Students Weigh the Pros and Cons of Distance Learning

The move to distance learning has not been all good or all bad; it has been a complicated mix of both.

Ashwini Sandanayake, Staff Writer

Let’s start with a math problem: It’s been almost ten months since the radical pandemic shut-down in March. For students and staff members in the education system, subtracting three of those months equals the duration of distance learning. And the complexities do not end there. 

As a RAHS student myself, I hope we can all agree that our school system is not where it was ten months ago. Distance learning has brought a new perspective to each and every member of the community, regardless of whether it be positive or negative. Zoom meetings were probably not what everyone was picturing for your typical school day, for example. 

As we step into a new year, it is necessary to step back and evaluate the model of education used by the world in this pandemic. What are the positive and negatives of distance learning? And what can we take away from this style of learning to use in the future? 

I asked a few students at RAHS two simple questions: what are the pros of distance learning? And what are the cons? There is a well-versed saying that one should save the best for last. So let’s start with what is bugging us in distance learning. 

Many RAHS students agreed that one negative impact of distance learning is the decreased social interaction. Students don’t have as many opportunities to socialize with their peers and build connections with their teachers because of the new learning model. Staying at home means that places like the lunch room or the hallways aren’t available to talk with friends. 

Another common response was that it is harder to focus and keep a good routine in distance learning. Regular, in-person school brought students a structured routine to their day, and although RAHS distance learning has a routine with A and B days, it seems to be hard to stick to it with all the distractions at home. This does come with a flip side for some people. One student surveyed said that that distance learning can be more individualized to the learner. This could mean having a more flexible schedule to accommodate for that student. 

One student pointed out a big problem with the distance learning model. Some students in the community do not have the technology or resources to make the most of distance learning. Distance learning has brought to light how great technology is, but also the inequalities that exist with it. Having iPads for every student in the RAHS system has helped, but students also need stable wifi and a quiet space to do their work, which do not have access to. 

With every negative, there is always a positive. Distance learning has given another option for education: one that uses technology. While we used a multitude of technological tools before the shut down, teachers’ and students’  knowledge of these tools has expanded greatly. Schools have access to a new learning model that we use currently in distance learning. Because of this, in-person schooling can use some of these methods to improve students’ learning. When schools go back in person, there is no doubt that learning will look very different, but the distance learning model can serve as a place to build upon. 

Students surveyed also liked the flexible schedule. The distance learning schedule provides breaks in between classes and extra time for lunch. Students like the extra free time, and one student remarked that the extra time outside of class gives them time to focus on other priorities. One student said that they like getting up at a later hour than in regular school start time, which is a part of the distance learning schedule. The school day during distance learning starts at 9:00am instead of 8:15 which gives students some extra well-needed rest. 

Although the list can get much longer for both pros and cons, this is just a taste of each side. This fairly new system that students and teachers have conquered these past few months may seem grim and unenjoyable, especially with a raging pandemic in the background, but there are always two sides to every equation. 

How has distance learning been for you?

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