Impacts of COVID-19 on Education
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a viral disease that has caused a pandemic with significant impacts in all sectors. Most affected are the health and education sectors. The disease has been wide-spreading and has greatly affected the educational and health sectors that heavily relied on face-face learning methods and clinical skills acquisition. Given the need to ensure the safety of both learners and instructors, most learning institutions were forced to suspend operations, with some opting to move learning to online platform.
The closure and change of learning techniques has had extensive impacts on the students, teachers, instructors, and learning institutions. The impacts of COVID-19 on education has been mostly negative, though with some positive aspects. The current discussion focusses on the impacts of COVID-19 on the education sectors with more emphasis on nursing education.
Negative Impacts of Covid-19 on Education
Closure of Learning Institutions
Nursing education requires theoretical and practical or bedside aspects to provide learners with the necessary skills for practice. As reported by the World Health Organization, the disease is lethal to all people, regardless of gender, race, or age.
Therefore, schools and other learning institutions have made the tough decision of suspending their operations indefinitely. In some countries, the closure was ordered by their respective government (Fogg et al., 2020). The suspension of leaning means that students cannot acquire the skills and knowledge required to complete their courses on time. For those who have managed to use non-physical learning methods, there have been obstacles and challenges.
The different learning domains, including the knowledge, skills, and attitude, have been significantly affected by the schools attempting non-physical learning. By September 2020, most schools, including universities, had been closed in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia (Fogg et al., 2020). In the united states and Canada, however, most institutions only closed partially.
Disruption of Learners’ Learning Outcomes
In some colleges in the United Kingdom, examinations were canceled or moved to online platforms. Cancellations of examinations have subjected the learners to anxiety and prolongation time or restudying the same concepts while preparing for online exams (O’Flynn-Magee et al., 2020). This disruption has extensively affected students’ learning outcomes, especially in science-based courses that require physical learning and practice. The disruption has interfered with the continuity and momentum already gained by learners, and now they have to readjust to cope with online learning and its associated limitations.
To acquire clinical skills of nursing and other health-related courses, learners in many parts of the world have been commuting from their residences to the learning facilities. Various governments have formulated new rules and regulations designed to minimize the spread of this disease. Regulations and rules such as partial or full lockdowns either countrywide or in urban areas limited students’ travel to their learning institutions before the closure of schools and universities. This, alongside directives discouraging gatherings such as those in physical classroom settings, meant that students had to halt their learning.
Need for Digital Literacy
As mentioned earlier, most institutions have adapted virtual learning strategies to provide learners with knowledge and skills. However, the main virtual method that has been leveraged by most institutions is the internet-based learning that involves using computers and websites whose navigation requires training. For students to successfully navigate these platforms, they need to first acquire digital literacy skills.
The use of examination applications in learning has also required prior orientation to the students (O’Flynn-Magee et al., 2020). Arguably, the pandemic has forced learning institutions to explore alternative options to learning, most of which are time-consuming. Many institutions that had not integrated e-learning into their systems have had to spend more time orientating their users, including instructors and students, on this new learning methodology.
Unequal Access to Education
Various institutions have adopted online learning technologies which can be an expensive method of learning for students. The use of e-learning to cover up for the time lost during the lockdown has brought challenges to the students who cannot afford to acquire the necessary gadgets and know-how required for internet-based learning. With unequal access to internet-based learning, it is likely that online education has resulted in unequal access to learning resources (Baticulon et al., 2020).
Internet-based learning involves the sharing of files and learning materials via online platforms. Some of these materials are copyrighted by the intellectual property laws that prohibit their unauthorized sharing. Thus, for students who are unable to acquire the requisite learning materials to avoid infringing on copyright laws, the new model of learning has been anything but smooth.
Compromised Academic integrity
Adopting internet-based learning, especially for a nurse, has not been as effective as physical face-to-face learning strategies. Specifically, internet-based education does not deliver fully for enhanced psychomotor domain of learning given the limited access to actual patients. Even though simulation, animations, and videos have also enhanced psychomotor skill development among nursing students, its efficacy cannot be compared to physical learning.
Further, while assessment of the students’ understanding of the taught concepts has been through online platform, their integrity has not been studied in comparison to physical exams. Moreover, this kind of examination is prone to questionable exam integrity. Even with restricted browsers, verifying that the actual student is doing the exam has been difficult.
Economic Costs to Institutions
With suspension of learning in most institutions following full or partial closures, some institutions have had to refund the students their education. Additionally, the cost of internet-based education can be high, forcing some learners to defer their studies indefinitely. When combined, these factors create an environment in which institutions have low student number, jeopardizing their sustainability goals (Dewart et al., 2020). While some institutions may resort to charging more fees for the existing students, this is a short-term intervention that has been associated with increased student dropout rates in colleges.
Emotional Response and Coping Strategies in Nursing Education
COVID-19 has caused various emotional responses from nursing students and their nurse educators. For nurse students, just as is the case with the general population, the pandemic has caused major psychological issues. The associated psychological stress, according to Huang et al. (2020), has affected learners’ ability to grasp the necessary skills and knowledge. According to Bloom’s learning domains, the affective domain is essential in the overall outcome of student learning. The learning environment for nursing students and the work environment for nurse practitioners is the same, which means that they are subjected to almost similar stressing factors.
Limited Educational Human Recourse
The disease has impacted the psychological and mental health of nurse educators. More importantly, since people are generally required to self-isolate whenever they contract the virus, nurse educators who fall sick are forced to suspend learning, much to the students’ disadvantage (Huang et al., 2020). In the process, the nursing students in the practicum must survive with reduced numbers of educators and instructors (Chen et al., 2020). This has negatively impacted the quality of education that they get (Al Thobaity & Alshammari, 2020).
Poor Communication Between Educators and Learners
The pandemic has forced distant learning on health institutions. Therefore, the mechanisms of communication have switched to email and learning portals as opposed to face-to-face and memos that were initially utilized. Proper communication is key to effective learning. Instructors communicating through learning portals are more likely to miss the attention of the audience, the learners. This has impacted the efficiency of distant online learning (Baticulon et al., 2020). Among other barriers to learning reported by Baticulon et al. (2020) include poor communication.
Learners pursuing distant learning involving e-learning have had a rough time balancing between domestic activities and academic work. There has been limited attention to academic assignments and learning. This has made it difficult to implement student-based interventions in promoting student learning (Dewart et al., 2020) an aspect that further complicates the distant learning process
Positive Impacts of COVID-19 on Education
Despite the extensive negative impacts the pandemic has had on different sectors, is not devoid of positive implications for the field of education and health. There are few subspecialties in the field of education where COVID-19 has promoted a positive situation. The need for digitalization of learning and the provision of remote healthcare services has resulted in expanded technology adoption.
Digitization of Education
Most learning institutions across the world have adopted online learning. Online learning has digitized requirements that have to put in place before learning starts. Digitized learning has provided numerous advantages in places where the learning institution ensured efficient and successful establishment of the required resources to both students and the educators.
Further, online learning makes it easy for students and educators to share resources, a factor that can potentially widen a learner’s scope of knowledge. Further, to support online learning, new tools and software applications have emerged that promote teleconferencing, thereby ensuring effective distant learning. Software applications such as Zoom and Google Meet have promoted online learning by enabling real-time learning sessions.
Additionally, in a bid to control the spread of the disease, most governments across the globe focused on enhancing public awareness by promoting patient education through public health teaching. The media teachings about hygiene and proper disease prevention, particularly regarding how the virus spreads, has added to the existing public knowledge on disease management and prevention. These teachings have enlightened patients about health components that nursing and medical students would have spent educating the patients about.
Research and Learning
COVID-19 has provided a fertile ground for research on viral communicable respiratory diseases. Various health and educational resources have been published about this pandemic that can widen the learner’s knowledge of this disease. Arguably, research studies done by learners and corporate organizations concerning this novel virus have promoted a better understanding of the trends and strategies of preventing the disease.
In sum, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has negatively affected students, educators, and institutions. In fact, the pandemic has exposed the extent to which most governments across the world have defunded the health and education sectors, setting them up for failure should similar disruptions emerge. For novel diseases for which there are no vaccines and effective treatments, the best management tools tends to entail containment measures such as through physical and social distancing, an aspect that has resulted in extensive change in how schools are managed. Nonetheless, while disruptions to learning has had profound effects on student progress, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for technology adoption and integration in learning.
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