Virtual School Meanderings

August 23, 2022

CTV News – Students less stressed taking classes online than in person, study finds

So a colleague sent this my way the other day…

Students less stressed taking classes online than in person, study finds

(RODNAE Productions / pexels.com)
(RODNAE Productions / pexels.com)

Alexandra Mae Jones

  • Alexandra Mae Jones
  • CTVNews.ca writer

Updated Published 

Many students across the globe had to transition between taking lessons in lecture halls to their living rooms in the COVID-19 pandemic.

This drastic change in environment prompted questions about differences in the learning experience. Among them: does the body feel less stress in a virtual classroom as opposed to a physical one?

The answer could be yes, according to a small study measuring heart rate and cortisol levels in students’ saliva, which found that medical students were physiologically more relaxed in an online lecture rather than an in-person one.

The study, published in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education at the end of July, looked at a group of 82 medical students who were attending either face-to-face classes or online lectures in order to measure the ways their bodies expressed stress.

To continue reading, click here.

This article was interesting to me because it is one of many that we have seen that have reported on instances where remote learning (yes, remote learning – not online learning) during the pandemic wasn’t all bad (see here and here as examples).

It also comes on the back of a recent conversation I had with a journalist or editor of a popular media publication – about the impacts of online learning on student mental wellbeing during the pandemic.  My argument was that the reality that we’re living through a global pandemic is the root of any impacts on mental health, and that the fact that students have to learn remotely (again, not online or virtually) is simply a by-product of the actual cause.  I also made the case that the alternative to remote learning would be worse.

Educational institutions essentially had three options throughout the pandemic:

  1. stay open as is and risk the consequences of public health and all of the downstream impacts of increased infection spread;
  2. closed altogether/shut down; or
  3. close the schools, but continue to provide some continuity of learning through remote learning.

Which of these three options would be worse?  Given the reality of the role that schools play in community spread of the virus, it is safe to say that with option one we have greater spread of the disease, which in turn means greater instances of sickness, hospitalization, and death (as well as the fear associated with the potential for these things) – all of which likely had or would have had significant negative impacts on student mental wellbeing.

Option two would have cut students off completely from any sense of normal routines that exist with school, as well as cutting students off from peers associated with the school environment.  Given all of the media attention (see here for just one example) and academic study (again, see here for just one example), this wasn’t a viable option.

So as bad as some of the remote learning was, and I have been involved with several research projects looking at just how bad it was in most Canadian jurisdictions (see https://sites.google.com/view/canelearn-ert/ ), the third option was the only one of these three that provided some normalcy to the child’s live without the potential for a negative impact to public health.  It is the only one of those three options that kept people safe, while at the same time gave children the routine of going to school (even if it was in their own homes), the opportunity to interact with their classmates (even if it was mediated by technology), really the only opportunity to be normal.

May 18, 2022

Presentation: Online or Remote Learning and Mental Health

A few days ago my colleagues and I presented this session at the OTESSA annual conference.

Moore, S., Barbour, M. K., & Veletsianos, G. (2022, May). Online or remote learning and mental health [Paper]. Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Annual Conference.

Abstract: While there has been a great deal of debate over the impact of online and remote learning on mental health and well-being, there has been no systematic syntheses or reviews of the research on this particular issue. In this session, we will present a review of research on mental health / well-being and online or remote learning. Our preliminary analyses suggest that little scholarship existed prior to 2020 and that most of these studies have been conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We report three findings: (a) it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to control for pandemic effects in the data, (b) studies present a very mixed picture, with variability around how mental health and well-being are measured and how / whether any causal inferences are made in relation to online and remote learning, and (c) results across these studies are extremely mixed. Based on this study, we suggest that researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and administrators exercise extreme caution around making generalizable assertions with respect to the impacts of online/remote learning and mental health.

The slides are embedded below.

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