Notice: This article was written the week of November 4th, exactly one week before the two-week moratorium on in-person learning. When the article was written, the information was accurate.
In the world of Covid-19, this is how school is for many students. It’s not uncommon to walk into a class and see sparsely seated desks, with large swaths of empty places in what would otherwise be a full classroom.
The uncertainty of the pandemic translates into uncertainty in the classroom, as attendance becomes a day-by-day issue. A single email indicating high-risk status could withdraw a student from in-person learning for around two weeks.
Rather than doing entirely one or the other, as was originally intended by the district, many students oscillate back and forth, out of both personal convenience and the potential safety of others. These students have a unique perspective of what it’s like to do both styles of learning.
“Through experiences in both styles, I’ve found in-person to be much more preferable,” Skyler Neuhaus (12) said. “With virtual learning, I couldn’t get any of the social interaction I got with in-person learning, and it became extremely difficult to learn through the screen when the teacher’s lesson is geared more toward in-person learning.”
Students who have participated in both have come to acknowledge both the pitfalls and potential upsides to the two styles.
“On the one hand, teachers tend to pay much more attention to the in-person students, so it becomes difficult to communicate through Zoom, because students on zoom are largely inactive and unresponsive. However, there are many benefits to virtual learning, like having more freedom with your schedule, getting to be somewhere more comfortable while learning, and avoiding the anxieties that typically come with a school day,” Neuhaus said.
With the different format of learning, some accepted aspects of in-person learning can be expected to change. It seems as if this is especially true for online testing. Teachers have had to figure out ways to test virtual students that do not give them an advantage over in-person students, and virtual students have had to navigate the changing landscape of online test-taking.
“Testing online has been stressful because teachers use various confusing formats and submission methods; however, my teachers have all been understanding of being online,” Luke Sheppard (12) said. “The use of open-note tests at home has been fantastic.”
In classes that typically rely on communication, it can be difficult to feel like an active part of a learning community.
“I participated very little in class as a virtual student and was rarely encouraged to. The general attention and connection to the class are much lower online, and teachers seem less likely to involve online students,” Sheppard said.
Differences between the two classrooms can extend outside of the environment itself. For some students, schedules can change completely depending on whether they are in-person or virtual.
“When I do online school, I typically wake up about ten minutes before my first class, throw on some comfortable clothes and eat in either my first or second period,” Neuhaus said. “When going to school in-person, I wake up at 6 AM and still feel rushed to get to class. There’s definitely much less motivation for getting ready for online school, almost like there’s a sort of connotation that online school can create laziness and procrastination.”
Most students who have experienced both learning environments have a preference for one or the other, depending on the experiences.
“I think I learn drastically worse at home. I personally need the in-person learning to be able to ask questions, explain my thinking and work easily and have conversations with classmates. At home, I am much more prone to distractions and much less likely to get my work done,” Neuhaus said.
While it may be difficult for some, easy for others, it cannot be denied that virtual learning is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. For the time being, the disappearing act will have to be a part of this play.