Despite becoming mainstream over the year, distance learning has always been part of academia. But with social distancing becoming a global priority, schools had to abandon in-class learning for remote alternatives.
However, experts have been trying to figure out the impacts of distance learning on the student body worldwide.
So far, there is no question that students now rely on any reliable essay writing service or online learning portal for their homework. But these platforms do not account for the social aspect of distance learning.
This article explores the current distance learning structure to determine how it hinders social interactions in academic institutions.
The Structure of Distance Learning
Before discussing the negative impacts of distance learning on the socialization of young students, we need to understand the structure of this learning format.
- Contactless learning
Distance learning takes place online as learning content is delivered through cloud-based platforms. Sometimes, the students can take their lectures from an entirely different continent than their peers and teachers.
- Tech-based education
Distance learning relies on digital tools and online platforms to function. Teachers use tools like TED-Ed and Kahoot! to deliver lessons, explain what is an analytical essay, and gamify the teaching process. Online labs are also used for some practical learning aspects.
- Theory-intensive practice
Since laboratories are closed, teachers mostly rely on only theoretical explanations of quantitative vs qualitative data and concepts when teaching their students. In rare cases, some schools with proper funding often provide advanced learning tools with virtual reality capabilities.
- Less peer-to-peer interactions
Distance learning features more interactions between teachers and students and less communication between students and their peers.
How Does Distance Learning Affect Socializing?
Social interactions are integral to every form of education, regardless of distance and format. With a better understanding of the underlying structure of distance learning, let’s explore how it affects social interactions in academia.
Limited Teacher-Student Interactions
Every student needs constant attention from their instructors to follow the academic program and improve their performance.
Besides, teachers have more access to personal (physical) assessments of students within the traditional classroom setting. They can monitor students’ body language, concentration levels, and tone of voice.
In distance learning, the teachers lose access to the students’ state of mind. Besides, they can only rely on text and verbal communication to ascertain if the student is assimilating the learning material without any hassle.
Unfortunately, these communication tools cannot replicate that person-to-person connection of physical interactions. Instead, the teacher can only find out that their student is struggling with understanding how to start a synthesis essay or something else only if they express concerns directly.
And since some students are afraid to speak up, they continue to get alienated from the learning process.
Limited Student-Student Interactions
Students need to interact with their peers, especially during their formative years. The CDC claims that peer-to-peer interactions provide a support system for students at all academic levels. And this system serves as a coping mechanism even in the most rigorous learning environments.
Moreover, group projects in distance learning settings are not the same as in traditional learning environments. When students tackle a problem together, they generate a sense of camaraderie and rapport with one another. Similarly, they also get the chance to hone their problem-solving and communication skills.
Although online group projects can bring students together, the impacts are limited to only verbal interactions. Essential aspects of learning like speech and physical therapies get lost in the process.
Slow-Paced Development of Essential Skills
One of the biggest arguments against distance learning is that it hinders the development of essential skills, starting with personal responsibility.
Firstly, the fact that you can study from anywhere removes the responsibility to wake up and prepare for school. Since students don’t need to worry about social interactions, they can attend online classes in pajamas.
Secondly, daily commutes expose you to a series of inadvertent ‘negotiations’ with strangers, which transforms into survival skills. And by staying at home to learn from behind the screen, students miss out on these valuable lessons.
Finally, distance learning takes away the student’s ability to master communication, emotional, and interpersonal skills. Since students are exempt from physical interactions, they fail to master emotional responses and develop communication skills.
An Existing Disconnect Between Teachers and Parents
We’ve already highlighted the importance of teacher-to-student interactions to the overall social development of students. Now, let’s mention the role of parents and guardians in socializing the students.
In-person schools allow parents and teachers to control the child’s social integration into the larger society. The parents take care of the home-based socialization, while the teachers are in charge of school-based orientation.
But with distance learning, one of the parties involved gets left out: either the parents or teachers play a less significant role.
In either case, the student bears the brunt of this disconnect between their parents and teachers, thus depriving them of essential social upbringing.
Herculean Task for Special Needs Students
Special needs students often struggle to integrate into the general academic fold. And as distance learning becomes more popular, they get more alienated from their peers.
Despite the rapid advancements in technology, only a few learning tools are available to students with disabilities. As a result, they struggle to socialize with their peers, which affects their academic performance as well.
Distance learning hinders students’ social interactions by limiting their access to much-needed physical contact with peers. And since distance learning hinges on contactless education, these students miss out on essential social, emotional, and interpersonal skills.
Although teachers can use advanced digital tools to foster social interactions, they cannot replicate in-person interactions. Ultimately, a lot of work is needed to bridge the socialization deficit resulting from distance learning.