Students and teachers struggle with ongoing virtual learning

As the pandemic rages on, students and teachers grow increasingly frustrated with virtual school, and are ready for a return to normal

Iris Gortney, Staff Reporter
Originally published February 3, 2021

Courtesy of Frances MagnusonStudents in AP Photography document the difficulties of online school

Courtesy of Frances Magnuson

Students in AP Photography document the difficulties of online school

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers across the U.S. have been forced to make the transition to virtual learning. Eight months later, students are depressed, teachers are frustrated, and hope for a vaccine is still months away. 

Junior Caleb Jonathan feels that completing assignments takes up the majority of his day, and has trouble making time for other things.  

“It kinda feels like life is just homework,” Jonathan said, over a FaceTime interview. “On average, I’m spending four or five hours. I start right after I finish classes and by the time I’m done it’s like 4 o’clock and I barely spent any time on lunch. Sometimes, I even forget to get lunch.” 

 Students feel that online school has tested their motivation and time-management skills in ways they’ve never faced before. Problems with procrastination, organization and technological difficulties have arisen as students have struggled to keep track of all their assignments and keep their grades afloat. 

Sophomore Elliot Jakupcak feels that some teachers are trying to assign a workload as if school was business as usual—though in reality, they’re only succeeding in overwhelming their students.  

“I like the teachers that are basically giving us the same amount of homework they would be giving us in person rather than actually trying to compensate for a full hour of sync time and adding more homework on top of that,” Jakupcak said over FaceTime interview. “I think that’s just piling up and snowballing, making it really overwhelming for kids because they’re not used to doing so much work at home.” 

Navigating the new technology while simultaneously working through a new curriculum, students are facing more adversity in the academic world than ever before. From Microsoft Teams inexplicably revoking mic and camera privileges, teachers not coordinating assignments, and students feeling like they are being buried in homework, the question must be asked: are students learning or just sitting through classes? 

Kira Franz-Knight, U.S. history teacher, is tired of online school and feels that students are being asked to do more than should be required of them. 

“I’m very aware of the fact of how exhausting it is to sit in Teams meetings for three hours then have to muster the motivation to do what is essentially three or more hours of homework each day,” Franz-Knight said, over email. 

“I want students to learn, but I don’t want them to be so overwhelmed with work that they’re unable to learn.” 

It’s not just students who are feeling frustrated by the situation. Teachers of all grades are facing difficulties with having to scale back lessons significantly to fit the online curriculum, and are missing face-time with their students. 

“I think it’s insane that we’re asking students to take six classes at a time,” Franz-Knight said, over email. “The current schedule works basically like college: meaning you attend class for a few hours a week, then the bulk of the work is homework. That said, a full load per quarter at college is three classes. So it’s crazy to me that we’re asking high schoolers to do twice that.” 

Despite this, some students have felt there have been some upsides to the transition. Sophomore Willa Kuhn feels her online experience has been, in some ways, more complete than in-person school. 

“I feel like you have much more access to things like the Internet and stuff, and there’s less restrictions on the way you’re learning,” said Kuhn over a FaceTime interview. “If you don’t understand the concept in class, then you can look it up on the Internet or something, and the Internet can give you a completely different definition. I feel like it just completes the learning.”

Though the general consensus about online school is that it’s been a bit of a waking stress dream, some positive aspects may persist after the fact, such as switching to online curriculum nights.

“Think back to when you were here and how crazy it was trying to navigate throughout the building. Now take all the parents and put them into that situation; maybe we can change it to something digitally,” Principal Kevin Wynkoop said over a Teams interview. 

 “I also think we could increase the number of people coming to PTSA meetings,” Wynkoop continued. “Because it’s a hassle to have to find someone to watch your kids, and find out where the meeting is, whereas, you know, just click on this link and drop in for 20 minutes. I think there really is some opportunity for innovation.”  

A future with virtual innovation in the academic world doesn’t sound bad, but some students and teachers feel there could be changes made to our current schedule that could be improved.

“The schedule could be improved by cutting it in half and letting go of this idea that we’re replicating school as it would normally be,” said Franz-Knight. “For me, if my students miss out on learning about the intricacies of the populist movement of the 19th century, I’m okay with that.” 

 Hopefully a vaccine, and an end to this mess, can be expected  in the near future. But it’s also fair to say that the transitions we’ve been forced to make following COVID-19 have changed the way things work in the world, possibly permanently.