Hot Issues of Skills Development

This page provides summaries of previous and relevant research on skills development.

SKY[Skills and Knowledge for Youth] home Hot Issues of Skills Development The Challenges and Prospects of Distance Learning

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The Challenges and Prospects of Distance Learning Yujiro Yamazaki
  • Training Quality and Relevance

Due to the spread of the COVID-19, more than 1.2 billion learners around the world are currently affected by the closure of schools, training institutions and universities, and are doing distance learning at home (UNESCO 2020). The challenges and future prospects of distance learning are currently under discussion. The effectiveness of online learning has been debated until now, but due to the spread of coronaviruses, it is the first attempt to offer online classes through the Internet from elementary schools to universities around the world.

Then, the first issue was inequality of access to distance education. In developing countries and lower income households has been hampered access to online education. As a result, it has been concerned that the economic situation of the family will be directly linked to access to education and educational disparity (Haeck and Lefevre 2020). Although the Internet is difficult to quickly spread to all, it is important on a long term basis. To ensure access to education under the pandemic, it is essential to provide educational materials for television, video and paper for home learning as a short-term approach. UNICEF provides the educational opportunities by introducing a radio program for home learning for children in Rwanda, assisting in TV broadcasting learning in Côte d’Ivoire, and distributing teaching materials for home learning in Syria to educate children in environments where Internet access is difficult (Miks and McIlwaine 2020). In addition, the non-profit organization Ubongo provides children with the opportunity to learn through animation in the African region.

The impact on academic ability during out-of-school periods has been pointed out by previous papers. One shows that the difference in test scores after summer vacation was influenced by the economic level of the household (Cooper 1996). Other paper show that the school closure due to the polio epidemic in the United States in 1916 affected the declination of the academic achievement despite a closure period of just a few weeks (Meyers and Thomasson 2017). From these precedents, although aftermath of the COVID-19 is unprecedented, there might be a gap in academic ability due to the economic situation at home during the home learning period. Given the situations, it is necessary to provide educational guidance that takes into account the difference.
Apart from such discussions, it can be a good opportunity to think about the future possibility of how distance learning is effective as a new learning method. As mentioned earlier, distance learning approaches are being developed in various ways under this pandemic. It should not end this diverse learning approach as an ad-hoc way, but it is important to think about future applicability. The evaluation of online learning is one of the challenge to develop the distance learning as a permanent method. Athough previous papers discussed the issues of evaluation, but the discussion is limited in the context of higher education and its adaptbility to other educational sectors has not been fully discussed. Under such circumstances, it is required to investigate a new approach to evaluate distance learnig outcome for children. One paper investigated the effectiveness of mobile phone evaluation approach to remote learning children. The paper highlighted the mobile phone assessment as a new learning assessment approach (Angrist et al. 2020).

As described above, in the unprecedented situation due to the pandemic, expanding access to distance education is emargency issue, but as a long-term perspective, the evaluation method of distance learning is also important for opening the possibility of distance learning in the future.


Angrist, N., Bergman, P., Evans, D. K., Hares, S., Jukes, M. and Letsomo, T. “Principle for Phone-Based Assessents of Learning.” Working paper 534. Center for Global Development.
Cooper H., Nye B., Charlton K., Lindsay J. and Greathouse S. 1996. “The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review,” Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268.
Haeck, C. and Lefevre, P. 2020. “Inequalities in Education across Canada : Lessons for the Pandemic.” Research Group on Human Capital Working Paper Series.
Meyers, K. and Thomasson, M. A. 2017. “Panics, Quarantines, and School Closures: Did the 1916 Poliomyelitis Epidemic Affect Educational Attainment? ” NBER Working Paper.
Miks, J. and McIlwaine, J. 2020. Keeping the world’s children learning through COVID-19.
UNESCO 2020. Education: From disruption to recovery. COVID-19 Impact on Education.