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Is online schooling a sustainable alternative?

Pro

Given the recent changes to the school schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been implementing different ways to educate students, whether it be online learning, a hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person school) or entirely in-person schooling. With everything going on, it is important to forego the traditions and rituals that students are accustomed to and make a sacrifice in order to protect others. By having students attend classes from the comfort of their own homes, not only can we more effectively prevent COVID-19 from spreading, but the different schedule also allows for school and home lives to be balanced.

Despite various social distancing protocols that would be put into place in a hybrid or in-person learning system, there is no way to guarantee that COVID-19 will not be spread from person to person unless students are required to learn from home. Students can participate in the same activities, including group projects, class discussions and more from the comfort and safety of their own home. Isolating allows students to protect themselves and others, since it is virtually impossible to monitor whether or not people are following proper protocol to protect themselves.

With more time at home, students are able to learn how to balance their school life and their home life. With up to 30 students in a class, there are less distractions in a virtual classroom, and teachers have more control over what happens in their classes. Students no longer have to worry about what their peers think of them, and they are able to focus on themselves and their education. Additionally, teachers don’t have to worry about who can see the board during class, since their “board” is the students’ computer that they are working from. While some may worry that distance learning does not offer the same interactions that we would typically get in a classroom setting, it is still important to recognize different tools that can be utilized, including breakout rooms for group projects, class discussions and different platforms such as Edpuzzle or CommonLit for watching videos and answering questions. 

With online schooling, students have the freedom to customize their study hours to do whatever fits them best. They don’t have to worry about when they get home or if they have a ride home; instead, students can customize their schedule and work from the comfort of their own home. From the safety of their homes, they are able to focus more on their physical and mental health, all while staying on top of their schoolwork. Additionally, with everything being online, it is more convenient. Students no longer have to worry about papers piling up. This not only benefits the environment, but also helps students stay on top of their assignments and organize what needs to be done and by what time. Students can take more time to focus on the things they need help on, and they can ask questions via Google Chat, which can be less intimidating to students. 

Not only is online schooling the best way that faculty and students can protect themselves from catching COVID-19, but it also allows students a greater chance to focus on what they want to learn without the pressure of their peers.


Con

With the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the U.S., a majority of schools have resorted to using online education as a way to stay safe while also continuing academic curriculum. While this is one of the only options available for students, there are various issues that have become prevalent with this switch to remote learning. Now, students are prone to become distracted at home and many choose not to participate or take their courses seriously. In addition, the lack of in-person communication and contact deprives students from fully taking advantage of the collaboration that takes place in a normal school setting, which can cause them to be more stressed or discouraged. 

When learning through a computer screen at home, it can be extremely difficult to stay focused and attentive. As students are sitting at the comfort of their own home, their learning environment is completely different than a typical classroom. Distractions from family members and even cell phones can make it even harder to be fully immersed or concentrated in a lesson. Being in this environment also puts out the notion that online learning is not as important as in school learning because it conducted from home through a screen, which appears to be more casual and relaxed compared to the stricter structure of a classroom. These distractions will thus hinder the performance of students as it causes them to be less engaged in lessons. 

In addition, learning through online platforms presents another obvious challenge: the lack of in-person contact between students and teachers. Although many platforms and tools allow for teachers and students to call and see one another face to face through a screen, these fail to fully establish the connection that real life interactions bring. 

This lack of connection also impacts the mental health of students. In a survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, more than half of the students who responded stated that they are in need of greater mental health support. An additional 32 percent said that their mental health needs have risen since school closures. In a time where technology usage is more prominent than ever, in-person conversations hold greater importance in our lives. They allow for opportunities to connect in ways that phone calls and video conferences simply cannot provide. 

Furthermore, another daunting challenge is presented by the extent of flexibility given to students in online learning. Some may argue that this extra free time can be helpful by allowing students to take the time they need to study or ask for help, but this requires a high amount of self discipline. In order to fully take advantage of this flexibility, students must be responsible for their work and be able to hold themselves accountable. For example, most assignments are now conducted through online platforms, which causes students to procrastinate since it allows them the opportunity to submit late work and blame it on technological difficulties. With the idea that online school is more casual and informal than regular schooling, the amount of flexibility is essentially a disadvantage as students can easily choose to procrastinate rather than taking their courses as seriously as they normally would.  

Although online learning is one of the only viable choices that schools can implement during this critical time, there are many improvements to be made in regards to encouraging student engagement, interaction and accountability for schoolwork.

By Flora Lei and Sarah Lew, Print Editors-in-chief
Editorial cartoon by Daniela Marquez



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