Why remote learning is important, even when we want to be “in person”

Nia Cocroft, Staff Writer

As I started writing this article for the first time, I only got a fraction of the way done before I began to feel stuck. I know what you are probably thinking, and no, it was not the supposed “Writer’s Block.” You see, I had originally intended on sharing my opinions on having to adapt to the school’s new remote learning model as a freshman. However, not long after I began writing, I began to question myself: “Why should my personal opinion matter right now?” I found, upon deeper thought, that the answer to my question was: it shouldn’t. My personal opinion should not matter right now, certainly not in the consideration of a decision being made to ensure public health and safety.

Like many freshmen, I was looking forward to my years as a highschooler. For years, I watched as students in the grades above me slowly made their way into their high school years, awaiting the day when I, too, would become a highschooler. I watched movies and read books depicting the high school experience, in awe of the endless possibilities that high school seemed to offer. I listened intently as relatives told stories, recalling their unmatched days as a highschooler, seeming to relive those precious moments through their words. For some reason, as a young child, there was always something so magical and freeing about the idea of being a highschooler.

Now that I am finally in high school, the whole thing seems surreal, and not just because of the sheer shock of realizing that I am, in fact, a highschooler. With the recent changes to make District D303’s high school models remote due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, it has honestly felt like I have yet to truly experience high school. To put it simply, remote learning is just not the same. Attending my freshman year classes from the comfort of my home is something that I never would have even considered to be a possibility before this year, and the adjustment has definitely taken some getting used to on my end. 

Remote learning has certainly had its fair share of flaws and disadvantages thus far–issues with technology and the absence of interactions between students are just a couple of considerations.

Personally, I know that I have experienced various forms of technological complications this year, and from what I have heard, many other students have had a similar experience. Over the course of the first few weeks of school, there were several days in which I had to catch up on classwork outside of class, simply because of the functioning issues of my chromebook that I encountered during the school day. Having to work through these technology issues expended my class time and often resulted in me missing instruction, which on occasion, lead to me feeling confused on a particular subject or concept. After a while, this definitely tends to get slightly frustrating at times.

Nia Cocroft

Perhaps among the most obvious disadvantages to remote learning is that students are missing out on in-person interactions, with teachers, other students, and friends, all of which can have an impact on students’ learning and mental health. During what are already stressful times, many health professionals agree that lack of social interactions amid the pandemic have the ability to worsen mental health issues among adolescents. A recent study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics even found that these unique circumstances may bring about more instances of mental conditions among younger aged individuals. It is also worth taking into account the different learning styles of students; for some, especially more hands-on learners and students who need some extra help, remote learning can be a larger challenge. Obtaining the majority of class information through a computer screen is likely a little challenging for most students right now, but can be a much larger struggle for others. At least in my experience, remote learning tends to be less engaging than learning in-person, and I can admit that it definitely gets a little boring sometimes staring into the display screen of my computer all day. 

While it may seem like remote learning is creating this abundance of problems, it is also indirectly preventing them all from progressing to become worse. 

Think of it like this: we are going through remote learning now in an effort to get the current situation somewhat under control, so that we do not have to do remote learning later on for an extended period of time. This situation would only prolong the amount of time that students are faced with these issues, in which time the severity of these issues would become a much larger-scale problem.

As a student, I completely acknowledge the struggles and annoyances that come with remote learning, which is one of the reasons why I think it is important that we do remote learning right now: so that we do not have to later on down the road. In situations like these, I am a firm believer that it is much better to be proactive than reactive. I encourage everyone to think of these missed opportunities and changes due to the pandemic as preventative action being taken to work towards a more desirable future, for everyone.

It can be very easy to get caught up in our own problems right now when it seems like so much in our lives is changing, but I think that it is important not to let these things be distractors from the real problem: Covid-19. The past year has brought some rather crazy things, but nothing has had as widespread an impact as the progression of the Covid-19 pandemic; people all across the world are being affected by this virus, with around 200 countries and territories having reported cases. 

We cannot simply overlook the major threat that Covid-19 poses to the health and safety of individuals all around the world. In the United States alone, there have been a total of over 6.5 million reported cases and nearly 200,000 Covid-related deaths to date, with experts, including the US director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning these figures are only going to continue growing throughout the coming fall and winter months. Moreover, a recent coronavirus projection, by the IHME, or Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, has predicted that the United States will exceed 410,000 coronavirus related deaths by the end of 2020. 

These numbers are concerning to say the least, thus it is important to take action to prevent Covid-19 from escalating further out of hand. For some schools, including Saint Charles East, this has involved eliminating in-person learning completely and making the switch to remote learning models for the time being. The top concern amid this pandemic should be ensuring health and safety because these things are being majorly jeopardized. While it would be great for things to just go back to normal right now, that isn’t plausible, nor is it safe. Therefore, changes and adjustments to daily life are going to have to take place in order for progress to be made in the handling of this virus.

Personal opinions regarding safety-driven changes due to the pandemic should not be relevant in the scope of this very real and substantial issue. I think we can all agree that this pandemic has brought about some strikingly difficult times. Everyone is being affected by this disease differently, but the coronavirus is a raging villain that makes no exceptions, it does not pick and choose who is affected by this virus; we are all in this together, and no one will come out of this until everyone does. 

This is precisely why, during these times, I believe that it is especially important to look beyond our own selves and put some of our personal opinions aside. Have I enjoyed learning remotely my freshman year of high school? No. Do I wish that I was able to have more of a complete highschool experience? Yes, I do. However, my opinions on such topics are not what is important right now. 

I have realized that this pandemic is about looking past our personal opinions, and furthermore, it is about humbling ourselves and stepping back to observe the bigger picture. It should not matter whether I personally like remote learning or not, what matters is whether or not the decision to do remote learning is the best decision for everyone considering the current situation, personal opinions aside. Right now, many of us are being put in uncomfortable situations, but within good reason. Rather than dwelling on the inconveniences that the changes due to this pandemic have brought, why not concern ourselves more with the greater societal purpose?

So, yes, while experiencing the beginning of my freshman year of high school through a computer screen has been less than ideal, I find myself unable to complain because ultimately, the driving force behind the decision to pursue remote learning is an important one, one that puts health and safety first, not personal opinions.