The challenges of online learning

Amisha Sethi, Profiles Editor

I have to admit, I can remember countless times when I woke up in the morning and wished I did not have to go to school. I am quite confident that the majority of high schoolers have felt this way at some point too. Well, it seems that this “wish” has been granted with a month of remote learning in addition to the two full weeks of e-learning that we had prior to spring break in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Let’s just say, I finally understand the phrase: “be careful what you wish for.”

E-learning was a virtual eight-period day, where students would participate in all of their classes Monday through Friday for 45 minutes per class. Getting adjusted to this system and maintaining motivation to get through all of my work definitely took some time for me, but eventually I got the hang of it. But I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for those with family responsibilities, those still working, or those who have been struggling with anxiety because of this situation. 

Now, however, after the Illinois State Board of Education required the switch to remote learning beginning April 7, students have four periods a day and their other four periods the next day. 

This alternating schedule feels much more manageable and accommodating of students. Yet, it also raises the concern of gaps in our education. Largely, I find myself doing busy work or building upon skills I have already learned as opposed to learning the new material I would have been learning in the classroom. With us now spending half the time as we usually would per class, it makes me nervous to know that I am probably not learning everything I will be expected to know next year. For example, for continuing classes such as going from Precalculus to Calculus, I don’t think this schedule ensures that students won’t miss out on critical information that will be required of them later on. 

Communication has also become a bit of struggle. While most of my teachers have implemented Zoom “office-hours” to answer questions, this simply cannot compare to face-to-face interactions. With multiple people on a Zoom call it can be really hard to communicate effectively without interrupting someone else or having a break in connection that can make it hard to understand one another. There is also the additional constraint of the time that these meetings are held. If a student has other obligations during the time of the call they miss the opportunity. 

That being said, my teachers have been very diligent about answering emails and putting in their best efforts to try to be there for their students. Given the circumstances, I am not sure there is much more they can do. 

I’d say that the biggest challenge for me has been not seeing my peers. As someone who is very extroverted I miss daily interactions with people other than my family. I miss collaborating on projects or having group discussions as opposed to doing everything on my computer by myself. This is one aspect of school that I think myself and other high schoolers really took for granted in the past, and something we will surely appreciate much more in the future. 

In order to ensure the safety of the public, online learning was a necessity. However, as soon as it is safe to do so, I think most of us will be more than happy to return to school, including me.