The perks and plights of online learning

It’s been a stressful adjustment for some, a relaxing break for others, and everything in between. The start of the 2020-2021 school year came with endless questions about the future of school at Liberty and the issues we’ve encountered with online learning. This system was created to benefit students during the pandemic, but how much is it really?

October 9, 2020

The Cons

A lot of what’s happening right now is uncertain and unprecedented: everything is constantly changing, and everyone’s struggling to adapt and find the new normal. Just like with all new things, it’s only logical that there will be some bumps in the road along the way.

From awkward Zoom class discussions, to technology issues, to not getting to interact with friends, students have all discovered the challenges of online learning. One of the most common issues has been the lack of separation between home and school and the possible distractions that come with it.

Kincaid is one of the many people who have run into this problem. 

“My biggest issue with online learning has been the distractions. In a classroom, students are surrounded by focused peers and things that relate to the class they’re in, while at home, there are other people, pets, and other distractions like phones,” Kincaid said. 

Another common challenge Liberty students are facing is having to sit in front of their computers for most of the day. 

“Online learning has been pretty boring just sitting at the computer all day. I like to be outside a lot, so this is a huge change,” senior Kelsey Le said.

With both school and homework now online, many students’ daily screen time has been upwards of nine hours, so it’s understandable that students are a little tired of being on the computer. 

But, of course, these problems were anticipated, and students have been adapting admirably. Now, it’s just a matter of working to improve these issues.

The Pros

Online learning is not all doom and gloom. Many Liberty students have discovered the positive side of distance learning and are starting to actually enjoy attending classes from home.

“I like being able to make my own homework schedule,” senior Sarah Caffoe said. This appears to be a popular opinion, as many other students have also stated that they like the more freeform schedule that allows them to complete work on their own time.

This sentiment was only furthered by many students’ fervent approval of the new schedule’s free Wednesdays, where students have virtually the whole day to catch up and work on what they need to.

Another popular plus has been the fact that students are able to attend school from the comfort of their own rooms. 

“The best part of online school is getting to roll out of bed, brush my hair, and boom, I’m ready for class. It just feels a lot more laid back,” freshman Kaitlyn Wales said. 

It seems students are taking full advantage of the new relaxed nature of school, enjoying the fact they can eat whenever they want, wear whatever they want, and even choose to not get out of bed at all. 

However they are choosing to attend class, it’s good to see that students have been able to find a silver lining and are making the most of the situation.

Freshman Focus

Throughout this whole learning curve, some of us haven’t considered what it’s like for the class who is not only adjusting to online learning but also to high school: the freshmen.

“It was very overwhelming at first, trying to figure everything out technology-wise, but once I did, it got a lot less stressful. Still, the nature of being online is a whole lot harder than in-person learning,” Wales said.

As someone who errs on the side of wanting to go back to in-person schooling soon, Wales was disappointed to start her interactive electives online, like musical theater and choir. Still, she commended Liberty for their online planning and is eagerly waiting until she can go back to in-school learning. 

Yet, for other freshmen, there was a clearer opinion of this online high school transition being much more difficult.

“Jumping from six to eight periods is enough, let alone with a new school, new teachers, new schedules, and being online! It’s too much,” freshman Madison Woodard said. 

Woodard strongly advocates for less homework and supports wanting to go back to school with a hybrid schedule. But, like most of the freshmen surveyed, she was still excited to be a student at Liberty despite how she feels about the workload she’s been given. 

“Liberty seems like an awesome place,” Woodard said. “I would love to go to school there in-person.”

The Future

We’ve all been wondering the same million-dollar question since we heard that school was going to be fully online: when are we going back?

“Honestly, the answer all depends on King Country Public Health and the number of infections per hundred thousand people,” Principal Sean Martin said. “It’s been going in the right direction. Not very quickly, but it’s going in the right direction.”

The current plan is for students to be brought back in phases, starting with our Learning Resource Center 2 students. After the students with the most need for school structure have successfully come back in person, kindergarteners and elementary students are next. This phasing will eventually make its way up the grade levels, but the earliest that Liberty students could go back would be around the end of January to early February. 

But there is another factor that could possibly affect this date.

“One thing we’re really worried about is flu season,” Martin said. “Even with this virus’s numbers going in the right direction, every year, right around mid-October up until the end of January, people get sick. This can be dangerous because it makes COVID worse; that’s what we’re hearing.”

But in hopes that we do go back eventually this school year, our schedules will be a lot different than what we’re used to.

“We would have to figure out a way to break up the total number of people here and have them run the whole schedule. But on the days that people are here, they would go to class, and on the days they’re not here, they would be watching the same teachers remotely,” Martin said. 

 

It’s a bit more complicated than that, though. This all depends on how many people King County Public Health will allow in the building at one time. And the smaller that number is, the harder it will be to find an effective way to split up students attending classes at Liberty. 

And of course, the future of online school is also being discussed for Liberty. With feedback from student surveys and teachers, the clear demand is a better balance of teaching in class and the amount of homework given. 

“We need to find a balance between getting the learning in so you get all the content you need, but at the same time we want you to sleep and we want you to be healthy,” Martin said. “There’s been an adjustment period and from my point of view, homework has been really heavy the first several weeks.”

While there is no current plan in place to address this, the administrative staff is working with teachers to reach this balance that most of us need.

In light of how things have progressed so far, it’s fair to say that this year is going to have a long adjustment period. From teachers to students to even our parents, we’re all still learning how our online system will work and it’s going to take time.

So, the next time you log in to your Zoom classes, remember that we’re all in this together. After all, this may not be the school year we expected, but it certainly has its perks and plights.

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