Student Perspectives on Online Learning and Its Effectiveness

Last spring, schools across the world had blank whiteboards, empty desks, and an eerie quietness in the almost always deafening hallways. In March, over 1.2 billion students globally were told not to come back to school in order to protect fellow students and teachers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Few could have ever predicted that classrooms would be empty for such an extended period, with no way of knowing when teachers and students would be able to return. 

However, learning did not stop once a student leaves the school building. High schools and colleges across the world began to implement online learning: an entanglement of web calls, emails, and hours spent staring at a computer screen. LHS established a version of remote learning back in March to help students to continue their education throughout the beginning of the pandemic. LHS began the 2020-2021 school year with the option of a hybrid learning model, keeping half of the student population at home every day. The students at home tune into class through a remote setting. Students were also offered a full-remote option. It is likely that remote learning is not going away in the near term. Education has been forever changed by the ability to take AP Calculus from one’s kitchen table. Some students have been flourishing with remote learning, while others are questioning how much longer this will go on.  

With millions of schools moving towards online learning, many education publications have released their thoughts about the effectiveness of online learning. According to Taylor and Francis Online, researcher Jessica B. Heppen completed an experiment called “The Struggle to Pass Algebra: Online vs. Face-to-Face Credit.” The results of the study showed that compared to the students in the face-to-face class, students in the online course reported the work to be more difficult and scored significantly lower on the final exam. Some may ask how this can be if they were the same exact course. Well, many studies have proven that in-person education has a higher value and is more able to  enrich students’ lives. LHS students are, in fact, currently living this study. With the vast majority of the student body enrolled in the hybrid learning model and the rest completely remote, the question must be asked whether or not this type of learning is effective when put to the test.  

Many students believe that online learning has been more beneficial to their academics as well as mental health. Junior Lexi Capitali, a student who is currently on the hybrid model, said that she likes the new hybrid learning model: “This school year is definitely a lot more relaxed than years past. It is nice not to go into school every day and not feel as stressed about schoolwork. I feel like I am getting more sleep and learning both at home and in school. I cannot say that remote learning would be effective for me if I was only home, but so far, it has been working in my favor.” There is no better time in history for a pandemic with regard to the education system. With today’s technology, it is possible for educators to use the tools they have to help enrich their online students and keep them active learners. “I feel like when I am home that I am also in class. My teachers at LHS have been great at keeping the remote days engaging and useful,” Capitali continued.    

Full-remote students have their own positive experiences with online learning. Senior Olivia Erndl, a student in the full-remote model, expressed her opinion on the benefits of online learning: “LHS has done a wonderful job with the full-remote model. After a first few rocky days, everything worked out to be okay, and I have learned to fall into my new routine. The teachers at the high school have been great in including the full-remote students into the classroom as well as working extremely hard to make sure everything is working smoothly for us. I do feel less stressed being at home and continue to maintain my grades while being at the desk in my room.” 

Despite all the benefits of online learning at LHS, there are many clear negatives as well. Junior Kate Dooling, a hybrid model student, shared her experience with remote learning: “I do not, absolutely not, like remote learning; I just do not believe it is for me. I find myself getting more easily distracted at home because of everything going on around me. When I am in-person, I am immersed in the class and fully paying attention, and I don’t find myself doing that at home. Also, the reliance on technology has been difficult.  How is being kicked out of Webex meetings and Schoology crashing every other week conducive to my learning experience? I can say, and many agree with me, that I am learning more in-person than when I am remote.” 

Erndl added to her comment about her full-remote experience and the negatives that come with being a full-remote student: “The remote-learning system is definitely not perfect. It is harder to be immersed in classwork because it feels like it isn’t school sometimes. There are many technology issues, and I expected that, but because I am at home fully, I feel left in the dark. The students in the classroom seem to know more of what is going on, and I seem to know less. Since this is my senior year, I feel like I’m missing out on the social interaction and my senior year by not being in school. I would not say that remote learning should be permanent, but it is a good enough replacement to keep people safe and healthy.” 

No one knows how much longer the coursework will be divided between in-person and remote learning. During the first month of the school year, students at LHS have benefited from online learning in numerous ways. However, neither hybrid nor full-remote students believe this is perfect solution. There is, of course, a desire for everyone to be fully in-person sometime this school year or the beginning of next year. With the current climate of the pandemic and the need to keep implementing social distancing in schools, LHS continues to face new academic territory and supports its students during these hard times. !