Long term distance learning needs to be improved

Jackson Rickert, Opinions Editor, Columnist

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, I think we’re all reflecting on what a strange semester this has been. Not just in terms of distance learning and the Coronavirus pandemic, but the total upheaval we find ourselves still reeling from. Between quarantine, boredom and isolation it’s been hard to focus on schoolwork. And yet, we’ve somehow made it through seven weeks of online learning. Now, at the end of a particularly strange year, it’s time to look back at the distance learning of quarter four to see what was effective and what should be changed should we end up having school online in the future.

Overall, I think distance learning has been very flawed. While I appreciate the effort to help students wrap up their learning for the school year, I don’t think that in its current state that the distance learning we’ve had is a suitable substitute for in-person learning. Now, it’s never going to be the real thing, but I think it could still be a lot closer and a lot more effective. 

The biggest problem I see is the lack of an actual schedule. While on the surface one would think this would allow for students to have more freedom in choosing what to do and when, it ultimately just leaves them with more work. Since most teachers aren’t hosting regular classes, the curriculum is moved almost entirely into assignments. While this isn’t unexpected, when you force a full schedule’s worth of teaching into homework, it ends up far exceeding the two to three hours of daily work that we were promised. This is amplified even more when teachers have lectures or videos for students to watch, and by the fact that many teachers put out work all at once. While there is supposed to be an alternating A/B day schedule, the shortened week means that many teachers give out work on Tuesdays, at the beginning of the week, overwhelming the workload.

This isn’t to say the teachers are to blame, not at all. I’ve found that in recent months all of my teachers have been very committed and passionate about helping us learn in these times. The content, at least for the most part, has been informative and helpful, and there has been a genuine attempt to help us learn without the interaction we normally get. I understand that this isn’t an easy process for anyone, and I appreciate the work that the teachers have put in to help the students.

 But the problem isn’t with the fact that they give us work, or that we have to watch lectures on our own time, it’s that the lack of a schedule means that there is no way to regulate what we get, and the lack of regularly timed classes means that students are forced to pick up the slack of eight classes. 

If we had four classes a day, even just short classes, teachers could focus on lecturing or checking in, and students wouldn’t have to learn the content on their own. While I appreciate the open office hours that teachers have held over the past few months, and the video lectures they’ve made, they aren’t the same as having someone teach you in person. The interaction, asking questions as you go along, working through something in the moment, these are all things that are needed to really actualize the learning process, at least for me. And again, I’m not deluding myself into thinking it’s all possible without having in person classes, but I do think having actual scheduled classes would be a big step in improving the digital learning process, as well as lightening the load on students. 

In all honesty, I just think that the current system needs to be reformed before it is used again, be it years down the road or three months from now. I know that this is a new process, and that everyone is making the best of a bad situation. I just hope that before we commit to more time learning like this, we can improve upon the base that has been built over the past few months.