Proceedings of The 5th International Conference on New Approaches in Education
Distance Learning from the Students’ Point of View: Connected but Socially Disconnected
Increased adoption of distance learning (DL) during the Covid-19 pandemic, which was introduced into school contexts across the world without prior planning, induced a sudden and far reaching change in teaching methods. DL has simultaneously made it possible to highlight problems present in the school’s system and opened a space for deep reflection on the effectiveness of teaching strategies. Interaction in online learning environments is considered a central factor to ensure the participation and inclusion of all students, even those most fragile. However, this goal has not always been achieved through DL during the pandemic. Indeed, the literature highlights critical concerns in relation to online learning around the low quality of participation; this, in addition to technical problems such as availability of suitable devices and good internet connection, as well as a lack in digital competences. Beginning from these premises, this inquiry aims to explore students’ point of view with respect to their learning experience during DL, in order to understand – from their perspective – the obstacles and opportunities they encounter, their needs and the possible factors that could improve their learning experience. 172 students attending the second level of secondary school in a north-eastern region in Italy, took part in an online survey. The students completed the survey following a period of lockdown, during which their school adopted distance learning. The following factors involved in the learning process during DL were investigated: the kind of support students think they need during DL; usefulness of DL as a daily learning tool; the positive and negative aspects identified in relation to DL. The study findings reveal students’ held an ambivalent perception towards distance learning: half recognized the potential for DL to be integrated within the school curriculum, while the remaining half would rather avoid using it, except in cases of emergency. Students were aware of the difficulties involved in managing home learning; however, they were less aware of the factors that could help them to overcome such obstacles. Finally, they highlighted both positive elements of DL (such aiding the organization of learning materials), as well as negative aspects related to the lack of relational involvement. These findings reveal the importance of ensuring that the instructional design of an online environment considers not only the didactic aspects, but also the social and relational ones.
keywords: distance learning, interaction, self-regulation, students’ perspective.