JeanFred Agius – What have we learnt?
The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) is launching an exciting new campaign on the lessons learnt from the pandemic in relation to the disability sector. Called ‘X’Tgħallimna mill-Pandemija?’, the campaign gleans the findings and recommendations from a number of reports commissioned by CRPD during or about the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports point out not only how persons with disability were affected by the pandemic itself but perhaps more so by the social and economic impact deriving from restrictive measures put in place to control its spread.
Told through the stories of seven persons with disability, the campaign aims to show that behind every public policy and every public measure, there are persons whose lives can be affected immeasurably, and how persons with a disability cannot be excluded or forgotten, when public decisions are taken.
JeanFred Agius, University student
FINDING: Findings indicate that some non-disabled students were able to follow online lessons as they experienced less distractions than being at school, which might also hold true for some students with disability.
RECOMMENDATION: Remote learning approaches should not be discontinued entirely once the pandemic is over, particularly for those students with a disability who have worked better through this medium. They are to be used in ways that complement the traditional face-to-face approaches.
You can read the following research reports below:
- Access to Formal Education by Persons with Disability During The Covid-19 Pandemic – Research Report
- The Impact of Covid-19 on Persons with Disability – Research Report
One significant change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic was the complete shift to online learning intended to slow the spread of the pandemic and prioritise the safety of students. In my opinion, the shift to e-learning had both a negative and positive effect on education.
Being a university student myself, I can definitely say that online learning is not all it’s cracked up to be. The main complaint of students (especially freshmen) is that the university experience is almost non-existent. To top it all, both students and lecturers now have to put up with showing their faces on an online platform where manipulation of data can have more permanent consequences. With regards to examinations there is also an increased risk of unfairness. There is also the question of how much of an impact online learning has on younger students, as well as those with communication or intellectual disabilities and their caregivers.
On the other hand, being limited to online learning for such a long time has somewhat blinded us to the positives of online learning and what it can contribute to education. Apart from being a safer alternative for vulnerable people, those that usually have long commutes have more time for both academics and extracurriculars. This makes academia more inviting for some people as it makes less demands on your time which is very helpful for mature/working students and students that are also parents. The facility of pre-recorded lectures is also useful in many ways.
It is due to these often overlooked benefits that I believe that some elements of online learning should be applied to traditional learning. Online learning can be implemented to limit lecture cancellations and the resulting hassle of setting up extra lectures. Instead, if lecturers are aware that at some point they will not make it to campus, the lecture can be recorded ahead of time for students to view. Furthermore, online education offers specific people with the means of participating in lectures/lessons without leaving their homes (provided they have a valid reason).
However, it is understandable that at the moment students are burnt out from online lectures and are ready to get back on campus, which is why I believe that aspects of online learning should only be implemented to complement traditional learning (similar to VLE) rather than limiting students to an online environment once again. It is important that while these facilities are implemented, feedback from various student organisations is considered, and one must also take into account younger students with working parents or intellectual/communication disabilities, so they can be as supported as possible regardless of online environment.
After the past few months, I can safely say that the shift to online learning has affected me both positively and negatively. While I personally cannot wait to be on campus again, in response to the pandemic came a very useful tool which, if utilised correctly and moderately, would not limit education, but could work to enhance it.