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Beyond Coronavirus: The Long-Term Effects of Today’s Distance Learning Protocols

Young woman sitting at her desk at home on her laptop.

The meme goes something like this: “The coronavirus is showing all of us how many long meetings could have been 2-minute phone calls.” It’s funny because it’s true. Despite how accessible and easy to set up Zoom meetings and Skype calls are, many mainstream businesses and organizations sidelined these online communication platforms in favor of IRL (in real life) workplace meetings before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as self-imposed isolation becomes the norm, necessity forces employers and educators to utilize them, and they’re experiencing firsthand how low the threshold for entry really is.

One aforementioned area where these online communication technologies are being implemented rather quickly and prolifically is in schools, through Distance Learning Protocols that allow students to be taught by educators in the comfort of their homes via video chat. Individuals are on their computers at home, watching their teachers giving lessons from a classroom miles away. The curriculum taught using this method isn’t limited to history lessons. One local high school I observed on Instagram this week posted selfies sent by students showing themselves in P.E. Class. Using the distance learning protocols set out by their school, they were each attending their high school P.E. Class, albeit in their own individual settings — their living room, their kitchen, their backyard, or their home gym.

Once the realm of for-profit schools, distance learning could become the norm for all public and private educational institutions who have come to realize just how easy it is to create and deliver their entire curriculum online. The potential effects of this switch are revolutionary:

• private schools dependent on tuition-paying students could focus their resources on developing top-notch curriculum instead of physical infrastructure and have the option of enrolling students from all over the world

• the quality of education at public and private institutions might improve as a response to a more competitive environment where geographic location no longer dictated where a student attended school

• increased demand for places where students could socialize IRL and online to make up for the absence of socialization in school might support the growth of new types of brick-and-mortar businesses for entertainment, as well as accelerate the adoption of Virtual Reality (VR) and the development of more easily accessible VR environments for entertainment.

It will be interesting to see if today’s Distance Learning Protocols will have a long-term effect on how we teach, learn, and do business after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

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