Home learning 2.0: Lessons learnt from 2020 Queensland lockdown

Thousands of children returned to home learning this week with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland forcing the closure of schools in south-east Queensland. 

Despite distance learning becoming the norm in 2020, University of Southern Queensland education expert Michele Wright said many parents would still be feeling unprepared and worried about supporting their children’s education at home second time around.

Ms Wright and her research team have spent the past year investigating the impact of COVID-19 home learning on children and families.

Last year they launched an online survey with the aim of getting a snapshot of parents’ views and experiences of home learning during the 2020 lockdown.

Early findings suggest more than 20 per cent of parents were dissatisfied with home learning, while almost half of the respondents said they didn’t want to be more involved in their children’s learning.

Ms Wright said gaps in technology access were a key factor in the vastly different home learning experiences.

“It was evident from the results we have analysed so far that children who had access to a computer, laptop or tablet had a better experience with remote learning than those without,” Ms Wright said.

A recent Queensland Audit Office report revealed almost one in 10 state school students did not have access to a device during last year’s lockdown.

“It’s hard to imagine that we’re living in a digital age, yet there are still thousands of students who cannot access online learning and have to rely on paper-based learning materials for remote learning,” Ms Wright said.

“This places more responsibility on parents, some of whom already feel overwhelmed and don’t have the time, resources or education to support their children’s learning needs at home.”

Ms Wright said some respondents of their survey said the strain of juggling working from home with teaching their younger children took a toll on their mental health.

“One father reported it gave him severe anxiety, while a mother said she was emotional, scared, stressed and felt like a failure to her children,” she said.

“Another mother said she loved the opportunity but it became too hard when she was required to do more employed work.

“She was overwhelmed given the amount of students at home and the variety of ways that home learning was presented across the subjects and grades.”

Ms Wright said this week’s interruption to learning was manageable, but believed disadvantaged children would be hardest hit if the lockdown was extended past Sunday.

“A few days of home learning won’t be an inconvenience for most children, but if students are locked out of classrooms any longer, then it will be a concern,” she said.

“Students who have poor or no access to technology, or don’t have a supportive home learning environment, will almost certainly be impacted educationally.”

Caption: University of Southern Queensland’s Michele Wright.