While online school is wonderful overall, there are still some issues with it. I’m not talking about technical or logistical concerns. Those are all fairly straightforward to fix.
I’m talking about those issues which will take more time, flexibility, and cooperation on both the students’ and teachers’ parts if we wish to make the transition to remote learning as seamless as possible. Those issues include:
- Less Accountability
If you don’t have to look your teacher in the eye when you tell them you didn’t do the homework, and you can, instead, simply not submit anything on that Google Classroom assignment, it might be much easier for a lot of people to simply not do their work.
In Zoom sessions, it’s very easy to turn off your video and mute yourself, and to distract yourself as soon as the teacher finishes taking attendance. If you want to prevent yourself from doing this, do not turn off your video, but do mute yourself if you’re not talking, that’s common courtesy.
- Class Discussion Difficulties
Very few of my classes have whole-class Zoom sessions regularly to force us to talk. Some of my teachers are figuring out new ways around that limitation, however. One of my teachers is having all of us contribute to a shared Google Doc where we respond to a prompt. This allows us to think through what we want to say before we share it with the class, and ensures that everyone gets a chance to participate.
Another of my teachers has divided the class into smaller discussion groups, because Zoom is not well suited to subdividing classes as is sometimes necessary. We have group discussions textually in the assignment comments in Google Classroom, instead of in an over-crowded video chat environment.
Even when whole-class discussion really is what we need, Zoom and Google Meet don’t facilitate that particularly well. The raise-hand feature in Zoom is fairly inconvenient and many people’s internet connections aren’t particularly consistent, which limits many people’s ability to participate or benefit from the participation of others. This is why Stuyvesant has mandated that “Students will not be penalized if they cannot attend a live class on Zoom or another video-conferencing platform.”
- Compartmentalization Challenges
When school was still a place that people went to, I would stay in the library after school to do my homework whenever I had time. This was because it was easier for me to tell myself: “You’re in school, do schoolwork,” and actually get work done, than at home where there are constant temptations like eating or taking a nap.
The way I compartmentalize now is by having separate accounts on both my phone and my computer which are dedicated solely to school, so I’m not tempted to check my personal email or scroll through Instagram, and I can’t get distracted by any notifications that are unrelated to school.
Also, having all day to procrastinate gets boring pretty quickly. Eventually, I quit procrastinating my procrastination. Being bored makes schoolwork much more interesting.
All these difficulties are simply new challenges that can be overcome with sufficient flexibility from students and teachers. There’s no reason that online learning can’t still work if technical issues have already been remedied.