With many of our country's schools being online, it is hard not to wonder whether or not students are actually learning in this isolated environment. As we continue to navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic, whether or not the schools should be open, and to what extent, is a debate happening worldwide. Plans range from completely open, to completely virtual, or a hybrid combination of online and in person. As many students, especially in larger public schools, remain online this fall, many people are wondering, how effective is online learning?
Are students actually learning as they lay in bed all day, listening to lectures, watching videos, and staring at their classmates through a screen? Not considering the obvious benefits of social interactions with other students that kids are missing, what else are students missing during crucial learning years of their young lives? As a student that has experienced online school, I can say first hand that being online makes it much harder to focus, and extremely challenging to retain information. Sitting in the same room all day, staring at a computer screen from 8am to as late as 5pm and 6pm after homework is all said and done, with little to no in-person social interactions, is not a sustainable way for children to learn or live. It is also very hard for teachers to administer tests without students using notes or opening other tabs to help them. Without the pressures of testing, students aren’t studying as often or as hard, and therefore don’t retain the information being taught. It is hard to listen to a social studies lesson, as I stare at my desk covered in math worksheets and half-finished art projects; stressing about when these assignments sitting in front of me will get done takes all of my attention away from the teacher on my computer screen.
This new way of learning affects all students, but even more so is hard on students with learning disabilities or special needs students. For kids with learning disabilities that already find in-person school a challenge, online school reinforces these everyday challenges to stay engaged, organized, and on top of the workload. According to a study done at the University of Colorado, Boulder titled Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019, out of the 320 schools with available school performance ratings, only 67 of them were deemed acceptable by their state education agencies. The reality of the situation is that online schools are not teaching students as well as in-person learning. When the virus first hit the U.S., online learning was acceptable as a sort of “band-aid” fix to keep kids in school. But now, it has been 6 months of dealing with this virus, including an entire summer in which schools should have used to figure out how to get students on campus at least one day a week.
Although I recognize that some schools may not have the means to accommodate social distance and half online, half in person, we need to face the reality that this virus doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and kids belong in structured school environments.