How DL changed the game for students and teachers alike The impacts of online school
Around the country and at Oak Park High School, distance learning has created vastly different learning experiences for students. To better understand the effects of online schooling on OPHS, the Talon conducted a survey of 106 students across all four grade levels on how distance learning has impacted their overall educational experience. We also reviewed data from professional sources regarding distance learning.
Over 70% of the 106 OPHS students surveyed believe online school has negatively impacted their ability to learn. In comparison, in a survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, only 22.6% of students are learning as much as they were before the COVID-19 crisis, with 36.9% of students satisfied with the learning education provided to them.
According to the eLearning Industry, 64% of students surveyed nationwide reported difficulty in staying motivated and maintaining focus during distance learning, a feeling that some OPHS students share.
“I’d say online school has decreased my attention span. Although it is a lot easier and comfortable to get to classes, it’s easier to get distracted because of the learning environment. I do have a lot of focus since there’s time to balance things and I have more opportunities to participate in competition since they’re all online,” sophomore Manisha Arun wrote to the Talon.
Moreover, in the Milwaukee survey, only 51.2% of students nationally are keeping up with their school work as much as they were before the COVID-19 crisis.
“[Distance learning] has made a significant change to my work ethic but I’ve tried to keep track of all of my work and teachers are fairly understanding of the situation,” Arun wrote.
In the eLearning Industry survey, 55% of students reported finding the lack of social interactions troubling. They learn better with fellow students, and for 45% of students, this could lead to underperforming in their academics.
“One of my least favorite aspects of distance learning is the lack of social interaction I’ve been getting,” senior Morgan Ginsburg said. “A lot more work has been individual, and we haven’t been collaborating as much as usual. I also just miss seeing my friends every day.”
Of all the OPHS students the Talon surveyed, English and math were found to be the most time consuming courses, with 29% of students reporting math, and 25% reporting English.
“Classes like math and English seem to be the most work. Even in spring [of] 2020, math had a ton of homework and practice, and English was a lot of essays and reading,” Ginsburg said.
In a survey conducted by Education Week, 56% of teachers reported only covering half or less than half of the curriculum they would have completed by this time of last year. Additionally, only 1 in 5 teachers reported being on the same schedules as they were last year.
“I can also tell it’s been hard for teachers to go at the same pace as they normally would, because it’s so much harder to get the information across on this new platform,” junior Shreya Maddhali said.
According to science teacher Anastasia Kokiousis, much curriculum had to be adjusted to fit the conditions of distance learning.
“I would say that I had to completely create a new material for about 60-70% of my curriculum. My curriculum already incorporated many online assignments, but all the hands-on labs and activities needed to be changed,” Kokiousis wrote to the Talon. “I was able to find many virtual labs as well as create some activities students could do around their own houses and neighborhoods.”
In the Education Week survey, two-thirds of teachers reported that the majority of their students were less prepared for grade-level work than they were at this time last year, a figure that did not seem to carry to OPHS — because, according to Kokiousis, the changes that distance learning brought did not seem to affect the quality of learning at Oak Park.
“Although students have not gotten the opportunity to physically put their hands on tools and items in labs, they have engaged in many other virtual activities that can be just as informative and exciting,” Kokiousis wrote. “I don't believe distance learning has taken the fun out of science!”
Just as they have for many students, the workloads of most teachers have increased significantly.
“I have found that grading takes twice as long because it usually takes a while for the documents to load and many of my exams are free response style which takes longer to read. It is not as easy as quickly flipping through a stack of papers,” Kokiousis wrote.
Additionally, some teachers feel they struggle with excessive screen time, just as students are.
“It is exhausting to teach a full day navigating the ins and outs of technology and then spend many hours after school ends staring at the screen to grade and lesson plan,” Kokiousis wrote. “I would say that I work for an average of 4-5 hours on the computer after school is over as well as on weekends.”
However, there are some benefits that come with the curriculum changes that distance learning affected.
“My exams require students to be able to not just regurgitate information, but describe processes in detail. I think this format has helped students to focus on understanding the material, rather than trying to memorize it,” Kokiousis wrote.
Oak Park also offers many resources, such as Math Honors Society and peer counselors for students, and professional development opportunities and technology support for faculty, to help succeed in distance learning.
“I’m thankful for the resources we have right now. It has helped me talk to a lot of friends from previous schools, and helped me make new friends,” sophomore Manisha Arun wrote.
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