Revisiting the Idea of Ideal Learning in the Midst of Covid-19 Pandemic

Written by: Sherlina Christania
Edited by: Wulan Faraditha
Illustrator: Lisa Kalystari

It’s been a year since we’ve been introduced to the idea of “working from home”. In early April, the Indonesian government set a strict policy through the rules of large scale social restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Progressive steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus through restrictions on human motion. In the field of education, learning from home is implemented, carried out online, and through Television Republik Indonesia (TVRI), which broadcasts educational broadcasts simultaneously, at every level of education (Irawan, Dwisona, and Lestari, 2020: 53). The regulations forced us to stay at home and change how we do certain things to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. The pandemic has also resulted in schools shut all across the world. As a result, education has changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. This includes changing the learning environment to remote learning from the comfort of each students’ home. For ages, we have been told and taught to go to school as in-person teaching ‘arguably’ provides the most optimal best learning experience for students. There is also this sense of community within a classroom-learning environment that just can’t be recreated remotely.  This triggers the discussion of reopening the schools which has been one of the most heated talks between a lot of parties; academics, members of parliament, health experts, and last but not least the public. Thus, it raised the question: is it possible to retain this method for long-term learning? Or perhaps should the ‘old normal’ learning make a comeback or should remote learning stay as the preferred learning environment?

If one asks whether remote learning is possible, luckily, the digital era has made it possible. Though, as like all things, remote learning has its own merits and demerits. Thus, there will be another question that should be raised; is if it is it the better option or not?

As we know, remote learning offers a great deal of advantages and greater exposure to technology utilization for both students and teachers. Unlike at school where students interact with their teachers in-person, the remote learning environment requires students and teachers to transition using an electronic device as their main medium. Technology utilization helps both teachers and students to develop practical skills, such as creating and presenting their works using online features, writing formal emails to their teachers or colleagues, differentiating reliable and unreliable sources for studying, and many other skills which contribute to both students and teachers’ technology literacy.  In fact, many people think the learning platforms they’ve been using, especially in higher education, are easily accessible and practical for their learning needs. Even research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information (Li and Lalani, 2020).

Moreover, remote learning offers much more flexibility than learning at school (Setiawan, 2020). It provides greater opportunities for students with varying needs, for example, learning at their own paces, eases the need of mobility, improves collaborative learning environment regardless their locations. Students can study from anywhere they want and relearn the material at any time. This would best benefit students with an unorthodox learning style. For example, students with auditory learning styles will definitely enjoy and focus more on learning the materials as they could listen to music, watch YouTube or listen to explanations of the topic from an online source. 

On the other hand, despite the positive outlook, online learning also lacks in many things which we can consider as the and has “negative” effects. Firstly, physiological-related effects might arise as both students and teachers have prolonged screen time in a day for their class sessions which can come at the cost of some physical problems like increasing eyesight problems, frequent headaches, intense back pain. Not to mention after the classes they should continue working on their assignments—which can be dangerous for their health if done in a long, intense run.

Secondly, psychological-related effects; continuing learning from home is likely to create an even worse impact on mental health. Psychological dynamics shows the background of the occurrence of boredom in students. The one particular cause is people get stuck at home as a quarantine or stay-at-home effect. Moreover, because the learning is from home, many students are too lazy to prepare themselves for the classes, like getting dressed up with their uniforms or appropriate clothes for the classes. Because of the lack of willingness to prepare, students tend to “ignore” the teachers by not being interactive (turning off the camera and audio) in the virtual classrooms. Furthermore, the function of school is not just to study but also as a place for students to improve their interpersonal and social skills with others, but remote learning makes students communicate through gadget intermediaries resulting in the interaction between students lacking the meaning of non-verbal communication. The last effect is emotional disorders within students, characterized by moods and mood swings. Students experienced emotional disturbances due to too many tasks, and they considered that the pattern was not sufficient. 

Furthermore, as we all know, remote learning is extremely reliant on the digital media which requires mobile data or Wi-Fi connection to run the internet to access the learning portal. Lots of students had complained about this. Why? Because online learning requires a large amount of mobile data, daily. The internet connection needs to be stable in order for the device to work—which makes the schools and students who are based in rural areas tend to experience much more difficulties. They update the status with a variety of claims, ranging from many tasks, quota runs out, inadequate devices, and the condition of the internet network. And it doesn’t stop there, if the devices that are used for learning don’t support it, students are more likely to experience difficulties in receiving and accessing the learning materials. The students who come from families who are economically capable, show fewer complaints when compared to families who are financially unable regarding technical things like that (Yazid & Lie, 2020 in Irawan, Dwisona, and Lestari, 2020: 56).

To answer those issues, certainly there are solutions offered and given. Since remote learning can be very monotonous and considerably boring for students, teachers should try more to adapt the learning method to be more fun and engaging—like interjecting a quiz or ice breaking session—to keep the students excited when the class begins. Take Quiziz as an example, this app makes students more enthusiastic and eager to answer the exercise questions given from their teachers. 

Regarding the internet connection and mobile data, the Indonesian government secured a certain amount of assistance funds as a form of internet subsidy to help students, teachers, and lecturers continue the learning process. While in regards to the problem of device instability, the matter is usually discussed between the teacher and the student then from there they would try to find the best solution that would still allow students to learn without feeling pressured that they will miss out the explanations given by the teachers. In many cases, teachers will tolerate the students when such a thing happens—as an act of understanding that this is new, perhaps, new and somewhat strange for everyone. So it is important to maintain the mutual understanding between both parties; for students to be open and direct to the teachers when they are having technical difficulties and for the teachers as well to understand the issues.

We know that knowledge is very important. Knowledge is still being fought for in this pandemic situation. New circumstances sometimes make us uncomfortable. But adapting and building habits can make up for that deficiency. We can still take the positive side of any situation, including this online learning method. By being patient, having an open mind, and trying our best to adapt to the current circumstances, then we have bigger chances to survive with the new way of learning. Not only this pandemic period but also on the other problems. If someone asks me personally: “should this remote learning continue post-pandemic?”, my answer would definitely be a no. At least, from what I have experienced, remote learning is suitable to use in critical situations only. If the situation comes back to normal, learning from school is better to choose because students and teachers can interact with each other in real life.


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