Today's COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected every aspect of one's life. It completely disrupted everyone's way of living, caused wide-scale health problems, and generated precautionary measures such as social distancing, community lockdowns, and alteration of social practices. This pandemic also resulted in a 'new normal' which encompasses changes in a society's economic and social aspects.

In this context, the education sector has also undergone some changes to cope with the new normal, resulting in the prevalence of distance learning. Fortunately, with the help of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission or the DEAC, students can now choose from a variety of accredited online institutions. 

What's It Like In The New Normal

Change is undeniably inevitable on this planet, and this has now become a part of human existence. It comes uncannily, be it gradual or abrupt, expected or not. However, adjusting to these changes can be challenging, no matter how favorable they are to a person. Also, sudden changes which emanated from certain circumstances regarding the pandemic often result to fear and confusion.

Considering the events of 2020, the world experienced an unprecedented shift in everyone's way of living during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite society's attempts to rise against the issue, there will still be limitations that require everyone to adhere to while dealing with fundamental disruptions in their lives. In connection to this, many questions arise regarding the new normal, what this is all about, and to what extent it can affect one's life.

The new normal comprises changes, which include:

  • Social Distancing: People are now halted to organize social gatherings as it's one of the primary factors that result in the uncontrollable spread of the virus. Attending parties, festivals, and concerts are prohibited. There are also changes in the social practices of mingling with other people as certain safety protocols are being implemented worldwide.
  • Travel Restrictions: Overseas and interstate visitations have been limited to avoid the spread of the virus. Various states across the world have implemented travel bans on some countries that reported higher cases of medically confirmed positive patients. Family members who live far from each other also have to make adjustments due to travel restrictions and safety protocols.
  • Implementation Of Community Quarantines: Safety protocols implemented by several countries include putting stricter age restrictions on people who may go outside their homes. Senior citizens, pregnant women, and people who have varying health-related concerns are restricted from roaming outside the safety of their homes during non-emergency purposes as they are identified as the most vulnerable sectors.
  • Modified Social Greetings: What were once simple ways of relating to friends or relatives are now a bit 'outlawed' due to the possibility of virus contact transmission. Thus, the innocent hugs, high-fives, or kisses and professional handshakes have been shunned in favor of the suggested elbow bumping or the safest waving motion done from afar.
  • Alteration In Dining Practices: The food and beverage industry has also suffered, especially eateries of all kinds. They now rely on takeout and drive-thru services since dine-in isn't an ideal option. Even when some restaurants reopen for dine-in services, there'll still be limitations on how many people may dine in and strict observation of social distancing. Also, because of the current situation, some people aren't comfortable dining in secluded places such as these fast-food establishments.

There are also some notable changes in the usual workplace and learning set-up, and these include:

  • Work From Home Set-ups: The prevalence of the work from home set-up is one of the many changes which correspond to the new normal. People have opted to telecommute or work remotely to avoid wide contact with the outside world as possible. Different companies offered this new work set-up to their employees not only to abide by safety protocols but also to avoid the uncontrollable spread of the virus.
  • Distance Learning: Because of the new normal, the education sector also underwent some changes to cope with the demands of the public. Universities around the world resorted to implementing distance learning to cater to students' academic needs.


The Revised Role Of Online Learning In The New Normal

Distance learning is now a fast-emerging set-up across all levels of the education sector. This has become the default solution to cope with the ever-changing academic world to meet the needs of students.

Numerous efforts to create online education platforms before have been accepted worldwide despite some skepticism that initially surrounded it. But one can't deny the role of technology in the sudden shift in the current learning set-up. This has also been referred to as the 'technologization' or teaching through technology. 

Even before the pandemic, many people opted to complete degrees online for various reasons, foremost of which includes the flexibility of scheduling their lives and balancing their other life aspects. Working students found this as a way of completing their degrees while holding on to full-time jobs. Learners with families also find it beneficial to study from home while running their household.

Online education also created an opportunity for people from all walks of life to have access to valuable educational tools without even leaving their home countries. But what was once an option that existed for those who can't access the traditional academic set-ups has evolved anew in light of the pandemic.

How COVID-19 Pandemic Influenced The Practice Of Online Learning

The global pandemic indeed made an enormous impact on the education sector and the public. This resulted in instituting a strictly online-based learning environment so as not to disrupt the learning processes but also not risking the students' safety and well-being at the same time.

While it wasn't easy for some countries or cities to implement it, several undeniable factors influenced them to transition, as follows:

  • According to studies, there's an average of 6-8% decline in the 2020 enrollment as of June 15, 2020.
  • About 11% of incoming college students have decided not to enroll in the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • Around 8% of the students showed the global pandemic significantly affected their decision to enroll.
  • Because of the pandemic, 53% indicated that there had been an enormous effect on their family's financial situation, hence their change of decisions.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected 24% of the students who indicated a sudden change in their prior plans regarding which university to attend.

The implementation of distance learning as a solution to cater to students' needs in the new normal gives rise to some questions regarding its advantages and disadvantages to the public. It's essential to know both its benefits and downsides because of its relevance in today's issues.

Advantages Of Online Learning In The New Normal

Despite numerous challenges that arise with the implementation of online education, one can't deny the benefits it offers to the public, especially to the students. These advantages include: 

  • Flexible Time Schedule

Most college-level students find difficulty in attending their early morning classes due to some factors such as road traffic and living far from campus. It's also hard for them to prepare everything they need at school with limited available time, especially for those students who have classes at night. Doing various academic requirements while also attending to household responsibilities contribute to reasons behind some students' low grades. 

Due to this, online learning proved to be more convenient to most students as it'll allow them to allot more time to their responsibilities outside school premises. Online learning is also beneficial to most students as it often gave them asynchronous sessions to learn at their own pace. This is helpful to those who find difficulty in balancing school responsibilities and extra-curricular activities.

  • Affordable Means To Study

One factor that students mainly take into consideration when looking for a school to attend is its financial requirements. Some schools require more expensive fees from the students in private schools than those who attend state universities. 

Because of this, some students aren't able to attend school because of various financial constraints. This expensive fee is because of the added benefits the school offers to its students to compensate for their costly tuition and maintain its high-end reputation.

Online learning in this aspect could be more affordable for students because they don't have to pay hefty fees to meet class requirements. They can now do that via distance learning, eliminating the added fees and costs that come with traveling to campus or related in-school expenses.   

  • Widely Accessible To All

It's tough for some students to attend their classes while attending to their other responsibilities outside school premises. Some of them have to do household chores, look over siblings and elderly family members, and finish school work. These instances produce unfavorable results for the students, as they can't focus completely on their responsibilities.

In this aspect, online learning is beneficial to the students as it proposes useful alternatives on how they can study while attending to their other obligations. It also allows them to access various online information without stressing over technical hindrances. 

Also, online learning in this context allows students to study while earning for themselves as they have control over their schedules. In this way, students won't worry much over the financial aspects of their education.


Disadvantages Of Online Learning

While it has its benefits, it's also undeniable that online learning poses numerous drawbacks to students and their parents. These are some barriers that may hinder the smooth flow of information in a set-up like this.

  • Little Collaborative Learning

Some students still lack a profound understanding of the use of technology while studying. Some of them learn effectively in the face-to-face set-up, as it requires full attention from the students and maximum comprehension of what they need to fulfill. It's also inconvenient for other students to study virtually with all the surrounding distractions at home.

This is one downside of distance learning as it poses various challenges between the students and teachers. This problem arises because of the limited virtual space provided for the students and teachers in the collaboration of their ideas. There are also some factors to consider in this set-up, such as learning barriers that result in the students' poor academic performance. 

  • Limited Chance To Communicate With Teachers

Parents worry over their children's scant chance to communicate with their professors and teachers whenever they have some things to consult with them. Online learning thus poses various technological challenges to both students and teachers. This is also because of the teachers' consultation availability.

Also, some students who aren't knowledgeable about the use of online learning platforms may find difficulty in communicating or interacting with their teachers. 

  • Possible Tech Fatigue And Self-Motivation Issues

One of the major factors to consider in this alternative is the possibility of students to feel fatigued when facing screens day in and day out on a weekly basis. For younger students, challenges arise when it comes to being disciplined enough to stay still in front of the computer as they listen and watch their lectures and lessons.  

It's apparent that online learning methods are not for everybody. To remedy the situation, some schools opted for a blended learning technique, where they combine synchronous online lectures with asynchronous offline methods.

Educators still have to assess the effectiveness of such modified learning environments as they, too, are adjusting to this new normal way of conducting lessons. 

  • Restricted Internet Connectivity

Internet connectivity has also been a constant question to the online community. Students around the world have varying degrees of need for internet connectivity, but most of them consider this to be the primary thing to ponder upon this kind of alternative. Today's online learning isn't just a question of the students' resilience in the face of this new set-up, but also a question of who has the most privilege to study in this new normal.

Students don't share the same privileges in studying, let alone access to an internet connection. Aside from worrying over their school requirements, students now have to think of ways to gain data access. It's also a problem for both students and parents to cope with the financial constraints caused by the implementation of distance learning.

Bottom Line

Facing adversities is a part of anyone's life. However, there are difficulties in life that will challenge one's determination and faith. No matter how hard these obstacles are, people always find ways to keep on striving. Thus, as students and instructors face revised procedures of facilitating learning in the new normal, they also need to condition themselves that this process could take a while.

As COVID-19 upended everything in the world, distance learning remains the most viable way of continuing academic life in this new normal. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages, but preserving students' and teachers' lives while upholding their educational aspirations and tracks remains the foremost reason why online studying remains vital in today's pandemic-disrupted world.