What Coronavirus Is Teaching Us About Remote Learning and Working

Posted by Yomaira Escano on March 16, 2020

With the latest news on the coronavirus and the declaration that the United State is now in a state of emergency, there was nothing else I could have possibly written about. My mind is currently consumed with ways to keep myself and my family safe. My husband, son and I have been fighting something for a few days now. Nothing serious, but I know that we want to keep away from as many people as possible at least until we are close to 100%. And I know that everyone reading this probably thinks that we should get tested. We will, but I have to do some research on where these tests are available. Wish me luck.

We are homebodies anyway, so quarantining ourselves from the rest of the world is not that hard. My kids are having a harder time with it. Earlier this afternoon we heard that New York City Public Schools will be closed starting Monday, March 16th with the earliest possible return date of Monday, April 20th. If for some reason they can’t open on April 20th, they may remain closed through the end of the school year. Additionally, the New York City Department of Education has decided to move to remote learning starting Monday, March 23rd. So what will that look like for the one million kids that comprise the largest school system in the country? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this question. Right now I’m merely a parent trying to make sense of how my kids will continue learning in this new reality. But companies are making the same push to working remotely and it’s about time we have an honest conversation of what that means for a lot of people.

With the prospect of entire school districts being shut down for weeks, colleges and universities making the decision to move to remote learning for the remainder of their semesters, and many companies encouraging their employees to work from home until further notice, the main question that has come up in many conversations recently is Why weren’t we better prepared for this?

My observation is that there should have been a plan in place to ensure that schools and businesses were ready in case of some catastrophe. I’m sure that many people are wondering the same thing. At different points in our history we have had to change the way that we go about business as usual. In my lifetime, I can only remember back to the attacks of September 11th, 2001, where we changed the way we traveled. We had to adjust to the new norm. I’m not saying that the coronavirus will be the new norm going forward, but we have to be better prepared for these moments where life will force us to come to a stand still. We have to make the necessary adjustments to make sure that normal parts of life continue without a hitch.

We have all of this amazing technology at our disposal and we should be embracing it wholeheartedly. With tools like Slack for constant communication, Trello to help us organize ourselves and our projects, and Zoom for video conferencing with our team members no matter where in the world they are, there is no excuse for us to not continue our daily routines. We all must be more flexible in this ever-changing world. Technology allows us this flexibility, and we should be ready to use it now more than ever. We can all be more flexible to help accommodate the changing needs of our workforce and our student bodies. I know some companies and some schools are more open to try new tools and new ways of going about their normal business, but I think we can all see now that the ability to work remotely will only become a bigger necessity.

I get that none of this ideal right now, but we have to do the best we can with the tools we have. My biggest hope is that this will start a larger conversation on less traditional forms of learning and working. Learning doesn’t always have to happen in person for it to be worthy. Working doesn’t have to take place in a traditional office setting for it to be productive. I think the coronavirus will teach us how to be more productive with the technological tools we have, while ensuring that we accommodate more people into the changing face of how we conduct regular business. I hope once things go back to normal we continue thinking about ways to move forward in times of crisis. I also hope that remote work is not something buzzy that people are just now catching on to. We need to make remote work our new norm for the future. There is no turning back.