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

Gila Cohen Zilka
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 18  •  2021  •  pp. 141-159
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 pro-ductive, challenging, and thwarting factors that preservice teachers encountered during their studies and in the course of their student teaching 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 experienced 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.

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 pre-service teachers had difficulty sitting in front of a computer for many hours—“Zoom fatigue.” Preservice teachers who had difficulty self-regulating and self-mobilizing for study, experienced accumulating loads, which caused them feelings of stress and anxiety. The word count indicated that the words that appeared most often were “load” and “stress.” 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: In choosing schools for student teaching, it is recommended to reach an understanding with the school about the online learning policy and organization. It is important to hold synchronous sessions in small groups of 5 to 10 students. The sessions should focus on the mental wellbeing of the students, and on the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Students should be prepared for participation in asynchronous digital lessons, which should be produced by professionals. It should be remembered that the change of medium from face-to-face to online learning also changes the familiar learning environment for all parties and requires modifying the ways of teaching.

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 de-pends largely on their experience, knowledge, skills, and attitude toward these skills.

Future Research: This study examined the issue from the perspective of preservice teachers. It is recommended to examine it also from the perspective of teachers and students.
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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