E-learning: what’s working and where we can improve

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Lucy Jaffee, Content Editor

Schools across the globe are transitioning to online education during this unique time in history. Students at LJCDS are swapping their binders for laptops and experiencing school through synchronous, FaceTime-style Zoom meetings, pre-recorded lesson plans made by their teachers, and by other creative means. Teachers and faculty have been working hard to create a close replica of campus life and learning. On the receiving end, students are adapting to the online approach which includes a new schedule and unconventional assessments and assignments. While online school is certainly not what anyone envisioned for the second semester, LJCDS students are incredibly lucky to be continuing to learn during quarantine. E-learning, like any new changes made in our school’s community, has its pros and cons. 

It’s important to maintain a positive outlook during this time of uncertainty, so let’s begin with what’s good about e-learning. With our new schedule, which begins classes at 9:00, excluding office hours 30 minutes prior, students are able to receive at least an extra hour of sleep, with most getting more. For those who had long commutes to school, time previously spent driving has been exchanged for much-needed extra rest. While getting a recommended 8-10 hours of sleep felt near impossible when starting at 8, as people woke up one to two hours prior to arriving in a timely fashion, everyone’s sleep, and therefore health, stress management, and concentration, have benefited from our later start time. Aside from starting later, the “office hours” portions of our schedule have frequently become timely breaks, giving us more free time than usual. And with all after-school activities cancelled, busy afternoons are now relatively open. With all this free time, students have more opportunities to revisit any passions and hobbies pushed aside during the typical school year. Whether it be video games, at-home workouts, mid-day walks, or creative writing, students are able to explore and enjoy activities that used to be reserved solely for weekends or mellow school nights. These activities, and more time in general, can be spent with one’s family. Maintaining connections during this often-worrisome time is important, and building stronger bonds with your relatives is beneficial. Doing things you love is incredibly important to maintaining positive mental health, so everyone should take advantage of this extra time. And, there is also the obvious benefit of more time to complete assignments since classes are meeting less frequently and Wednesdays are purely for catching up on work.

Students are truly able to work at their own pace in an environment comfortable to them. Assignments and the high-pressure situation school often presents can be managed on an individual basis. Students are free to control and organize their workload while maintaining fewer guidelines than before. Being at school itself can be stress-inducing, so learning at a place comfortable to oneself can be a pro. Another positive shift has been that class time is spent more wisely. As classes are now an hour long and meeting twice a week, teachers are making sure their class times are filled with only the most important content or what’s truly essential to learn. This makes class time pack more punch and learning feel more relevant and important. And, if class isn’t necessary on some days, teachers are letting students out early or taking an asynchronous approach. If students aren’t needed “in class” they aren’t required to come. Overall, assignments are pretty similar to before, as we operate digitally nowadays anyways. Using Google Drive, Blackboard, Quizlet, etc. is nearly identical to when we were on campus. And, lesson plans in class remain pretty similar to before.

While online learning is an adequate replacement for in-person learning, it has its setbacks. Having more time to complete assignments sounds like a dream come true, but too much relaxation can cause a general lack of motivation. With lowered stakes, completing assignments in a timely manner has been pushed off. In times when moving from the couch to your bed feels like a strenuous task, mustering up the energy to write entire essays is difficult. Many people find themselves most productive in a traditional study hall/school setting because they’re free of distractions like technology and their beds. Now, being surrounded by these items may distract students from completing work as efficiently as before. Everyone can admit to falling into a spiral of TikTok-watching rather than doing their math homework. Especially after sitting in front of a screen having to focus on class for an hour straight, finding the energy to complete work on top of that is easier said than done. Many teachers have taken the quarantine as a time to assign more homework than before. Seeing as there’s more time for completing assignments does not mean students want to spend the time actually doing the work, a concept some teachers are still grappling with.

Another obvious negative to e-learning is the lack of in-person connections. I know I speak on behalf of all students and staff when I say I miss seeing everyone in-person at school. Although we’re able to interact over Zoom, socializing face-to-face holds a special value, unmatched from just seeing people on a screen. Online learning lacks the spontaneity of being on campus. Walking around LJCDS, one encounters tons of people beyond those in their classes, interactions that are equally as important. Therefore, it’s no longer effortless to broaden the group of people we talk to on a daily basis but aren’t in our classes. And, speaking from personal experience, or for anyone who is particularly chatty in class, having much-needed, enjoyable side conversations has been moved to the less convenient medium of text. Although seemingly a first-world problem, random discussion can formulate new ideas. 

Like mentioned before, continuing our education during this quarantine is a privilege all students should be incredibly grateful for. E-learning is constantly developing and improving thanks to our hard-working staff. Taking this special circumstance into account, this approach certainly accomplishes the task of keeping students learning, despite some issues.