Summer is coming to an end within a few weeks, and the upcoming 2020-2021 school year is destined to be different. Many school districts have imposed their new school-opening policies for the upcoming school year in response to the ongoing pandemic, and many questions emerged regarding the equity of educational opportunities and resources.
“The results are deeply concerning”
1.) Reduced learning gains
Since the sudden school closures in March and April, many students ranging from primary schools to colleges all suffered from a significant loss of in-person instructions that lead to enormous impacts on efficient learning in various subjects. Particularly for core subjects such as Math and English, students have endured great challenges in terms of learning new concepts and practicing academic skills. The results of a study from Brookings explicitly showed the reduced learning gains for students in grades 3-8, specifically in Maths and English. The study relied on past precedent and sampled on a national scale among 5 million students who took the MAP Growth test as an evaluation. The projections of the graph reflect a possible scenario called “COVID Slide” (fig 1 and 2) that resulted from insufficient instructions and “extended summer loss”. The predicted trend is likely to be a reality with the tremendous impact of the pandemic on education that continues to raise concerns.
“Students who lose the most during the summer tend to gain the most when back in school, but this may not hold for COVID-19.”
2.) Widened gap between high and low-performing students
The loss of instructive gains leads to greater variance in students’ skills and capabilities to learn, further widening the gap between high and low-performing students. Factors such as access to technology and distractions at home all result in difficulties in adapting the new model of distance learning. This problem challenges the equity of educational opportunities that already imposes great concerns in the academic community. Consequently, students who need more help and advice from teachers may be unable to improve or catch up with others due to limited resources.
“How can I set them up to be successful learners? I am flying blind, I am uncertain, and I have a lot of anxiety.” -----a mother of two from VA, expressing her concerns regarding the issue of maintaining educational quality during school closures.
3.) Lack of socialization
Despite the academic loss, the pandemic also impacted the school communities socially. During isolation, many students found themselves in a harder position to maintain connections and develop relationships with their friends and teachers. The lack of socialization may be one of the most significant impacts on the psyche of members of the educational community. Although technology allowed basic communications to take place, talking to a cold screen is nowhere near as heartening as giving a warm hug to a friend or delivering a kind greeting to a teacher when dropping by. The forced distance among the loved ones may be the most challenging aspect of this pandemic.
Considering all of the concerns addressed above, school communities have planned the upcoming school year with great caution and detailed preparations. School districts across the country have embraced either a hybrid or fully online model (or both) that aims at giving the students the highest quality of education under the safest environment. The remaining of this blog will discuss some of the PROs and CONs of both systems and some students’ opinions on them.
1.) Maintains regular socialization (under social distancing and strict hygiene orders)
The lack of social interactions is one of the greatest challenges that resulted from school closures. The hybrid model allowed some degree of regular socialization among students and teachers under strict social distancing protocols. Many students, especially seniors who want to make some final memorable memories at school, will benefit from this valuable opportunity while ensuring that their healths are not threatened.
2.) Reserves some degree of face-to-face instruction
For students who take vigorous classes, need excessive help from teachers (ex: English-learners, special education), and lack sufficient resources (ex: low-income), having some degree of face-to-face instruction may make up the potential losses of quality education. The hybrid system preserves opportunities for these groups of students to obtain the necessary help while maintaining a healthy and safe environment for them to learn.
3.) Empowers greater motivation
A lot of students found themselves having a waining motivation in learning or doing schoolwork at home during the quarantine. The hybrid model tackles this problem by enforcing some strict supervision from the teachers as students have to go to class a few times throughout the week. This system can help students to maintain high efficiency and quality of their academic work both at school and at home.
1.) Challenge of adopting new schedules
One challenge that the hybrid model faces is to construct an adequate, effective schedule for students to obtain the best education during such a unique time. A hybrid system of both in-person instruction and distance learning is an unprecedented model that experiments with various factors and circumstances. Therefore, it is likely that the hybrid model may encounter many other problems in the future due to the complexity of the system itself.
2.) Maintains an effective distribution of instructive resource
Distributing the instructive resources evenly, such as textbooks and teachers, is not an easy task. Many schools might face the challenge of maintaining equity of educational resources across the board due to the availability of study materials and the different schedules of the teachers. Therefore, specific functionalities of the hybrid system still need further considerations, and more problems need to be addressed.
3.) Risks of exposure and transmission of the virus
Probably the greatest concern that the hybrid model raises is the potential risk of exposure to the virus, despite enforced social distancing and hygiene orders. Due to the variability and uncertainty of whether or not students will truly follow the orders, many parents and students questioned the effectiveness of promised protocols that supposedly ensure the campus as a low-risk environment for the transmission of the virus. The lack of certainty for these concerns drove many people to support full distance/online learning rather than the hybrid system.
“I chose hybrid because I wanted a chance of social interaction, and although we are not promised to go back, seeing teachers in a classroom setting makes big impacts on my learning.”-----Makenna Murphy, rising senior
“[I chose] hybrid because I want to get out of the house and I definitely won’t be as productive online.”-----Kan Shimada, rising junior
“[I chose] hybrid mostly because it’s senior year and I want to see people before we graduate and also just be on campus one last time.”-----Rachel Yu, rising senior
1.) High flexibility
Great flexibility in terms of time is one of the most notable benefits of distance/online learning. It grants students much more free time on their own to study, review, and digest the concepts at their own paste. Students have more freedom to perform other tasks such as home-based extracurricular activities as well.
2.) High mobility
High mobility is another significant advantage of distance learning. Although traveling is not recommended during times of pandemic, students sometimes must leave home for certain reasons. In that case, taking courses online will not be a problem for missing school. As long as an internet connection is present, students can work on the same assignments as others in the class regardless of where they are.
3.) Reduced risk of exposure to the virus
Addressing the concern of exposure to the virus raised from the hybrid model, distance learning largely reduces such a risk since no in-person contact is taking place. Taking classes fully online prevents any possible face-to-face contacts, which indubitably minimizes potential risks of transmission.
4.) Great opportunity for students to enhance self-discipline and time management skills
As students are studying from home, all the extra time serves as a great opportunity for them to develop greater time management skills and become a better student who embraces more self-discipline and independence. Both time management and self-discipline are crucial skills for success in the future.
1.) Lack of socialization
The lack of socialization is one major drawback of distance learning. Many students chose the hybrid model because they didn’t want to completely lose in-person connections to their peers and teachers. Like what the blog discusses above, the loss of developing personal relationships may lead to significant psychological and social impacts on the students.
2.)Potential negative psychological impacts
Specifically, in terms of the potential psychological impacts, enduring isolation may initiate or intensify existing mental health problems that many students suffer today. The loneliness and lack of support can amplify stress and exhaustion, resulting in more negative attitudes and emotions. With more and more students suffering from mental health issues, this problem is difficult to ignore.
3.) Technological requirement
Distance learning builds upon the infrastructure of the internet, so it is a system that is extremely unfriendly to students with limited money and access to such technology. Vulnerable populations such as students from low-income families may not have the ability to obtain access to WiFi, laptops, or even phones. The high technological demand may be overwhelming for families who are not as privileged as others.
4.) Concerns regarding the quality of education
The quality of education is undoubtedly one of the biggest concerns regarding distance learning. Because of its deviations from traditional educational systems, many people doubted the effectiveness of online learning in terms of teaching the essential knowledge of the class, satisfying the excessive needs of the students, and ensuring the academic integrity of tests or assessments. For students from higher grades (high school), this problem is notably more important to consider.
“I chose distance learning because I think people aren’t being super safe still, such as following social distancing and wearing masks”-----Claire Lee, rising senior
“[I chose] online. My parents don’t want any exposure period.”-----Skylar Lo, rising senior
“I chose distance learning because I am a very intrinsically motivated person. So for me, learning is more important than the grade.....With distance learning, I hope to make my own homework hours and get a full learning experience.”-----Eliza Shane, rising senior