Distance Learning 2020: Experiences of Pupils and Teachers
The purpose of the study was to give an overview of distance learning in the Estonian general education schools through the experiences of the pupils and teachers, brin-ging out its lessons for the education system.
In June 2020, data were collected from 5th, 8th and 11th grade students (N = 1544) and teachers (N = 1270) via a web-based questionnaire. The questions concerned the opinions of pupils and teachers about the frequency of the use of various teaching practices during distance learning and the changes in them, the frequency of collaborative learning activities in comparison to the time before distance learning, and coping with distance learning and its ef-fectiveness.
The replies of the teachers revealed that a majority of teachers gave every day or every week assignments from textbook, workbook or the web for independent lear-ning. Two thirds of the teachers created possibilities for the pupils to discuss what they had learned during the video lessons. The activities encouraging the pupils to work together decreased noticeably: more than half of the teachers did not use cooperative activities during distance learning at all. In the opinion of the pupils, too, cooperative project learning activities, solving of tasks in groups and in pairs decreased, and in the opinion of nearly half of the pupils, the volume of indepen-dent solving of textbook or web tasks increased.
Nearly half of the teachers found that distance learning was less effective, and in the opinion of a third of the teachers, the volume of the material learned had decreased. However, nearly three quarters of the teachers who participated in the study found that the pupils acquired additional skills in their subject in comparison to the ordinary learning situation, and nearly half of the teachers thought that stu-dies were more connected with everyday life than they had been earlier. Nearly 40 percent of pupils found that distance learning was as effective as traditional learning, around a third of the pupils thought that distance learning was more ef-fective than traditional learning. Nearly a quarter of pupils considered distance learning less effective, and they found that they coped with studying in distance learning format less than in the traditional format. In the opinion of teachers, their coping with distance learning was influenced by cooperation with other teachers, other colleagues and the management, to a large extent also by their own pedago-gical skills and digital competence. The greatest challenge was time management, which was connected with increased workload. Pupils’ coping with distance lear-ning mainly related to the increased volume of studying, the organisation of the teaching process at school and the skill to plan learning independently.
The distance learning experiences of pupils and teachers were very different. The results show that the methods of distance learning are still in the development sta-ge. In order to use distance learning more effectively in the future, the teachers need appropriate training, and specific and clear instructions on how to implement it.