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With Larry Ferlazzo

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Teaching Opinion

Distance Learning ‘Has Been OK, I Guess': Students Share About This Year’s Experiences

By Larry Ferlazzo — November 17, 2020 8 min read
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(This is the first post in a multipart series.)

The question-of-the-week:

What has your online learning experience been as a student this fall? What is working for you and why? What is not working for you and why?

Student voice is important, and some of the most popular columns appearing here feature them. You can see them all at Student Voices, including commentaries from students around the country talking about remote teaching and learning last spring.

This new series will highlight contributions from students in my classes.

Today, Cathy Liu, Julia Yang, Eliseo Angulo Lopez, and Masihullah Shafiq share their thoughts.

It’s “been okay, I guess”

Cathy Liu is a junior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

My learning experience as a student this fall has been OK, I guess. The schedule of the class has been OK, and the work is fine, well that is because I have no life. Unlike other people, I have no job or a big responsibility in the house. I don’t have to take care of my brother since he is old enough to take care of himself but he still does stupid things from time to time. I don’t have chores that take me so long that I can’t do my work. Even if the school decides to change the schedule completely, it will still work for me because of how open my schedule is.

There are some difficulties with online learning. I’m more lazy than the times when we were all in school. I postpone my assignments until the last minute, and that makes me feel overwhelmed and stressed because I don’t have much time to finish my work, and the assignments take a long time to finish. I have been trying to fix the bad habits, trying to finish my work way before the deadline. Another thing that is hard about online learning is that it’s harder to bond with other people. It’s harder to get to know other people. Sometimes in the breakout room, no one talks at all, everyone is quiet, and it is so awkward because you waited and thought that someone was going to talk, but no one did. Then you are stuck in the position of should you say hello or is it too late to do that. You just don’t know what to do. Other than those random things that bother me, my learning experience has been OK so far.

“I can get distracted”

Julia Yang is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

This year of 2020, it has been very crazy. It is unfortunate that the pandemic happened, and we all are stuck at home. Many schools closed down due to the coronavirus. During this time of the year, I feel like it is a time for all people to learn how to appreciate important things. It is a new perspective for all of us, and with this new perspective of the world, we can learn and be more considerate of others.

When distance learning first started, it was frustrating that we had to end the school year with online classes. It was a whole new experience doing online classwork. I remembered I woke up early every morning thinking that I had to get ready for school, later on realizing that schools are closed. While working on my assignments, I realized that it was weird to not hear any of my classmates talking or other students yelling or laughing in the hallway. It was strange to learn at home without teachers. Since this was a new learning experience, I had troubles with technology a few times, which made me stressed out a lot. This made me very scared, and I started to doubt myself whether I’ll do well with distance learning.

The few months of online school went by, and summer came. I begin to think we’d able to go back to school again. I held onto my hopes, hoping that the virus would go away soon and that things would go back to normal. Sadly, it didn’t happen. This disappoints me to know that I won’t be able to go through the school year of high school normally. And I’m pretty sure that it’s not just me who feels like this.

Now, it’s fall season, and we’re back to online learning. Beginning this school year with distance learning as a junior, I’d found what is working for me and not working. Some of the pros for online learning are slideshows posted by teachers. These slideshows help remind me of what I learned and did in class. For example, if I forgot something or want to clarify my understanding, I go back to the slideshows and I can get my answers there. Another thing that is also helping is that I don’t have to get up too early. With that, I can get more time to get prepared for my classes. An hour break of lunch is also helpful because I can then focus on my asynchronous work.

Some of the problems I have with distance learning is that sometimes I can get distracted. The reason why I sometimes get distracted is because I’m at home. And being home can urge me to procrastinate. Whereas at school, there are students who are working and teachers. That helps me focus more. Another thing I found difficult is communication. I feel like sometimes communicating with other students is hard because we don’t see each other.

I am hoping that things will go back to normal next year.

Eye strain

Eliseo Angulo Lopez is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

Although distance learning is new for many of us, it will not stop me from reaching my goals. Through these past two months, students like me have found the new schedule helpful and less confusing. In addition, writing on a computer is way more simple than writing on a piece of paper, and having the internet available and the possibility of investigating any information that you need in order to completely understand a lecture is by far something that we should never miss out on.

The only negative thing that I’ve found is that spending these many hours in front of a monitor or screen can be really damaging, causing eye strain and headaches from which I’ve personally already experienced. In order to prevent this from happening, I suggest having one Monday off every 2-3 weeks, one day off to add to your weekend in which you can spend more time with your family and less time looking at a screen, which is what we do all week. This change can be really helpful to avoid stress and maintain a more positive mindset.

“Distance learning has been really good”

Masihullah Shafiq is a junior at Luther Burbank High School:

For some people, distance learning can be stressful and boring, but overall my experience with distance learning has been really good. Just like before when we went to school, I haven’t missed any classes or assignments. I also have good grades.

The positive thing about distance learning is that we don’t have to go class and I get enough rest, even though sometimes we have so much work to do sitting in front of the screen all day makes your eyes and your brain really tired, and it’s also unhealthy.

I sometimes struggle with getting my assignments done because I won’t have enough time, or in some cases, there are lots of assignments to do, and I can’t get all of them done on time. For now, I’m not really struggling with any of my classes, but it is sometimes really difficult to manage your time with distance learning.

The downside to it is sitting in front of a screen all day and sometimes technical issues; sometimes the teachers struggle with getting all the students into Zoom because the Zoom keeps dropping them, and in some cases, the internet does not work, and students can’t get into Zoom, which leaves them behind from others, and they will have to catch up later.

In general, distance learning is not so different from going to school, and in my opinion, it’s better with distance learning since it makes things much easier if we don’t have technical issues, which we often don’t. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I learn better with distance learning than going to school, so I prefer distance learning. I also have to say my teachers are doing really well, and so far, I have not had any problems or difficulties asking questions or learning.

Thanks to Cathy, Julia, Eliseo, and Masihullah for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

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