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Bullying, racism and being 'different': Why some families are opting for remote learning regardless of COVID-19

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fairly difficult
The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a public debate about the value of learning online for elementary school students. Much of this dialog has been negative, with a focus on the experiences that children are missing by not being a part of in-person classrooms.
It's important to consider: for whom and when is online learning a good fit? Credit: Pexels/Valery

In an effort to learn more about remote education at the elementary level, we collected data from those with the most first-hand experiences—parents, students and teachers—in the form of a survey and interviews.

As we suspected, we found that the situation of online schooling is more complex than a simple "good" or "bad"—and the public dialog is not telling the full story. We think it's important to ask for whom and when is online learning a good fit.

Parent, student, teacher surveys

We are a team of multidisciplinary researchers with an interest in children's rights and education who collaborate with community partners to better understand how to improve the equitable delivery of engaging educational experiences.

Through our program, the McMaster Children and Youth University (MCYU), McMaster professors and students from different faculties and departments offer public lectures and community-based workshops designed to appeal to children, youth and families.

We recruited participants through e-mail requests for participation distributed in collaboration with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to those who experienced remote learning during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Before the pandemic

Online schooling existed in limited formats long before the pandemic and has been valuable for certain students and specific circumstances.

In 2010, research reporting on national studies of school district administrators in the United States found the majority of "K-12 online learning is conducted at the secondary level where students are older and beginning to come into their own socially and emotionally." It also found that the "basic reason K-12 schools are offering online and blended learning is to meet the special needs of a variety of students"—and that online learning is helpful for offering courses that are not otherwise available in schools and for…
Rebecca Collins-Nelsen
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