Head of Curriculum Studies says online learning may lead to positive long-term education changes

Jay Wilson says it will be some time before they fully know the impact of the pandemic on education, but there have already been positives and negative of remote and online learning.

Jay Wilson says it will be some time before they fully know the impact of the pandemic on education

An elementary student waves to their class while doing online learning. Jay Wilson told The Morning Edition his researchers are seeing less bullying and more flexibility in online learning. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

A recent University of Saskatchewan survey is exploring the effect of remote learning on students during the pandemic, and it appears remote learning may have positives and negative effects long after the pandemic.

Students in Regina are remote learning until April 26 due to the rise of highly transmissible coronavirus variants of concern. 

Fifty-four per cent of those surveyed believe there will be negative long-term impacts on children's education from the pandemic, the survey suggested. However, when asked specifically about online learning, 63 per cent saw it having a positive long-term change. 

Jay Wilson is the head of the Department of Curriculum Studies at the College of Education at the U of S. He said there are some struggles with online or remote learning. 

"It's going to take a long time for us to really figure out how it's going to impact [education], but we're seeing all kinds of pressures on students in terms of mental health … all kinds of things that are maybe existing pressures but have been magnified by the pandemic," Wilson told The Morning Edition.

Jay Wilson told The Morning Edition that the pandemic has taught people how to support students better, even from a distance. (Colin Butler/CBC)

As well, children miss the social aspect or "hidden curriculum" of their development in school. 

"There's so many things that we model as adults, as teachers and as other role models, so that's one of the things they're not being exposed to," Wilson said. "The notion of sharing and taking turns for the little kids."

Positives of remote learning include less bullying, flexibility

However, Wilson said he's been noticing positives for some students such as less bullying and less of a need to fit in. Wilson said typically  some children aren't always at the same level. 

"The flexibility, the opportunity for some students who may have struggled in the past to get to school or to find comfort in school," Wilson said.

The pandemic has also helped put a focus on education, he said. 

"We've learned a lot about how wonderful our teachers are, our administrators, the people that support education so that we can value it more," Wilson said. 

"We also recognize that some of those students who have been struggling in some of the aspects of education that have traditionally not been great, it's been magnified."

Jay Wilson told The Morning Edition that one positive of the pandemic has been a rethinking of education and to consider alternatives with education moving forward. (Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

People are learning how to support students better, what supports are needed, if assistive technology supports, mental health supports are necessary and more. Wilson said looking forward, the pandemic has taught educators and families alike that they need to look at families holistically, not children individually. 

"How can we help learners at home? How can teachers be available at times that aren't always convenient but are really necessary for learners who may not be in the system? And do we have blended learning moving forward?" Wilson said. 

"Those are some of the positives. We can make changes in education that may have taken a long time to get through, but we've taken them for a pretty thorough test drive this past year." 

The survey findings were part of the 'Taking the Pulse of Canada' national survey conducted by the University of Saskatchewan's Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research (CHASR).

From March 1 to March 19, 1,002 random landline and cellphone calls were made and people across Canada were asked what long-term impacts they perceived COVID-19 will have across 15 different categories. The findings have a margin of error of +/- 3.1% nationally (19 times out of 20).

With files from The Morning Edition