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Should schools go back to in person learning or stay online?

By Dani Gonzalez and Julia Galperin

As summer has been coming closer to an end and the school year is about to start, this question has been debated/discussed among many: Should schools have online learning or in-person learning? There are obviously pros and cons to both ways of learning, as different environments may affect how a student can learn.  

Pros of online learning: is location flexibility. With online learning, students can take their classes wherever they please without leaving the comfort of their own home. This allows students to be more comfortable and have a safe place to learn and focus. Another plus of online learning is not having to drive to and from school everyday. Having zero commute allows students to focus more on online school without wasting any extra time to commute to class and use that extra time to study for classes or work on homework assignments. Another pro is that students have flexibility when they can get their assignments done, so that they are able to focus on getting closer with their families, cleaning their rooms, etc. 

Some cons of online learning can be: Online learning is not always readily available for everyone. For example, not everyone has access to a computer, or their computer may not have the latest programs needed for their classes, or a student may not have access to Wifi. People that are from a low-income background are already at a major disadvantage compared to their classmates just due to their social economic status, and this may cause an even bigger gap between these students. Online learning also affects the interaction between students and their instructors. Teachers may have limited time given to teach their lesson which means most teachers tend to have pre-written or pre-recorded course lessons than teach it to their students live. This may cause much confusion among students as there is no real time to stop and ask their teachers’ questions. The majority of interaction between students and teachers happens when having face to face feedback and discussions on assignments, projects, tests etc. All students are faced with the disadvantage because they are not given the option to have that one-on-one interaction with their teachers that is essential to a good education. Also, individuals who are prone to procrastination will have a huge problem adapting to the structure of online school. Online school is very limited with its hours and most of its time is focused towards course lectures and lessons. If you are a procrastinator, you will have to build lots of discipline on yourself in order to complete online school work or attending class with a passing grade. Another con of online learning is that students may have a hard time focusing in their rooms/houses. For me, I found it very difficult to focus because I have gotten used to being able to chill out in my room.

In person learning has been seen to have many pros and cons. Some pros of in person classes are: you are able to have a hands on education (which may be very important to some students when learning unfamiliar topics), a strict schedule will hold you accountable and force you to actually do your work, and in person classes can have benefits to social/mental health. For some students, such as myself, hands-on learning is very important as it helps me actually learn a topic from an experiment. I found that I would usually do better on topics that we performed labs on, than topics that we just read from a textbook. Hands on learning allows for an increased engagement level and allows students to understand topics in a real life scenario that they can see with their own eyes. Another pro of in person classes is that the strict schedule that is created with specific times will hold the student accountable to actually completing the work. I noticed when my school switched to online classes, I was not as motivated to complete my work to the best of my ability. However, with that strict time frame and the fact that you cannot avoid the teacher, students tend to feel like their work is mandatory and will try harder on these assignments. Finally, in person classes may actually help improve students’ mental health. As teens, human contact and social interaction is what we thrive on and when this was taken away from all of us, I noticed a change in moods with my friends and I. Not only did people seem more upset and down, but they also seemed to get angrier/annoyed quicker. Without this human interaction we are unable to be ourselves, and therefore not able to focus as much on our school work. 

That said, there is one very obvious con to in-person classes which is the concern of the spread of COVID-19 and the risk that student’s would be put to. With in-person classes, there is a very high risk that COVID could be spread around the school especially if simple things are not followed: masks on at ALL times and social distancing is in place at ALL times. However these two factors are almost impossible to control, as teachers cannot be monitoring students at all times. These rules could be broken in a line to the bathroom, getting up in a classroom to ask a question, eating lunch, and so much more. Another thing for schools to consider is that if even one faculty member or student somehow got sick with COVID it could be very hard to keep the disease under control as it travels quickly. 

Overall, online school and in person learning both have their pros and cons, but no matter what, the health of students and faculty should be put first(even above education).

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