The COVID-19 pandemic has been more than a healthcare emergency. Worldwide school and college closures have triggered a major crisis in the education sectors. Both teachers and students have been forced to adopt online learning to create a semblance of normalcy amidst the pandemic.
While educational institutions had been warming up to the idea of online learning, the novel coronavirus accelerated its adoption. Educators were forced to reinvent old-school teaching practices to fit into virtual classes. On the other hand, students found the lines between coursework and free time gradually blurring.
Despite the easing of COVID restrictions in many countries, school and college campuses may not return to archaic teaching practices. They’ll likely adopt a hybrid learning model where students have the liberty to choose between traditional and online classes.
That begs the following questions:
- Is homework still going to be relevant for students?
- Will traditional homework assignments benefit students who join online classes?
- What impact will homework have on the mental health of students?
The General Perception of Homework
Even before the pandemic, students, parents, and educators were divided on their opinions about homework.
Teachers often believe that homework is necessary for helping students continue learning at home. It strengthens their understanding of important concepts taught in class. It’s a great way to involve parents in the learning process too.
Moreover, homework helps students inculcate essential skills, such as organization and time management. It even teaches them to become responsible and advocate for themselves.
But on the side of the spectrum, students often find it difficult to juggle homework from different classes. Instead of inculcating positive attributes, homework becomes a burden that instills a sense of fear. It could take a toll on a student’s social skills and mental health as well.
Moreover, working parents don’t always have the time to participate in their kids’ assignments. Nor can they monitor whether their children are regularly completing homework. If you want to read more about the negative impact of homework, you can find it here in this insightful article.
In recent years, many educators have also highlighted the drawbacks of burdening students with homework. They’ve been brainstorming ways to make homework more fun and engaging, instead of feeling like a punishment.
The Lines Have Blurred
As long as students were physically going to the classroom, it still made sense for teachers to give them homework assignments. But when they started attending online classes, the distinctions between class assignments and homework no longer existed.
When students learn at home, the concept of “homework” becomes a misnomer. There’s only coursework done during different times of the day. That’s a major disruption to the routine life of a student.
It’s worth noting here that the general fear and anxiety of the pandemic has taken a toll on students as well. They’re scared about the safety and wellbeing of their loved ones. They’re grappling with feelings of isolation and uncertainty about the future.
In such a scenario, flooding students with coursework will further deteriorate their mental health. Also, it’ll force them to spend even more time in front of electronic screens, thus causing long-term damage to their vision.
The Glaring Social Inequity
Beyond the psychological toll, homework is also a reflection of the inequity that exists in modern society. Students from low and mid-income families don’t have access to high-speed internet, computers, and other resources that are required for completing homework assignments.
While the digital divide had always existed in society, the pandemic shone a spotlight on the problem.
According to a recent survey, 36% of parents with lower incomes and 29% of parents with middle income believe that it was somewhat or very difficult for their children to use technology as an educational tool.
Also, children in lower-income households are more likely to face technology-related learning challenges during the pandemic.
When students don’t have access to proper technology at home, they can’t work on homework assignments. Nor can they collaborate with their classmates for group projects. That, in turn, causes children from lower and middle-income households to disengage from their lessons.
Instead of developing new skills, these students are crippled by the fear of failure.
Reinventing Homework in the New Normal
The traditional approach to homework comes with several drawbacks. The onus is on educational institutions and teachers to identify assignments that’ll enhance the learning process.
Even after regular classes resume, it’s important for educators to question the relevance and benefits of an assignment before asking students to complete it at home. Also, they should help students see the value of the assignments and understand why it’s important.