Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Crisis as Perceived by Preservice Teachers

Gila Cohen Zilka
InSITE 2021  •  2021  •  pp. 012
Aim/Purpose: This study examined learning during the COVID-19 crisis, as perceived by preservice teachers at the time of their academic studies and their student teaching experience.

Background: The COVID-19 crisis is unexpected. On one hand, it disrupted learning in all learning frameworks, on the other, it may create a change in learning characteristics even after the end of the crisis. This study examined the productive, challenging, and thwarting factors that preservice teachers encountered during their studies and in the course of their student teaching practice during the COVID-19 period, from the perspective of preservice teachers.

Methodology: The study involved 287 students studying at teacher training institutions in Israel. The preservice teachers were studying online and, in addition, engaged in online teaching of students in schools, guided by their own teacher. The study used a mixed method. The questionnaire included closed and open questions. The data were collected in 2020-2021.

Contribution: Identifying the affecting factors may deepen the understanding of online learning/teaching and assist in the optimal implementation of online learning.

Findings: Online learning experience. We found that some of the lessons at institutions of higher learning were delivered in the format of online lectures. Many preservice teachers had difficulty sitting in front of a computer for many hours—“Zoom fatigue.” Some preservice teachers wrote that collaborating in forums with others made it easier for them. Some suggested diversifying by digital means, incorporating asynchronous units and illustrative films, and easing up on online lectures as a substitute for face-to-face lectures.
Online teaching experience in schools. The preservice teachers’ descriptions show that in lessons taught in the format of lectures and communication of content there were discipline problems and non-learning. According to the preservice teachers, discipline problems stemmed from difficulties concentrating, physical distance, load, and failure to address the students’ difficulties.

Recommendations for Practitioners: The findings suggest that it is recommended to combine synchronous lectures and meetings with asynchronous learning that integrates 21st century skills. It is advisable to use collaborative tools, such as forums, shared files, and open content repositories, and to encourage meaningful dialogue between learners, and between learners and their teachers, to better deal with the physical distance.

Recommendations for Researchers: A change in the learning medium also requires a change in the definition of objectives and goals expected of each party—students, teachers, and parents. All parties must learn to view online learning as a method that enables empowerment and the application of 21st century skills.

Impact on Society: Teachers’ ability to deploy 21st century skills in an online environment depends largely on their experience, knowledge, skills, and attitude toward these skills.

Future Research: This study examined the issue from the perspective of preservice teachers. The issue should also be studied from the perspective of lecturers in academia, teachers in schools, and school students. Future studies should examine whether the change that took place during the COVID-19 period in relation to the deployment of 21st century skills, as experienced by all parties, led to the continued use of these skills in the post-corona period. Continued use depends largely on past experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward these skills.

*** NOTE: This Proceedings paper was revised and published in the journal Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 18, 141-159.] Click DOWNLOAD PDF to download the published paper. ***
distance learning, digital environment, social emotional learning – SEL, digital literacy, e-readiness, m-learning, teacher presence, social presence, Zoom fatigue, COVID-19
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