The 2020-2021 school year was chaotic. From struggling with brand new methods of technology to learning how to manage wearing masks and following social distancing protocols both students and teachers had to learn how to adjust. However, a lot has changed since last September. The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine has given people a new sense of hope and on Sept. 9, almost everyone was back in school.
Being online for the entirety of last year, I feel as if I have experienced what it is like to be a distance learner. Personally, my favorite part of online learning was the flexible scheduling. Gone were the days of waking up early and frantically rushing to make it to the bus stop. I could get ready, have breakfast and still manage to log in a few minutes before class started. Nonetheless, there were some drawbacks to online learning.
While I was rested physically, mentally I was completely drained. My teachers were all great and I understood the information, but I still felt like I was missing a part of the equation. It took me a couple of months to discover the missing variable: interaction.
Being an introvert, when the pandemic first began, I found myself thriving in isolation. However, as the months crept on, I began to feel the effects of solitude; Facetime and messaging helped, but it paled in comparison to seeing people face to face.
Forming connections, both with teachers and fellow students, is a critical aspect of education. While being engaged online is possible, technical problems, such as glitches or lags, serve as barriers. Being in person allows for a much more synergistic style of learning where students can actively ask questions and are able to participate more easily.
That being said, there are advantages to distance learning. The extra minutes of sleep from not needing to commute have a surprising amount of significance, especially considering how teenagers can find themselves staying up late to finish homework or study for tests.
Additionally, the delta variant, which is currently the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in the United States, is highly contagious and spreads rapidly. While there are mask mandates and certain safety protocols in place, there are still some families unsure of sending their children back to school.
Sophomore Sydney Kaps is one of the few students who is partaking in virtual learning this year. She referenced the challenges of not being able to meet her friends or teachers face to face, and how she does prefer learning in person. Regardless, she finds online school both fulfilling and enriching. “Distance learning is an exceptional alternative and everyone involved has made it simple and rewarding for me,” Kaps said.
Ultimately, there are benefits to both styles of learning and students must decide which option they prefer. I enjoyed virtual learning, but there simply is no comparison for experiencing classes in person.