware Problems – most eLearning is a video-based experience, trading screen size for portability could cause troubles
- Wi-Fi – so many factors affect Wi-Fi connections: distance, type of walls, network settings, security features, firmware version, age of the modem/router
- Network Configuration – misconfigured or unconfigured modems and routers can cause serious speed and bandwidth problems
- Security Software – having an antivirus program is vital, but if it isn’t updated or there’s a different older program installed, it can affect speed, permissions, and overall security
- Parental Controls – limiting access to gaming websites, entertainment-based media, and social media platforms while eLearning is vital to limiting distractions
- Slow Computers – lots of things can hinder computer performance, from bloatware to cached files to viruses, and so much more
- Connections – not only to the Wi-Fi, but also to printers, monitors, or docking stations
- Firewalls – nothing slows down your internet faster than outsiders logging into it without you knowing, and worse, that can allow them to take over your computers and steal your personal information
- Technical Support – what happens if there is a problem? Having a plan of action ready is important as time spent trying to figure out problems is time spent NOT learning
Yes, it’s a big list, but it is not an impossible list. For those who like to figure things out for themselves, there are many resources available online to help with each concern, and for the rest of us, there are companies like Clark Computer Services who offer options to help, such as our Home Office IT Support. When responding to these types of issues in home networks, we almost always find configuration problems that affect speed and bandwidth, and to accommodate increased usage we make recommendations based on the type of data plans.
A robust home network can only make eLearning and Working from Home less frustrating and more productive.
When it comes to eLearning, there is a lot to take into consideration. The thing we have to remember is that this is a big change for everyone and the students are caught in the middle. The health and well being of students, faculty, and staff – as well as the impact on parents – goes into these decisions. We are all going to have to find ways to adapt because we are all in this together. If you’re not sure how to proceed, don’t go it alone, we can help.
I’ve always had a love of working with technology, being fortunate enough to have grown up with a grandfather who taught me how to fix things for myself and not be afraid to jump in and get my hands dirty. Over the last three decades, I’ve worked as a technician, trainer, technical writer, and manager in small business, enterprise organizations, and government. In addition, I’m an author, having published multiple works available online and in print. You can find my creative work at https://WritingDistracted.com