When schools turned to online learning options during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators, psychologists, and experts in student health and wellness began to express concern that the lack of in-person, face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers would increase student stress and interfere with students’ social and emotional learning (SEL).
Sitting in an online classroom for weeks—and then months—away from the support of friends and teachers would, it was feared, have long-lasting and negative consequences for student mental health.
This has prompted a wider discussion on K-12 students’ mental health and the role schools play in it. But it goes beyond online learning.
Whether they are learning in the classroom or remote settings, students spend much of their educational time online. Studies have demonstrated that students experiencing social, emotional, and mental distress frequently address those feelings and experiences in their online activity.
Luckily, technology can also be incredibly useful for helping educators and caregivers gain insight into these issues of student mental and emotional wellness.
Identifying signs of stress and spotting mental health red flags in students can be challenging, even in traditional face-to-face classroom settings. Monitoring the warning signs over remote learning can be even more difficult.
It’s important for educators to stay attuned to their students’ needs and experiences and help them be aware of any mental health challenges that may arise, whether everyone is in the classroom together or not. Effective online tools and distance learning best practices can also play a valuable role in helping educators keep an eye on students’ social and emotional health.
The challenges of distance learning have been well-documented but online learning appears to be here to stay in one form or another. And while there are difficulties with remote learning, there are many benefits to it.
Online learning reaches students where they already spend much of their time—the internet. In addition to providing students and educators with additional flexibility and readily available resources, online learning also situates the classroom in the digital space where many students’ careers will also one day take place.
Other benefits of online learning that emerged during the pandemic include:
Another, perhaps unexpected, benefit of online learning is that it can provide educators with a powerful resource for teaching SEL. By helping students develop personal skills like self-awareness, good decision-making, and relationship skills, SEL has been shown to help schools be safer, help students achieve more academically, and promote positive mental health.
The Boston Children’s Hospital Digital Wellness Lab notes that,
Software like Lightspeed Alert™ help educators and other responders successfully implement student suicide or self-harm prevention, impede the planning of violent behavior against others, stop a student from being bullied, and reach students who are in need. Lightspeed Alert has been proven to be effective at recognizing the warning signs of student emotional and mental distress—and critically, identifying those signs early enough for successful and safe intervention.
Sophisticated artificial intelligence analyzes student data and locates, interprets, and flags warning signs in students’ email copy, Google docs, social media posts, web searches, Microsoft® Teams and Meetings chat—practically anywhere students are active online. Effective online monitoring tools like Lightspeed Alert meet students where they are and boosts a school’s ability to keep students safe during online learning
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