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New USC study shows stressors of distance learning

The goal of the survey is to shine light on areas where schools can improve online learning.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new study by a professor at the University of South Carolina focuses on the effects of distance learning during the pandemic. The goal is to find what areas schools can improve on.

For the study, families and teachers were surveyed on how distance learning affected them in the spring, summer and fall of last year. On Monday, Dr. Christine DiStefano with USC's College of Education shared the results with the Education Oversight Committee.

"This report looks at some of those stressors on administrators, teachers, students and stakeholders across the state," DiStefano said. 

Hundreds of parents and educators responded to the survey online. The findings show that many teachers felt they had more stress and work in the fall than previously in the spring. However, parents reported that the challenges they faced with their children improved over time.

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The Education Oversight Committee is made up of lawmakers, educators and business people that are tasked with improving South Carolina's education system. 

Member of the group, Representative Raye Felder, said she's glad the report is shining light on issues with virtual learning.

"We don’t have another entire school year to figure this out," said Felder. "These children are very far behind and these teachers, they’ve done a yeoman’s job with what they’ve had to work with, but they’re frustrated too."

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DiStefano went over some lessons learned from the study, including teachers wanting their voices to be heard.

"With the summer 2020 preparations for the upcoming year, teachers felt left out of the conversation," DiStefano said. "Lesson learned here is just to solicit some information from all stakeholders."

Teachers also reported they had a significant number of students that weren't completing work in either semester.

"There were many missing assignments. So, if remote learning is going to continue, there needs to be a way to encourage engagement," said DiStefano.

Despite the challenges of distance learning, teachers reported that they were proud of themselves and parents said they were grateful for their schools.

Professor DiStefano said her next step will be to conduct focus groups on this study. The committee added that it will continue working with her to create recommendations for schools.