The health crisis that we are going through is leading national education and higher education to generalize large-scale distance education solutions today.
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If the latter makes it possible today to ensure, in a very relative way, a certain educational continuity, it might be tempting to want to perpetuate its use in the coming years, while the offers of distance courses have already multiplied in universities since a few years. The GAFAM, for their part, are redoubling their investment in educational solutions today, and now aim to massively disseminate their tools in schools and universities.
An unfavorable result
There would be nothing more harmful in the future, however, than an education system based on the digital world.
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However, after almost two months of confinement, the results of the experiment are not very bright. National Education, which was said to be prepared, has rather shown itself to be helpless in the face of the situation.
If the loan of computer equipment has helped here or there to resolve certain situations, it should be noted that distance education more broadly requires an adapted work environment, or computer skills, still little taught in France. Anyway, the myth of the autonomous pupil in his learning does not resist very long: we rarely search on Google for things of which we ignore the existence! Moreover, the OECD pointed out in 2019 the weak correlation between digital equipment and academic success.
Also, while the figures for dropouts are now estimated to be around 5% by the government, some suggest a range between 20% and 40%.
Forgotten collective interaction and emulation
However, let us admit that these difficulties were put aside, a generalization of distance education would still represent a fatal idea.
A course taken from home, or worse still, lagged, will never benefit from all the possibilities offered by physical education. The assessment of a student or pupil should not simply consist in verifying the correct answer given to a given question, just as the course follow-up must necessarily rest on interaction and collective emulation. On the contrary, pedagogy, which is necessarily based on differentiation and adaptation, must make it possible to take advantage of the best of each student and identify difficulties. The frozen nature of distance education is a serious obstacle in this respect.
Worse, in some universities, we would even impose on students behavioral analysis software to monitor exams! The risk of a depersonalized education based on a fixed and mechanical appreciation of the student is not far away.
The risk of desocialization
On the other hand, distance education overlooks an essential part of the school or university career. Learning also involves extracurricular activities and socializing with peers. Could we imagine tomorrow a high school without a school restaurant or a university without student associations?
Besides, the effects of desocialization and the absence of the “university routine” are already very negative for many students.
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Let’s end with the myth of distance education as a solution to all the problems and central element of tomorrow’s education. But let’s not give up on fully grasping the uses it allows. Let’s strengthen digital learning in schools and the creation of accessible (and preferably European) tools, to make it a useful complement to the service of the “educational act” (Devauchelle, 2017). Let us encourage the good flow of information and dematerialization at the university, without encroaching on the educational approach and student life.