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Distance-Based Learning: Insights from a 3rd & 5th Grader

April 8, 2020
  • K-12 Education

While we as employees and parents attempt to embrace our “new normal,” we must also recognize the seismic shift our children are experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic. At KI, we’re thinking about how we can connect and share the perspectives of students, teachers and school administrators during this period of uncertainty, when online learning has become our reality.

That’s why we’re conducting a six-week interview series about distance-based learning. Each week we will check in with students or educators to understand how they’re navigating and feeling about their new virtual education environments. We hope to gain insights from those who are actually going through it. During this time, we’ll share our thoughts about similarities, differences and what can be learned as we all embrace a new style of learning and instruction.

We’re kicking off our interview with a 3rd grader and a 5th grader. The questions asked will be used for all participants - middle school, high school, college & university as well as teaching participants.

Interview #1: 3rd Grader, Public Elementary School

KI: What did you have for breakfast?

3rd Grader: I had two chicken sausages, a blueberry waffle and an apple.

KI: What do you like about distance-based learning?

3rd Grader: I like that I don’t have to rush to get out of bed and get to school on time. It’s nice to not be rushed.

KI: Why do you not like to be rushed?

3rd Grader: When I’m rushed it makes me intense, and I don’t think people like being intense.

KI: What do you wish was different about distance-based learning?

3rd Grader: I just sort of wish we didn’t have to do it.

KI: Why do you wish you didn’t have to do it?

3rd Grader: I think it’s too much work. We don’t ever do the same amount of work in some subjects, when in school, as we are doing at home.

KI: Can you tell us about a project or assignment you had fun with?

3rd Grader: All of the things have been very specific; nothing has been a project where I could just do what I want in a subject I like.

KI: Why would you want to have a project in a subject you like?

3rd Grader: Because why wouldn’t I want to do a project that I like...

KI: Can you tell me about a project or assignment that you didn’t enjoy?

3rd Grader: I don’t enjoy taking notes from videos that aren’t interesting. Like yesterday, we had to watch a video about food, and I had to take notes. It wasn’t interesting at all.

KI: Why wasn’t it interesting?

3rd Grader: First of all, the video wasn’t interesting at all. And it was really long, so I had to take a lot of notes on something that wasn’t interesting.

KI: When things return to “normal,” would you want to continue some amount of distance-based learning?

3rd Grader: No, not at all.

KI: Why not at all?

3rd Grader: It’s easier to get help from other people, like my teacher or a friend, when I’m in school. At school, we cover all the subjects, but we don’t have as much work in each, the way we are having during distance-based learning.

Interview #2: 5th Grader, Public Elementary School

KI: What’d you do for “at home” recess today?

5th Grader: My sisters (age 5 and 4) and I played in a bouncy house our grandpa got us!

KI: What do you like about distance-based learning?

5th Grader: I like distance-based learning because I get to lay in my bed and do my work.

KI: Why do you prefer lying in bed to do your work?

5th Grader: It’s nice to start school when I want to. I usually have to rush to get dressed, eat and get on the bus. Now I have a quieter morning.

KI: What do you wish was different about distance-based learning?

5th Grader: I wish I could be in contact with my friends while doing work and making corrections along with them.

KI: Are you and your friends staying connected in some way?

5th Grader: Yeah. We see each other on Google classroom during school. And then I get to FaceTime or play video games with them after school, but it’s not the same as playing in person.

KI: Can you tell me about a project or assignment you had fun with?

5th Grader: I like doing the math pages because I understand when my parents help me.

KI: What’s fun about the math pages?

5th Grader: They’re little games which is more fun than just math worksheets. Plus, it’s fun doing it with my mom and dad because sometimes they struggle with it!

KI: Can you tell me about a project or assignment that you didn’t enjoy?

5th Grader: Reading the book Wonder because I like listening to books better than reading them.

KI: Why do you think you like listening to a book more than reading?

5th Grader: When I listen to a book I can do other things like walk our new puppy or throw at my lacrosse net.

KI: When things return to “normal,” would you want to continue some amount of distance-based learning?

5th Grader: I would like it to continue for two days per week because I like learning from home but still want to be able to see my friends at school. And I really miss playing sports.


If you have elementary school-aged children, do you think their answers would differ? We encourage you to ask your own children or those you are close to these same questions. Remember to follow up every question with “WHY?”. We ask “why?” because it’s a deep, qualitative unlock to the emotions that lie beneath the surface.

We’d love for you to share your responses using the hashtag #distancebasedUX on social media.

We hope you enjoyed this first round of discovery, and we look forward to sharing the perspective of a middle school student next week.

by Jonathan Matta  Education Market Leader

Jonathan Matta is KI's National Education Leader, supporting organizations in their pursuit of solving complex challenges by applying the power of design. Matta previously served as the Vice President of Design at RXBAR, where he led a design team that applied a variety of design strategies, chiefly Design Thinking, to a multitude of organizational challenges. Jonathan holds an altMBA from Seth Godin's program, along with completed courses from Stanford University's "" and IDEO-U. He received his undergraduate degree from DePaul University.


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