The outbreak of COVID-19 took the world by storm. Without warning, school systems and educators were left in a frenzy to finish the academic year virtually. Though Zoom learning may have initially had a poor reputation, many became convinced that this platform was not just the answer for learning during a pandemic, but a new, more innovative way of learning altogether. Parents and instructors alike believed that the virtual classroom provided an easily-accessible platform with no commute, no distractions, and more individualized learning. Yet the bottom line was that virtual learning was negatively affecting its students, causing decreases in motivation, deprivation of social interaction, and strained mental health. Yes, the realization was blatant: online classes were not as successful for the kids as adults presumed they would be.
Lack of Motivation
What must be taken into consideration is the excess of control students are given with virtual learning. Virtual learning has become, to an extent, a playground for students to pick and choose when they want to learn as they now face the obstacle of remaining focused in a house full of distractions. A dog that’s begging for attention, a rumbling stomach, a phone flooding with texts– and now with the environment that allows us to feed these cravings, that lecture about Jane Eyre has sunk right to the bottom of the list.
According to the Axios and College Reactions poll in May 2020, 77 percent of students agreed that online learning was “worse or much worse” than that of in-person classes. Others explained their struggle to stay motivated in an online setting due to the distractions of being at home, as well as the heavier workload and difficulty connecting to teachers.
Zoom now makes it harder than ever to stay engaged as students have the choice to listen and pay attention, or catch up on their social media. Additionally, trying to study or take a test at home is much more of a challenge with the surrounding of parents and siblings. Even the most focused students find themselves fighting to stay focused and keep up with the workload. Without the necessary discipline and pressure that comes with a school environment, students both young and old feel less inclined to put their best effort forward.
Then Comes Cheating
With the abundance of accessible information on the Internet, and now the daily use of technology, students turn to cheating– because, not only does it mean they don’t have to learn, but because it has become physically too easy for them not to. Without the constant supervision by their teachers, online learning provides the answers for students right at their fingertips. If they don’t know the answer to a question or how to start their essays, the Internet quite literally has all the answers. And, they don’t seem to fear the consequences. Like cyberbullying, they appear to believe that the screen protects them from any ramifications that come their way. The virtual environment is thus a double-edged sword– not only are they losing the motivation to succeed and do well in their courses, but they’re learning how to cut corners and cheat without suffering any consequences.
Lost Social Life
Virtual learning comes with a price of weakened social skills and communication. Without the original classroom setting, students lose the opportunities to chat with friends and communicate with their teachers individually. Instead, even the most outgoing kids quietly sit and stare at the screen for hours at a time until they log off. The tiniest interactions and side conversations, though not always appropriate, are what build connections and friendships.
Without the chance to express themselves to others, students join and leave their virtual classes without saying a peep. Younger students especially need the setting of a classroom to learn correct behavior and build connections; without it, they remain unequipped and unaware for future social interactions. Even high school and college students need the relief of connecting with others and forming bonds to keep them well-rounded and engaged. Yet, virtual learning keeps their social skills at a standstill, holding them from one of the most basic necessities and joys of life. As a result, they struggle to learn these skills at a much later age.
The Struggle for Mental Health
Without the in-person access to individualized support and social interaction comes to reductions in students’ mental health. In a Boar Features’ survey, 61 percent of participants noted their decline in mental health due to the pandemic. Now alongside the regular struggles of keeping high grades and fitting in, students must toil with the extra stress that comes with the limitations of the virtual classroom. The missed relief that social interaction brings, along with the heavier workload, can add up, without a proper outlet to dispel these emotions. Students need each other to be naturally motivated and challenged through their academic careers; with online learning’s exclusion of this basic necessity, it only makes sense that students are going to face more hardships.
A Small Recap
Yes, Zoom was a life-saver during the pandemic; but any further use will continue to put students at academic and social disadvantages. Online classes allow for too many distractions, and they don’t have enough guidelines for students to stay motivated. As students spend more and more time on the screen and away from their peers, their social lives increasingly take the hit. Now, they face losing the basic skills needed to make connections and form relationships. This can be extremely damaging to an individual’s mental health as they are given an excess of school work without the natural stimuli of the classroom. So what’s the answer here? Though in-person classes allow students to fully benefit and reap the rewards of human interaction, virtual learning creates a half-hearted pupil, unprepared for the real world.