Virtual and in-person learning require different mindsets, students say

A Spanish class in Virtue Village, January 15, 2021 – Mitav Nayak ’22

Throughout the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have utilized online learning tools to keep students safe. Although in-person learning continues, students and teachers had to switch to a completely virtual classroom three separate times— after Thanksgiving break, before winter break, and after winter break.

     With the change in setting, student opinions on schooling options vary.

     “Since I’m at home and in one place, I don’t have the need to be organized,” Fourth Former Owen Yu said. “Things are all over the place. When we were going in-person, I was a lot more organized because I had to be.”

     Third Former Aydan DiRocco has not noticed a difference with his organization during virtual-school compared with online school.

     “Since everything is organized through Google Drive and Canvas Modules before the switch to virtual school, all of the material we needed was already online,” DiRocco said. “Actually, keeping things organized while virtual is easier because I do not need to worry about paper handouts from teachers.”

     Still, DiRocco finds it difficult to communicate with teachers in the virtual environment.

     “Before, if we wanted a quick one-minute chat with an advisor or teacher, we could have a quick chat right before lunch. Now we need to set up a Google Meet, which is not that difficult in itself but might not be worth it for a one-minute meeting,” DiRocco said.  

     Another obstacle with virtual-learning is keeping students engaged with the material.

     “I am definitely zoning in and out of class, especially when it is a content-driven day,” Yu said.

     Sixth Former James Wang agrees.

     “At first I would do work in the breaks but then I started to get fatigued from the amount of screen time,” Wang said. “The grind slowed down to a point where it turned into a mentality of making it through the day.”

John Zhang ’22 working in the Big Room, January 14, 2021 – Ryan Rodack ’22

     Wang thought that this was caused by the lack of natural breaks that would normally happen in an in-person setting. Additionally, because of the cameras, teachers have difficulty judging the atmosphere of the class.

     “When a teacher is giving a lecture, they can’t tell how their students are feeling about it,” Wang said. “Sometimes they might steamroll right over a topic that their students are confused about.”

     Other distractions, such as social media or things happening in the house might hinder a student’s ability to focus and engage in class. 

     Wang noticed a problem with the online format that had to do with work that required detail. The lower resolution of the cameras in a Google Meet created problems in some of his classes that used smaller objects, like electronics.

     “Sometimes Mr. Maley is trying to show a component, and the resolution of the Meet is not able to show an object that small in detail,” Wang said. “You have to make an educated guess as to what that component is.”

     This problem is simply a technology limitation and not at all the teacher’s fault. Overall, students are pleased.

     “The teachers have done a great job with online school,” DiRocco observed. “Everything is well-organized. It just relies on the student to actually put the work in and show up.”