Will Distance Learning Be Permanent?

The short answer to the question is yes, distance learning will be permanent. The real question is how widespread it will be.

Distance learning has been around in one way, shape or form since correspondence courses by mail sprang up in 1728. With the advent of the internet the industry saw a huge influx of asynchronous and live, synchronous learning, the kind that Banyan Global Learning specializes in. With the pandemic, of course,  the great majority of education started happening at a distance. 

Much of that learning was, frankly, not very good. Teachers were thrust into the use of tools with which they were unfamiliar to teach via a medium with which most had zero hours of experience. Because of the immediacy of the need to transition, the great majority of schools offered little training, rather depending on a workforce of teachers who suddenly lacked students to “just figure it out.” Some – especially digital natives – flourished. Most did not.

This fall will be the first real test of whether or not schools will be able to adjust to providing quality distance learning experiences. This spring offered little time to adjust. Now, schools have had since March to figure out a good plan, train teachers and adjust curriculum. Frankly, it may be unreasonable to expect such a drastic jump in quality so quickly.

However, marked improvement by schools this fall could help the industry’s “brand” and increase the likelihood that demand for these services sustain post-pandemic. Sadly, what is more likely is that many people will treat their bad experience with distance learning as indicative of the medium itself and write off the experience in favor of in-person learning once that becomes available again.

Regardless of that, the industry existed before all this and was increasing in prominence due to widespread use of technology, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Another trend that supported the industry pre-pandemic and will only increase post-pandemic is that of homeschooling as parents become increasingly disenchanted with a public education system that has been systematically defunded for decades. Add this to the number of people for whom distance learning really did work well during the pandemic – including but not limited to introverts, digital natives and students lucky enough to engage with seasoned distance learning professionals (excellent teachers who also have solid tech and performance skills) – and it is safe to assume that distance learning will remain an important piece of the educational landscape even after in-person learning resumes.

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