Opinion: Why In-Person Learning is so Important
By Liam Toews
In 2020, schools around the globe were faced with a problem. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the world into lockdown, and with that came the inability for students to attend school. With hopes of a return to normal seemingly years away, schools across the world had to find a method to resume classes and soon. Many employers and corporations have moved to virtual work, and schools decided to imitate this approach through online learning. Resources like Google Classroom and Canva rose in popularity, as more and more classes moved online. Now, with vaccines against COVID readily available and society slowly returning to normal, most students have returned to school buildings. Despite this, online school is by no means a thing of the past, with many administrators and politicians believing that online school is preferable to in-person learning. This sentiment is deeply flawed, and I will explore why in this article.
Digital learning is not, by any means, a new phenomenon, partly due to the increasing capabilities of technology in an educational context. However, students were not prepared to handle a solely digital landscape. Because of this, many students had a difficult time during online learning. According to Education Weekly, most K-12 students do worse than they do in in-person learning. Interestingly, the precise numbers were not disclosed. Although all these effects are indeed temporary, over time, students would adapt to the online environment. However, its difficulty in traversing is not the only problem with online learning. In a purely digital environment, there are an immeasurable number of possible distractions, which has a great effect on students’ school life. Be it social media, video games, TikTok, or YouTube videos, it requires an enormous amount of willpower to stay on task and not to get distracted, and many students simply don’t have the willpower or at least not all the time. In an actual classroom, teachers can easily monitor their students’ activities on their devices, and the atmosphere induced by being in a classroom with others encourages students to complete their work.
The benefits of in-person learning far outweigh the disadvantages. One of the most common arguments in favour of online learning is that it would eliminate the need for sick days, snow days, or almost any other event that would prevent students from coming to class. And while it is true that in-person learning may suffer from the hindrances that come from the fact that it is in a physical location, it also comes with many benefits. One of those benefits is that in-person classes offer a far more dynamic learning environment than the one that online learning provides. In-person classrooms have far more interactions between students and educators than an online one could offer to participants. In-person classrooms also foster relationships between students and teachers, and teachers can easily gauge the emotional state of students. As a result, teachers can judge which students may be struggling and need a bit of extra help, something that online schools cannot provide.
It is indeed the opinion of your columnist that online learning is bad for students, but I wondered about the experiences of other students. Only 9% of students preferred online learning to in-person, according to Healthline. In that same study, 65% of students preferred in-person learning,18% preferred a hybrid model, and the rest were undecided or had no opinion. However, it is important to note the ethnic differences in the study. Many Canadian Hispanic teens, 43% to be exact, said that they had inadequate internet access. That issue is prevalent among many students with low-income backgrounds. This is a big problem, as students from low-income families deserve school as much as anyone else, and online learning causes them to get a lower standard of learning compared to other students. What about students in Ashbury? Most of the responses I got were negative, with one student going as far as saying that online learning caused the worst grades of their life. In general, Ashbury students had an opposing opinion towards online learning, adhering to the overall trends of students.
Online learning is a suitable resolution to global disasters, but not much else. In-person learning is a greatly superior method of education to online learning, and school administrators should keep that in mind before they force students online in the future.