By Lorna Baxley and Bailey Metcalf
Obviously, the 2020-2021 school year is a bit different from most school years in the past. With the recent ups and downs of Covid-19, West High’s teaching and schooling methods have had to change a little bit. Medical masks are now required, social distancing is enforced, and even the hallways have been modified to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. In addition to this, many students are learning from home this year with the help of Google Classrooms. Thanks to modern technology, we have the ability to learn the same way as our classmates, despite not even being at school; but is it better to learn online or in person? Today, we are discussing the pros and cons of learning online from home.
Pro #1 - Flexible, Individualized Learning
Many students, regardless of grades or ability, find working at the same pace as some of their other classmates to be difficult. Not everyone works at the same level of understanding, which makes it hard for teachers to teach at just one speed. Learning online, however, makes it possible for students to do their work at a rate that helps them, whether it be working faster or slower than their peers. Mary Stephens, founder of PrepForward, says that online education “allows individuals to study at their own pace and on their own schedule.” Despite having to be in a digital classroom at a specific time, it still allows more freedom in how a student’s life is organized and flows. Kimber Strumski, a sophomore at West High who’s working online this year, says, “I’ve really liked online school. It’s allowed me to deflect the drama and distractions public school brings and solely focus on my studies.”
Pro #2 - School Can Go With You
Regardless of what kind of student you are or how you work, no one wants to fall behind in class. Thanks to online learning, however, traveling or getting sick won’t hinder your ability to learn. You’ll be able to attend your classes and get your work done without worrying about falling behind. The University of Illinois finds that, “The main advantage of... online learning is that it allows students to participate in high quality learning situations when distance and schedule make on-ground learning difficult-to-impossible. Students can participate in classes from anywhere in the world, provided they have a computer and Internet connection.”
Pro #3 - Access to Resources
Working online makes it infinitely easier to access obscure resources that may be unavailable in school. This is true for both the teacher and the student; in many cases, what is available in the class is all that can be used. However, working online means that accessing articles, magazines, news stories, textbooks, and more immediately becomes both cheaper and easier. This is a major advantage, especially for schools with fewer resources.
Con #1 - Personal Discipline
Many students find it difficult to force themselves to do work that they don’t particularly enjoy or care about. When working online, a student must be disciplined enough to complete work that’s easy to forget about. An article from Community College Review says, “Staying motivated and keeping up with assignments may prove more difficult for online students than for those attending traditional classes. Alexandra Mayzler reports that ‘...The free form nature of online classes means that students need to be organized and manage their time well.’ It is fundamentally important for students taking online classes to be on top of their time management skills.” For high schoolers, working online means a certain level of motivation that may be difficult to maintain year-long.
Con #2 - Hands-On Learning is Unavailable
Of course when taking online classes, it’s difficult to get the same hands-on experience as other kids in the class. For example, if a science class is doing a lab experiment, it’s unlikely that the average student has the materials being used. The University of Illinois finds that, “...it is important to recognize that some subjects should not be taught online because the electronic medium does not permit the best method of instruction... hands-on subjects such as public speaking... and sports where physical movement and practice contribute to the achievement of the learning objectives... are probably best taught in a face-to-face traditional learning environment.”
Con #3 - You Miss Your Friends!
The biggest issue some kids have with working online year round is that you get less time to communicate with your friends and peers. Engaging with other students becomes more difficult when all interaction is done miles apart. This year is also the first year both online and on-campus students are going to miss out on events that they usually are able to engage in. Gabbie Gideon, a senior at West High says, “This year is really different in band because we usually go to all the football games, but now we can only attend home games.” Students miss the opportunity to cheer on the Trojan Nation together with their friends at the games. It can also be harder for a student to engage with teachers over the computer. An article from Charter College says, “You’ll have limited time with professors and peers. Even though your online professors might hold digital ‘office hours,’ you still may find it difficult to engage with them, whether you have questions about the material or are looking for some professional advice or mentoring. Professors are also much more ‘hands off’ in teaching online classes, so if you’re looking for extra help or one-on-one time with them, you’re going to get very little (if any) of it. This isn’t to say you can’t develop mentoring and networking relationships with your online professors, but it’s harder.”
As students and faculty work together to make these experiences feel as normal as possible, we are all in this struggle together. Whether you’re working online or at school, we’re all going to make the best of this school year! Stay safe, West High!