Distanced Learning


There are many things that changed after the COVID pandemic spread throughout the world. Life as we know it started taking a new form and the same can be said about education. Distanced learning using technology certainly has its benefits. And given the current circumstances, it seems to be a concept that will be with us moving forward. But is this new form of learning causing more harm than good?

Many benefits

Being able to use technology to participate in classrooms and discussions is a valuable tool. It enables students to learn in the comfort of their homes without the hassle of travelling every morning through traffic, reduces costs in maintaining facilities, and ultimately saves time, fuel and resources that could be used elsewhere.

Not only is there potential in savings during learning, but also in examinations as well. Examinations could be conducted online, using less paper. Assignments and homework can be completed and sent earlier, allowing the teacher more time to prepare better lessons. Also, the teaching process can be enriched with multimedia, making lessons that more interesting.

The pandemic has proven that the distance-learning model using technology is effective and has, but that doesn’t come without serious repercussions that can affect the educational experience of a student, especially in the earlier stages of their development.

The flipside

Although it was an action that was necessitated as a result of the pandemic, the past year did prove that online, distance-learning systems can and are successful. However, it also means that students aren’t able to gather in a classroom setting and engage with friends, work on their social skills or even play.

This severely deprives a child from the physical activity, social interaction, and ‘childhood’ that is important to foster a healthy and balanced development. Even now, doctors are warning of the negative aspects of e-learning in its current form.

Not only that, the opportunity for e-learning itself is a luxury AMONG most in Sri Lankan society, when many families struggle in economically destitute conditions, which brings the question,  does e-learning and similar programmes actually have a place in the future of Sri Lankan education?

Is it worth it?

Although e-learning in the form that it took during the pandemic years proved its utility, it’s also true that there does exist drawbacks and serious impairment on the overall educational experience that a student should experience, especially in their younger years.

Even so, it is also true that there is no avoiding the fact that the future needs to be met head on, and technology will need to be included and integrated in the student learning experience.

Doing so will lead to a number of policy considerations, including when building a fair and equal educational system that provides equal privileges to students in both rural and urban environments. The ‘how’  is a question that still is left unanswered, given that we live in a country where some schools even lack clean running water, or even proper lavatory facilities.

But, the move will be the future of education in Sri Lanka, and necessary. How this will take effect is still uncertain. But, it is a question that needs to be considered now, before it’s too late.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage