Reflection: a student survey reveals the challenges of virtual learning

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

by Alex Chartol

Photo: Pixabay.

Virtual learning has been a much-hated side effect of Covid-19. We all have our problems with it. Sure school starts later, we have fewer classes a day, electives are supposed to minimize homework, and we even have entire days meant for doing homework, but most students miss in-person learning. A survey sent to Northwood students showed that a full 100% of students who responded prefer in-person learning to virtual.

Virtual Learning has impacted everyone within the Northwood Community. School over Zoom is drastically different from what we are accustomed to.

Senior Ahniya Issa reflected on the way social customs have changed. “Before quarantine I liked seeing all my buddies! I would walk with them in the hallways and hang out with my dance club during lunch. I literally got 90% of my energy from hanging around other people. The other 10% was just coffee.”

Issa also lamented the differences between last year's and this year's AP exams. “Last year the exams were very short and not at all what we had studied for. But now we have the full exam in May and I have little motivation to do any work because I’m in my house staring at a screen for a few hours everyday.”

Kassia Tefera ('21) also talked about the difficulty of focusing on Zoom classes. “Quarantine has affected my classes a lot; it definitely feels very different from regular in-person school. It’s been a challenge to adjust and stay focused during my Zoom classes.”

A senior member of the MC^2 program discussed the challenges of virtual college coursework. “I have a lot of trouble paying attention during class now. I am taking all my core classes at MC, so Zoom classes are longer, and it is really hard to sit still and listen to one person talk for 2+ hours. It is hard to be in class and not have sidebar conversations that help things go by faster.”

The changes in the learning environment have not been without consequence. Junior Owen McLaughlin stated that it was easier to focus in the classroom than it is at home. 38% of students feel more stressed out during virtual learning than in-person instruction. Students have also noted internet connectivity issues affecting either themselves or sometimes even their teachers, making it much more difficult to follow along and get through the content.

One student stated, “Back before quarantine, socializing and hanging out with friends was a part of daily life in school. I would be able to talk to my friends, teachers, peers, and make new friends. I was more motivated to do work since we were in a class setting with a teacher in front of us.”

Extracurriculars have also been affected by the change to full virtual learning. While clubs are still meeting, events such as the school musical, the play, Billboard, One-Acts and dance recitals are unable to function in a normal way. Students would need to be in close proximity to each other for hours at every rehearsal. Still, these activities are missed.

With the stress of quarantine on top of virtual learning, students have expressed a desire for teachers to be aware that, in the words of one, “It’s really hard to focus because family members are loud, dogs exist, [and] siblings are annoying.” One student also hoped that teachers might be more flexible with due dates to relieve some of the stress that students are feeling.

With everything that is happening, the future is uncertain. However, we should all do what we can to make the best of a trying situation.