One of the reasons why so many schools initially delayed their distance learning programs was because they knew how difficult it would be for both students and teachers.
More than 188 countries have closed schools across the world, with the majority using some form of technology (either computers, TV, or even radio) to facilitate distance learning. The result is that while some students have thrived, the majority are at risk of falling behind in both their studies and in critical social and emotional metrics like resilience, stress management, social awareness, and many more.
Students in the most danger of being negatively affected by distance learning are the ones who were already struggling due to socioeconomic factors beyond their control. The pressures placed on them and teachers struggling to cope with these changes have had unquestionably adverse effects on their mental health.
While there have been success stories and clear wins from remote education, in this article, we’ll focus on how distance learning has affected both teachers’ and students’ mental health and well-being. We will also show how they can mitigate these effects with easy-to-use tools like Crowdmark.
What we know so far: Distance learning affects mental health
Although most of the world has been doing distance learning for less than a year, there is an abundance of data to suggest that remote learning has caused worrisome effects on both teachers’ and students’ mental health and well-being. Here’s what we know:
Across North America, parents and educators have reported an overall drop in children’s academic motivation and social development under their care. The 180° shift in students’ daily schedules hasn’t just affected how they do schoolwork. Students feel removed from their friends, mentors, and other social and academic support sources, a move that has disproportionately affected non-white and marginalized students.
These are also the groups with the lowest internet and technology access levels, making it even more difficult for them to engage in online lessons.
All this comes in addition to the family and economic stress, which has put many of these children at greater risk for poor mental health outcomes and inadequate nutrition, abuse, and neglect.
It isn’t just students who are stressed and experiencing the adverse effects of distance learning; many teachers feel just as frustrated and anxious as their students. Most teachers had no experience conducting lessons online before the pandemic and, as a result, felt forced to find a method that would work for them and their students.
One study from Louisiana reported that rates of depression among teachers have almost doubled this year. In contrast, a similar national study found that only 28% of schools offer adequate support for staff mental health. The overwork, combined with a lack of institutional support, has left many teachers feeling hopeless.
Mitigating the adverse effects of distance learning
While there’s no question that this year has been a struggle, there are steps that educators and parents can take to help minimize distance learning’s effects on mental health. By working together, schools, educators, and parents can ensure more positive outcomes for students.
Here are some of the most effective suggestions.
Offer more mental health services through schools
A May 2020 survey from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California reported that only 40% of students rated their current mental health at a 7/10 or above, compared to 65% pre-pandemic.
Schools can help by offering comprehensive, school-based mental health services with professionals like counselors, social workers, and psychologists. Through these interventions, schools can help limit the obstacles to learning and growth that face many students.
Create more opportunities for students to work together
One of the significant challenges of distance learning is that students feel separated from their friends and peers. For young children, a substantial source of COVID stress relief is their relationships with their friends. Educators can help facilitate these connections by creating more opportunities for students to work together during online lessons.
Some teachers have figured out how to create small breakout rooms in whatever platform they use for online lessons. They can send students into the breakout room to discuss, collaborate, and then bring them back into the larger classroom group. Instructors can provide older students with group projects to complete independently, which allows them to get to know new classmates.
Whatever method you choose, creating these connections is a great way to help switch lessons for your students and get them excited about working with their peers again.
Evaluate the factors that disproportionately impact marginalized students
From racially charged protests throughout the summer of 2020 to higher rates of COVID-19 infection, there’s no question that the year has been harder on students of colour, as well as those from marginalized communities.
For all students to access education through distance learning, many schools have spent more than the usual resources addressing fundamental challenges like housing instability, food insecurity, and the ever-growing digital divide. Programs to provide laptops and tablets to students in need have been incredibly impactful, as well as grassroots movements to bring better internet connections to low-income communities. Educators who can check in with students regularly, return work quickly, and customize the lesson to reflect the realities of 2021 are all great examples of positive progress in this area.
Use time-saving tools like Crowdmark
One of the best ways teachers can support students is by offering them a responsive, customizable platform for submitting and grading their schoolwork. Crowdmark gives teachers the ability to assign classwork that can be submitted using any electronic device with browser access, making it much easier for students who may only have access to a mobile phone rather than laptops.
The educator can then quickly grade the schoolwork using a robust suite of grading tools, saving time and offering students rich feedback in the form of text, images, or videos. Crowdmark helps cut down on the time educators spend grading, freeing them up to communicate with students, plan lessons, or connect with colleagues.
Make distance learning a little easier with Crowdmark
Distance learning has been difficult, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. With Crowdmark’s simple interface, it’s easy to mark up to three times faster than usual, so you have more time for all the other responsibilities of your job.
Ready to grade 3x faster while giving richer feedback? Fill out this form for a Crowdmark trial.