The Distance Learning Experience

The Distance Learning Experience

Elie Aoun ’21

The Covid-19 outbreak has had an enormous and historic impact as it has swept the globe and its effects on Western Reserve Academy have been stark. Starting in early March, the school began canceling trips abroad and implementing new health guidelines. By the time spring break rolled around, it was announced that the two weeks following break would be held through “distance learning,” and before break-even ended it was announced that the rest of the school year would be held online through a “distance learning” model. Students and faculty had to quickly adapt to this new model to finish the remainder of the year.

The Technology Department had to help the teachers set up RingCentral (an online calling service) on Canvas so that teachers could hold “live” online classes. Teachers also had to move all of their assignments, projects, exams, and grades online. Teachers approached online learning in different ways, with some holding most or all of their classes “live” to simulate real school while others held few “live” classes and instead just assigned work for students to complete during designated “class time.” Some teachers also tied the quarantine to classwork like English teacher Mrs. Wheeler who said she “asked for students to write about what they were going through” so that her students could “take a moment to process” this newfound reality.

Students had to adapt to this new model of learning from their homes, and this transition was not always easy. Students no longer had to obey a fixed schedule, and most of the time could choose to skip “live” classes if they wanted. Students also enjoyed a much greater amount of free time, with no spring sports or extracurriculars to fill much of the day. Time zone differences made the experience harder for those students who live on the other side of the globe since attending live classes would require them to stay up incredibly late. It was the responsibility of the students to structure their time, stay on top of deadlines, and take care of their mental health.

Student feedback to the distance learning experience has been mixed, but most acknowledge that online classes were the best option given the circumstances. Some saw the distance learning experience as hard to follow; Audrey Rhea ’21 lamented the difficulty caused by due dates and live class times not always being clear. Other students believed that online classes did not allow them to fully engage with the material, with Mike Wang ’20 explaining that because he is “on the hyperactive side in class,” he, therefore “found online learning inefficient and unpleasant.” Daniel Li ’22 said that even though he did not enjoy having his usual schedule of having school, working out, and being with friends, he enjoyed the increased free time that came with distance learning. Overall, it was clear that most students preferred real classes on campus to online learning, but most students were still able to successfully complete the remainder of the school year online.

Though the distance learning experience has been difficult and monotonous at times, it was the best option for the school to take given the significance of the outbreak. Students and faculty have worked incredibly hard in the last two months to finish out the school year well and keep the community intact. Hopefully we can all return to campus this fall and resume normal life once again!

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