What Students Are Saying About Remote Learning (Published 2020) (2023)

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What Students Are Saying About Remote Learning (Published 2020) (1)

By The Learning Network

Please note: This post is part of The Learning Network’s ongoing Current Events Conversation feature. We invite students to react to the news via our daily writing prompts and, each week, we publish a selection of their comments.

In “Coronavirus Is Shutting Schools. Is America Ready for Virtual Learning?” Dana Goldstein writes about the great shift that began taking place in American education last month. For this week’s roundup of student comments on our writing prompts, we asked students how they have been coping with remote learning.

They told us about all the things they miss about going to school: their friends, teachers, sports, extracurricular activities, even “the loud and crazy lunchroom.”

But some students have discovered that they enjoy getting to work at their own pace, set their own schedule and be free from “the stressful environment of school.”

Others, though, recounted the challenges of distance learning, from struggling to understand assignments and getting easily distracted to not having reliable internet. “If you had told me a few months ago that I would be praying to go to school, I would’ve laughed and called you crazy, but I would do anything to go back to my school,” Hannah from Nashville said.

Before we get to the rest of the comments, we’d like to give a warm welcome to the new students who joined the conversation this week from:

Barcelona; Berkeley, Calif.; Brighton, Mich.; Buckeye, Ariz.; Dawson High School; Easton, Conn.; Englewood, Colo.; Forest Lake Christian School, Auburn, Calif.; Fruitland, Idaho; Fulton Science Academy, Alpharetta, Ga.; Hawkins, Ind.; Irving, Tex.; Lacey, Wash.; Lawrenceville, N.J.; London; Long Beach, Wash.; Malverne, N.Y.; Martin Luther School-Maspeth, Queens, N.Y.; Mexico; New Orleans, La.; Rochester, N.Y.; Roland Grise Middle School; Sunnyvale, Calif.; WLSA Shanghai Academy and Yakima, Wash.

Please note: Student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally submitted.

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‘I did not realize that I took my routine and school day for granted until now.’

School is a place for building friendships, learning responsibility, and getting an escape from the house, but it seems as though the Coronavirus has taken that all away from us. For me, I loved getting to see my friends everyday in the school environment. Now that it’s taken away from me, I realize now that school was my main source of communicating with people. Now I feel as though I’m losing friendships I had at school since we can’t go anymore. School also taught us responsibility. I had a schedule when going to classes and when to wake up and go to bed. Now that I have no reason to have a schedule, I have been going to bed and waking up much later than I used to. There also seems to be a lack of motivation for me now to accomplish tasks because at school, we were given an hour and a half each day to get work done in class but now I keep pushing assignments back until the last second. This definitely won’t be beneficial to my work ethic in the upcoming senior year for me … Thanks to the Coronavirus, I have decided to make every moment of my senior year count and not take it for granted as I did for the past three years of high school.

Owen Midgette, Norfolk, VA

I did not realize that I took my routine and school day for granted until now. My online school day consists of waking up at 10 am instead of 6 am, working on my laptop in my bed instead of a classroom, and now I make my own schedule. While this sounds pretty enjoyable for any teenager, it has made me miss school. I miss walking down the hallways with my friends. I miss sitting in a classroom with a teacher and other students, having discussions and asking questions. I miss the loud and crazy lunchroom. I truly miss things I didn’t even know that I loved about my school. If you had told me a few months ago that I would be praying to go to school, I would’ve laughed and called you crazy, but I would do anything to go back to my school.

Hannah, Nashville

Something I find really special about my high school is that we are really focused on student-centered learning. We use a Harkness-style teaching method where all the students and the teacher sit at a round table together and instead of learning through lecturing, we learn from each other. Peer-to-peer interaction is a really pivotal part of education at my school, and it feels like it falls so short in our distance learning. We use Zoom and can see one another and our teacher, but everyone is always muted so as not to interfere with background noise. Our classes have been cut down by ten minutes and instead of having six classes a day, we only have three or four classes synchronously. I feel like my education is not being fulfilled. I have a significant lack of motivation and I miss the thought-provoking discussions I used to have with my classmates during physical school. I am really anxious to get back to school and really foster my love of learning through my peers.

Emily Barkley, Lawrenceville, NJ

‘The workload has been overwhelming.’

“Oh my goodness … Why there is so much homework?” This was my first reaction to online study as I looked at the homework checklist. Due to the outbreak, most activities, including daily clubs, are canceled at present, thus we do not have much to do at home. At least teachers believe so; therefore, tons of homework overwhelms us everyday. However, we actually get much to do everyday besides homework: standardized tests, such as TOEFL, SAT, AP, etc., needed to be prepared; activities that could be done indoor had to be completed … Homework is the straw which breaks the camel’s back. How I hope that assignment could be a little less and more time could be controllable by ourselves! I am now in China. Online study has already taken place for 2 months so far. Sometimes I really wish to go back to school having lessons face to face with teachers and classmates. School is not only a place for study, but a place to prepare us for future life when we embark upon complicated society and interpersonal relationship. Online education cannot replace school system thoroughly in this aspect. I really miss normal school days. Is the day of returning far?

Sophie Dai, WLSA Shanghai Academy

The workload … has been overwhelming. The thought process of my teachers seems to be “Oh they have all of this free time now, so I can assign them more work than I normally would.” Or at least something along the lines of that, because my teachers haven’t let up one bit. That’s been the most challenging part of remote learning, because I get easily distracted when I try to work in my house, and that I have even more work than normal, it’s challenging to get everything done. I have been able to keep up with what we’ve been learning for the most part, but it would be nice to have a teacher that could answer my questions and help me in person.

William, The Barker

I’m in my second week of online distance learning and it’s exhausting! Yes, school now starts at 9 am and we end at around 2:30, so it’s not like I’m doing school work all day. However, now I’m on the computer for about 4 or 5 hours at a time. Before the whole pandemic happened, I only spent about an hour, maybe 2 on the computer both at school and at home. At the end of the day, I don’t want to see another computer for a while. I actually did some research (on the computer) and I found that I was suffering from computer fatigue. Yep, it’s a real thing.

Miriam, Oakland, CA

I also find it very hard to find an ‘escape’ from school. Since it all takes place at my home, destressing has become more difficult because I feel like school is there with me the entire day. I really hope, in the near future, we will be returning to our school since I am not receiving the best education at home.

Zoe V., Nashville, TN

‘I find it impossible to actually learn anything new through the distance learning.’

From what I have been through for the past two weeks is that online schooling is really a double edge knife. For example, it’s quite nice working at your own pace so you’re able to be less stressed with deadlines. But at the same time because of that, I have had a great deal of trouble keeping up with all of the work that my teachers have been putting onto me. That’s mostly because my pace is slower than most of my other classmates because my dyslexia and ADHD make it a lot harder to keep things on track because of how free things are. My teachers have been very understanding about it but there is only some much that they can do and I’m honestly quite scared for my end of the year grades. I have done fine this year grade-wise A’s and B’s but since this started they have been going down a bit and I’m not sure what to do because I’m doing what I can but it’s not doing anything to help my grades go up. So I’m just praying for the best at this point.

Stephan T, Easton CT

I enjoy the new schedule that internet school has given me, since I finally have time to sleep as much as I need and feel well rested and ready to work. Though my new schedule is beneficial, I find it impossible to actually learn anything new through the distance learning. It’s easier for me to get distracted and be lazy with my work, so I’m starting to hate the daily mundanity of distance learning. I never thought I’d want to be back in school until now.

Cali, King of Prussia, PA

Digital learning hasn’t been the best experience for me. I’m constantly caught in this game of tug of war of too much work and too little. Sometimes I’ll have three projects and four assignments due in one day and other days, I’ll have nothing. The lack of social interaction I, as well as my classmates, are enduring is also a huge factor in me not enjoying online schooling. Only one of my classes has actual online meetings where we can talk, while the others just keep posting work. I can’t learn like that though, so I haven’t really retained any of the information I just spit back at them for a grade.

Emma B., Cass High School, Georgia

‘I’m often anxious that I will not be able to join and maintain access to online classes and assignments.’

Online school has been a stressful process for many of my friends and me. I live in an area where internet access and WiFi are hard to get and, as a result, I’m not only stressed about school but I’m often anxious that I will not be able to join and maintain access to online classes and assignments. Working at home is hard for me as well since there is no distinct separation of school v.s home. Normally at school, I am able to focus as it is a work environment and I am constantly communicating face-to-face with those around me. At home, I want to get up and go outside and stop staring at my iPad, it gives me headaches and I am tired of looking at it after 4-5 hours a day. Many of my teachers have been seemingly understanding of the issues caused by online school, but at the same time, they are continuing to give the normal work-load.

Kitty, Stockton, NJ

So far, no, our schools have not yet switched to online. However, they have given us a long list of websites and activity suggestions to keep students occupied in learning while the School District figures out what to do for us … My sister and I just recently came up with our own schedules (which consists of some of the suggested websites and activities of our own) which was fun! I started my school schedule today, since I just got off of Spring Break. My biggest concern, if they do switch to online (which will most likely occur soon) is the lack of technology my family has (like Dana Goldstein writes about in the first paragraph of the article). The School District just sent out a survey to see who is lacking the school supplies necessary to be involved in online school, so hopefully they will be able to rent out computers to families who need them, like mine. We only have one laptop, and sharing one with a timed schedule would be impossible! I’m keeping my fingers crossed! :)

Leah, Springfield, OR

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‘I miss seeing everyone, especially my friends.’

Out of the concerns that Ms. Goldstein expresses, the most relevant one is how schools provide so much more than academics. Social interaction, a way to exercise … I miss seeing everyone, especially my friends, even that teacher who talks too much … I mean, at least they’re there to explain the assignment. Zoom calls and texting and Google Hangouts just can’t replace face-to-face interaction. I’m a dancer too, and dance has always been so infallible to me, I felt like even if schools shut down it would somehow still be there. But it wasn’t. Sometimes I just feel really lost because I feel like I don’t have anything to hold onto. I’m just trying to do well in “class” and waiting for this to end.

Julia A, California

I too believe that school is more than just academics alone. School is what makes the basis of our early lives, 14 years of work, stress, and success. Not to mention all the great people you meet along the way, such as our mentors and teachers, as well as our lifelong friends. The activities I miss the most in school are going to my locker early in the morning, having quick chats with friends and colleagues, and roaming the halls listening to music. After school activities are another story, I miss going to track practice, making jokes with friends on a local loop (1.5 mile run around campus), and getting a good workout in for the day (thanks Mr. Frazer).

Ethan Davila, New York

‘I am actually quite fond of it.’

Last week was the second week of E-Learning for my school, and I am actually quite fond of it. While I do understand the social aspect of school — as someone with an Anxiety Disorder lack of sleep and work load gets to me quickly, making this honestly an enjoyable experience for me. I feel as though I can learn the material at my own pace and on my own time, with breaks when I need them. With the stressful environment of school being significantly reduced, in my mind the pros of E-Learning outweigh the cons. I enjoy getting to know my teachers and classmates but I think there is a lot to be learned from the teaching and learning style we’ve had to embrace.

Ella Mastin, Glenbard West HS

With the new shift to online schooling, I feel like an adult working from home. I get to organize my work schedule so that it works best for me, and I get to complete all of my work from the comfort of my own room. In the mornings I put on a nice shirt, so I look put together when attending online instructional Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, but what the camera, my teachers, and my peers cannot see is that I am actually lounging around in the comfort of my sweatpants.

Tracey N, Dawson HS

Before a normal school day involved me waking up at 5:45 and returning home at 3:30. Now, I wake up at whatever time I’d like, which has had a positive effect on me, reducing my levels of stress overall. I find that I am able to stay on task effectively, as I am able to work at my own pace and at the time I choose to. I find myself adequately occupied with work, as I have spent an average of 3 hours a day on schoolwork, which I feel is the same amount of work I completed in school, with the rest of the hours wasted on irrelevant information. I miss the social aspect most of school, as a social life is impossible to maintain virtually … In addition, the freed time has allowed me to pursue interests not supported by the public school system, as I have had more time to learn to code, and even accomplished creating a Virtual Private Network from scratch.

David Vallejo, Miami

Since I can plan out my day myself, I feel it suits me better than what school puts students through, though it is challenging to learn new topics of some subjects without direct explanation from a teacher.

Alicja Paruch, NY

‘A lot of the time, I get confused.’

I am starting my third week of remote learning and let me tell you, I can not wait for the day this whole thing is over. My school went directly into remote learning around the time the first confirmed case was found in my state and I do not like it. I find myself getting distracted much easier and find myself procrastinating more and more. I’m not motivated to complete some work until I realize it will impact my grade, unlike normal school. A lot of the time, I get confused. I don’t have the luxury of being able to ask my teacher why I need to do different when I don’t understand something or don’t know what to do and a lot of the time, an email doesn’t get back to me in the time I am completing my work.

Tommy J, Saco

My first weeks of online classes have been hard because it’s difficult to stay on task with all the work we are being assigned by teachers. The work isn’t necessarily hard but figuring out how to use the different websites and when a new assignment has been posted takes a while. I am getting better at this as I go just like my classmates but sometimes I’ll miss some assignments I didn’t realize were due.

Gerlanda Di Stefano, Malverne NY

As someone who’s family is financially stable and has access to a computer, I can say that it hasn’t been extremely hard for me to get my work done. It was hard whenever I didn’t understand something and instead of being able to ask my teachers and get an immediate response, I had to email them and wait for them to email me back. I believe that I have it very lucky and I know that some of my peers are struggling a lot.

I know that my school is trying very hard to help the kids, like providing food for children that relied on school lunches and having a curbside pickup for laptop rentals. They also have paper packets that they mailed so if you didn’t have access to the internet you could still continue learning and not get too far behind, which helps eliminate Dana Goldstein’s concern in that area, but there are still valid points that Goldstein makes that are still problems at my school as well.

Morgan Sharp, Anna, Texas

Here in England we were all told that schools would almost certainly not shut and if they did it wouldn’t be until after Easter. However, our PM closed schools until September and cancelled all exams all of a sudden, even though he said a few hours before he wouldn’t even close them for two weeks so none of our teachers were prepared. Frustratingly, my school isn’t using Zoom or Google Classroom (and neither are any others that I’ve heard of) but are instead putting work on to the shared area online which we have to manually search through hundreds of files everyday to find that work that has been set for our classes. Only one subject, English has actually given us instructions and tasks to complete with a weekly deadline — the others have just uploaded random files and past papers etc and not told us what to do or when its due … I find it really hard to be motivated to do work / study for exams I am not even going to be taking. I wish my school would make all subjects give us specific tasks with deadlines and maybe use online resources such as Google Classroom so that we have more structure.

Rachel, London, England

‘I’m missing out on my “high school experience.”’

The worst part of this experience is the fact that I finally made it to high school and now I’m missing out on my “high school experience.” Everyone talks about how high school is some of the greatest years of our life, but right now it’s not off to a spectacular start. I’m only a freshman, but the poor seniors are getting hit the hardest. Not being in school means there’s no sports, no school dances like Prom, and there might not even be a graduation at this point. Imagine getting to senior year and thinking that it’s going to be the best year overall, and then getting told that you won’t get to finish your final season of the sport you’ve played your whole life, or you can’t go to your last dance with the people you’ve been with all of high school. These people might not get to even experience graduation. All of their hard work for the past four years might get handed to them in the form of a PDF or a document in the mailbox.

Natalie, Yakima, WA

I have been training for weeks to make state competition for poetry interpretation in Speech and Debate, and to see all my hard work go down the drain is disheartening. I felt like that opportunity was robbed from me. Since I am a junior, I now have to wait until senior year to attempt to attend state and it would be my last chance to do it. I really wish I was able to give it a shot this year.

Jessica Franklin, Dawson High School, TX

Personally the main thing I miss is my sports season, I was looking forward to this years lacrosse season the whole year and it was heart breaking to be on day 4 and have it be cancelled.

James, Barkoukis

One of the things I’m missing about school is theater. Before school was closed, I had two shows that were going to be performed the next week and now I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to perform the shows. Overall, this remote learning is an F in my book.

Kayla C., Cass High School, Georgia

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‘I’ve had to become my seven-year-old brother’s teacher.’

Everyday my motivation to do my work decreases and recently all my assignments have been turned in late causing my grades to drop. It has also been very difficult because I’ve had to become my seven-year-old brother’s teacher. My parents aren’t very fluent in English, so they aren’t able to help him with his schoolwork. It’s very challenging to keep up with both his work and my work at the same time.

Adriana Segura, Cass High School, GA

The switch to distance learning has been hard for my family. I’m lucky enough to go to a school that provides each student with a computer, but for the first two weeks my younger brother (age 9) didn’t. He was sent home with a folder packed with work, but once that ran out, his teacher expected him to go digital. We have a computer, but it’s barely functioning, let alone good enough to run the programs they expected us to use. This was later remedied, but he’s also on an IEP which means he’s used to one on one learning for math, science, and reading as well as holds a general animosity towards learning in general. We’re terrified for what this will do to the progress he’s made. My mom has been struggling to teach it to him so she’s been enlisting my help. I’m happy to do it, but now I’m tackling two work loads a day on top of everything else going on.

Kaylee Tener, Holicong Middle School

‘I’ve noticed that staying on task gets harder as the week goes on.’

The only thing familiar about my “school days” is getting up in the morning. The similarities come to an abrupt stop there. I eat breakfast each morning with my mom, who now works from home, and converse with her frequently throughout the day. Having a chance to connect with her in this way has is something I am grateful for. During the scheduled lunch break my school includes in its remote learning class schedule, I frequently take naps, mostly out of boredom. Far more distractions — my pet and the availability of food all the time, to name a few — abound as I try to remain engaged in classes and complete assignments. For the most part I am on task, but some of the very same distractions I deal with in school, such as receiving texts from friends or my phone serving as a distraction in and of itself — seem much harder to resist at home. For the most part, though, as a high school senior, I know and accept what work I have to complete and I return to the tried and tested routines that have served me well throughout my high school years.

Aaliyah Rogers, Martin Luther School-Maspeth, Queens, NY

A school day for me is very different than what I’m used to. I now wake up an hour after I would normally be getting to school, so that’s three hours of extra sleep. I think because of this, my sleep schedule is messed up and I don’t have the structure we used to all get. I’ve noticed that staying on task gets harder as the week goes on. We’re obviously not at school working with our classmates and teachers, so it is hard for me to focus … There’s no structure, which is making it hard to get up and be productive. Overall, online school makes time management extremely difficult and I feel like I’m not even learning in some of my classes.

Riley S, Brooklyn, NY

‘How harshly are AP exams going to be graded now?’

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Collegeboard announced massive changes to the AP tests: students only have 45 minutes, the tests are now only free response questions, and the major twist, the exams are now online. With this new information, as well as the fact that Collegeboard cut down on the curriculum we are being tested on, many of my classes switched from learning new material to review mode. Instead of preparing for multiple choice questions, I must now scramble to prepare for a writing only test that will determine my fate on whether I receive college credit for the many AP classes I have spent a year taking. My biggest fear now is that it is unknown how the new shortened tests will be graded, leaving me with only the written portion to get a good score on the exam. This added stress was not something I needed in an already stressful year.

Ryan C, Dawson High School

As a junior, I have been very stressed about how the rest of the school year will pan out. Constant thoughts running through my head are, “When am I going to take the SAT? How harshly are AP exams going to be graded now? What are colleges going to do for admissions next year?” All of these questions are constant thoughts that most teenagers my age are thinking about right now. The work that we are being provided with now is only supplementary; which, does not help students stay motivated to get their work completed. Teachers are doing the best they can but the ones who truly care about their students’ mental health and education are putting in extra time just to help. Sadly, I have one teacher who I know I can count on to go to because she has been sending out constant emails about our AP exams and always asking how we are doing. If as many teachers cared as much as she did, then maybe more students would want to do their work …

Amaya Lancaster, Branham High School, San Jose, CA

‘I feel for our teachers who have had to change everything about their classes.’

Luckily I have pretty good computer knowledge, but like Ms. Goldstein pointed out, I feel for our teachers who have had to change everything about their classes. Asking teachers to all of sudden offer the same kind of curriculum online is impossible, so it is important we stay patient … I’m not really thinking about what I need from my teachers as much as what our teachers need from us. All we have to do is stay on task and take this seriously while they have to change their jobs from in school to online in a matter of days. The workload isn’t unbearable and the teachers are very lenient, but as long as we don’t take advantage of this and stay diligent we can all get through this.

Estevan, Corpus Christi, Texas

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