By Jesse Yao
In the past year, students have been forced to move to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has negatively impacted their education.
During this pandemic, citizens have been encouraged to stay at home, forcing activities such as academics to be done at home. High school is no exception. School, now known as “e-learning”, has moved to the virtual classroom. Instead of driving or walking to school, students log into a Zoom meeting to attend their classes.
At first glance, e-learning sounds adequate, but a closer look shows glaring holes. When asked about his thoughts on e-learning, middle school teacher Michael Yang said, “It doesn’t feel like school or that my students are learning at all.”
He continued, “There are way too many problems. There is no way we can do this for another year.”
The first problem is a lack of participation from the students. On an average day, teachers would ask students to answer a question and only after 10 seconds of awkward silence would students answer. According to a discussion forum created by Online Learning Insight, this is due to a variety of reasons ranging from being too shy to not being present.
In an interview with Fremont High School junior Manas Chougule, he was asked about why participation was a problem in e-learning. He responded with, “It just feels off that I’m isolated in my own room while going to school. It’s why it just seems weird to answer questions.”
Furthermore, when Chougule was asked about breakout rooms, a substitute for table groups, he said, “Most of the time, we just sit there awkwardly in silence or communicate with the zoom chat bar, and on the off chance that you get a friend in your breakout room, you guys just most likely talk among yourselves, leaving two or three people isolated from the conversation.”
To make matters worse, according to Fremont High School junior Robbie Rivera, it is significantly harder to connect with new people. When asked about the idea of making new friends, he said, “I’m not going try and call somebody I don’t know. I barely even know what they look like, how am I supposed to initiate conversation?”
Another reason against e-learning is simple: cheating. These days, students have access to mountains of information at their fingertips and can easily search for an answer. This sounds great, but in the world of test taking, this is a nightmare.
For example, a free response question 1.02 on a past psychology midterm was “Contrast the work of a clinical psychologist and a counseling psychologist.” This is normally a very challenging free response question, but can be easily found using Google.
Also, teachers have no idea who is actually taking the test. When Mr. Yang was asked about this, he said, “I have no idea who’s behind the screen. I just see a bunch of icons. If their brother or even their dog is taking the test for them, I wouldn’t know.”
Lastly, e-learning requires strong self-motivation, which a majority of students lack. As mentioned before, students have access to mountains of information. What’s stopping them from learning to their full potential? Their lack of motivation.
When Purdue University freshman Bruce Tang was asked about this, he said, “For me, motivation comes from the overall enjoyment of the material learned in class. Due to this pandemic, however, classes are literally just less interesting.”
Later on, he elaborated saying, “Watching a science experiment through a screen is significantly more boring than actually doing the lab in person.”
As students cannot go back to in-person school, one must ask the question: What can we do to improve e-learning?
The easiest solution is to simply change the system. According to a recent survey conducted by College Pulse, more than six in 10 (63%) students say online learning could be improved by using a better technology platform.
One such platform is Brightspace, an educational tool used by not only students but also teachers as well. High school senior Winston Ma gave his insight: “I think the platform we use, called Brightspace, just kinda sucks. Never have I been more confused in my life.”
He continued, “You have no idea how many assignments I’ve missed simply because I didn’t even know they existed in the first place!”
Although e-learning is the best way to learn during this time of crisis, schools must strive to improve their students’ education as students are the future. “If this continues,” Mr. Yang said, “It’s going to be detrimental to my well being as well as my students’ well being.”