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Student Perspectives on Distance Learning

There is currently intense discussion and debate within the international education community about how school leadership teams, teachers, families and students have responded to the challenges and opportunities that have arisen from the COVID-19 situation. While this has certainly been a time of ups and downs, positive discoveries and frustrations, we have seen some students show increased independence, discover new interests and enjoy increased family time. We have captured students’ perspectives on their experiences learning in a different way, which we are sharing with you here.

We have witnessed students use the IB Approaches to Learning (Thinking skills; Communication skills; Social skills; Research skills and Self-Management skills) as they embarked on learning at home. It has been important to capture the student perspective of learning in this different way.

I posed the following questions to students:

  • How would you feel if you had to do distance learning again?
  • Is there anything you would change?
  • Is there anything you would miss?
  • Was there anything you enjoyed about learning this way?
  • Are there any bits of distance learning you think we should keep and use in some way in school?
  • What did you notice about yourself as a learner through having to do distance learning?

Here are some of the typical responses:

“I would not be happy to do distance learning again because we don’t get to see our friends and our teachers and you don’t get into the mindset which you get at school.”

“If I had to do distance learning again, I wouldn’t be thrilled because being at school is definitely better, but I also wouldn’t be unhappy because it’s a good experience.”

“I felt calm because everything slowed down.”

“I will miss starting at nine because I could sleep in until 7am. It was the best!”

“I miss being free so you can choose what to do and at what time.”

“After spending time at home, I have learnt that spending time with your family is really important, and it’s really fun.”

“We should keep the recorded videos. If we don’t understand, or are absent, we can watch the video and catch up.”

“I noticed that I was becoming more independent with my work and that I didn’t need to ask the teacher about tasks that often.”

“I have learnt that I am very responsible when online.”

As we would expect, the responses from the Year 7 students acknowledged, in a more sophisticated manner, both the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning…

“My experience with distance learning was exhausting. Distance learning has stretched me as a learner. It wasn’t bad, however I found it challenging.  I mean, you can have breaks pretty much whenever you want and you get a lot of work done. However, the one hard thing for me was socialising. I LOVE TO TALK. It is my specialty. I found everything about distance learning fine except for the fact that my friends/peers weren’t there for me to talk to. I am a kinaesthetic learner. I learn best from talking and being hands on. That is where distance learning was a struggle for me. Most of it was digital and there were no group tasks. Overall distance learning has helped me develop lots of skills; organisation, time management and independence. It was a great experience however I would struggle to do it again.”

At St Andrew’s teachers will continue to reflect on their experiences as learners using the guiding questions:

  • How can we use our experiences of distance learning as we move forwards?
  • Have you considered how your role as an educator may have shifted?
  • What did you notice about yourself as an educator when delivering distance learning?
  • Is there anything you would like to ‘keep’ from your experience with distance learning when it comes to face to face teaching?

The staff at St Andrew’s will continue to explore how blended learning (a combination of face-to-face and online learning where the student has some element of control over the time, place, pathway and pace of learning) can be utilised to enhance the learning experience and have a positive effect on student outcomes.

We extend our thanks to the teachers for all the extra hours to transfer the curriculum to a distance learning model, and to our parent and caregiver community for their ongoing support.

Heather Wood
Deputy Principal – Learning and Teaching

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  • St Andrew’s School is a South Australian independent, co-educational specialist primary school providing excellence in education from playgroup through to early years and on to Year 7. Principal Deb Dalwood – an International Baccalaureate School – UNESCO Associated School.