Online learning needs to be more effective

Gary Gao ’21

I did more in-class assignments while learning online than while learning in an actual class, and I don’t think it helped.

     The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the country, presenting our educational system with an unprecedented challenge. It has been a year since American schools first shut down due to the pandemic, but online learning hasn’t improved. Students still have to face awkward online classes, technological struggles, and distractions from other people and events in their homes. 

     The online environment and the consequent schedule disruptions impede normal class activities. Teachers are not able to arrange an interactive class as if the conversations were face-to-face, given the harsh reality that students tend to say less to a computer. Communication is just not that effective. As a result, the solution naturally goes to letting students work at their own pace more often, which means more in-class assignments. I can always finish early in this situation and then mind my own business. But this made me sometimes wonder: what is the point of logging onto the Meet and not doing any productive work in it?

     The environment plays a major role in the quality of learning. I am among the privileged who can enjoy attending online classes in a room separated from other parts of the house by a door, but many of my peers cannot. I have reached an age that allows me to take care of myself, but my peers’ younger brothers and sisters have not; they have to be supervised for properly attending classes and completing assignments, and now that burden has fallen onto the shoulders of the parents. For some, excessive parental intervention can also make learning more difficult. Teachers are not able to satisfy every demand from all parents, which creates conflicts between the teaching side and the learning side.

     Studies have shown that the failure rates of students have skyrocketed in the past year. For example, The Associated Press reported that in Houston, 42% of students received at least one F in the first grading period of 2020. This shows the ineffectiveness of our current online learning scheme. 

Teachers, students, and parents must work together to make online classrooms as close to reality as possible

     We need to reduce the disadvantages of  online learning. Rather than experimenting with abnormal ways of learning, teachers, students, and parents must work together to make online classrooms as close to reality as possible. Teachers can do this by increasing the conversational component in online classes; students can help by engaging in every class; parents with extra time capacity can help by focusing on giving their children emotional support and letting them have classes peacefully. 

     In the end, the remedy comes down to a simple question: do we want to do the least amount of work or try our best to make the situation better?