Photo by Peyton Thao

Distance learning benefits some, causes others to struggle

May 28, 2020

Online coursework allows for independent accountability, flexibility

No one expected to be sitting at home attending class through a screen, but that has become the reality due to COVID-19. 

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has meant students around the world have moved out of the typical school setting to online distance learning. To many schools, like Columbia Heights High School, online schooling is very new and uncharted territory. What used to be sitting in a classroom with fellow peers and friends listening to your teacher lecture and participating in group activities is now sitting in the comfort of your own home attending a virtual video meeting on Zoom. 

Although some students miss going to school and seeing their friends, taking courses online can teach students great discipline skills. Distance learning means students are more responsible for their work since they aren’t restricted by a school setting or teachers giving that mandate of completing work on their schedule. This could lead more students to success and improved time management skills. 

“I think distance learning is better because I can get work done faster than in regular school,” Olivia Sarkinen (11) said. “I also feel like I get to spend more time with my family with online school because the school days aren’t as long.”

Distance learning also creates fewer distractions than you would typically experience being in school. Students have the freedom to be in the quiet of their own home without the disruption of 20-30 students one would get in the classroom. 

Because students are not at school for seven hours of the day, they have more free time and availability to get assignments done. Distance learning gets rid of unnecessary and redundant work that can be brought to students because of the hours sitting in the classroom. This means relatively less work and stress for students, while focusing on the necessities of learning.

“We’re able to work at our own pace. Normally in class we’re in a rush to turn in an assignment and we end up turning in something that isn’t of great quality,” Jon Arias (11) said. “But now, if we didn’t finish an assignment during the ‘school’ hours, we have more time after school to finish.”

Distance learning has also shown to positively affect grades among students. Because it only focuses on what students need, the lighter workload makes it easier for students to catch up and stay on top of their assignments. Students have more time during the day to get missing assignments done, unlike with normal school hours where students would otherwise sit in classrooms for half the day.

Overall, online schooling has many great benefits. Although this can be a very tough time, students can get a lot out of this change. During this time students can better themselves by creating their own motivation to learn and do well academically. Students should take advantage of the perks of being able to lay in bed during school and having all day to complete assignments. Even though we are lacking the human interaction that we would normally have at school, Zoom and the many perks of the internet allow us to stay connected. 

Teachers, students, families and friends can all get through this time of seclusion and have more freedom and flexibility to improve skills that come with everyday life, including school.

Classes on Chromebooks lack social, intangible benefits of traditional school

Picture this: people are stocking up on everything and businesses are closing, quarantine is starting, and we still have to go to school? Well, sort of. Whilst in the chaotic mess of the COVID-19 pandemic, our educators have found a way to provide us with an education without putting us in harm’s way of potential contact of the virus. It is distance learning, which is being enacted through daily Zoom class meetings. However, one must ask, how good of a quality education can be given via a video phone call?

First and foremost, classes are shorter and almost all material has to be put in video or slideshow form. This greatly limits how teachers can teach, and it also may ruin future lesson plans they had for the year. Also thrown into the mix are the two weeks we missed to prepare for distance learning. That’s half a month of our educational timeline out the window. This greatly speeds up our curriculum which means the education provided on Zoom is already minimized. 

It’s also important to note that many students are hands-on learners. Lots of classes require a direct approach or necessitate a physical presence. Zoom can’t make students run a mile or learn how to make pancakes with Ms. JJ. School-issued Chromebooks also simply don’t have the software for classes such as Design Studio and other computer-based classes. This makes distance learning only actually helpful for a handful of core subjects. 

“Strength training is especially more difficult now,” Dennis Johnson (12) said.. We no longer have access to a weight room which is required to do the parts that make up the main core of the class.” said Dennis Johnson (12).

Nothing can compare to being able to just sit down with a teacher individually and have their undivided attention to work a problem out. That social interaction between teachers and students and students and their peers is vital to living a socially healthy existence and to create trust between a student and teacher. These bonds become critical when students approach their senior year and have to ask teachers for letters of recommendation. Important bonds such as those between student and teacher cannot be made via an impersonal phone call. 

In all, physically going back to school too early is dangerous and is definitely not something to advocate for. However, distance learning is nothing compared to the in-classroom learning experience that students have come accustomed to over the years. There should never be a day where teachers are replaced with videos and robots, and desks replaced with computers.

There are elements to learning in person that are fundamental to growth as not just a student but as a person. For example, those students who need help from school counselors on a regular basis do not have that support. These in-person moments are vital to their growth. 

“There are a lot more steps/barriers instead of the student being able to walk into our office or a support staff being able to pull a student out of class to talk to a student,” CHHS social worker Ms. Angela Schutta said. Students are not seeking support now or they don’t know where to seek the support or when support staff reaches out the student doesn’t respond back.”

When in school, students have the opportunity to socialize with their peers and grow personal relationships that help them bloom into the person they are. They learn social cues and the etiquette that is required in the real world as an adult. Social skills built in the classroom by in-class discussions and student presentations simply cannot be built as efficiently and as successfully over Zoom. 

Students are meant to learn in person in a classroom, and at some point when we go back to in-classroom learning we should take a second to appreciate all of the opportunities and proper education a school building and a traditional in-person education brings to us. 

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