Online Learning: More Questions on What’s Right
It’s back to online learning in Zoom classrooms. The news of schools opening back up for in-person classes seemed to surprise many people. However, what surprises us now is that UMSL is no longer holding in-person classes, yet many grade schools (K-12th) are continuing to. Many of us seemed baffled by the fact that elementary schools would allow their students to continue to be exposed, while colleges like UMSL, are taking the extra precautions by switching to virtual learning.
At the start of COVID-19, it seemed that all schools, from kindergarten to colleges, were in agreement on when they should remain open or close. Now, it looks like it is “every man for himself”. Though all schools care about the safety and health of their students, the way the individual schools are handling the pandemic must be questioned. One question, in particular, is whether or not they are truly thinking about the well-being of their students. It may appear so on the surface, but all schools need to look at their plan overall for the pandemic. Checking and ensuring that students are being put before funding and that the students’ health is before all else.
Another question that schools, grade schools to colleges, need to ask themselves is whether or not their plan looks at the long-term safety and health of their students. Though many think that keeping students in the physical classroom is better for their learning, they might not be thinking in the best interest of their long-term health. The students might not be sick now, but the situation could be entirely different in as little as two weeks. It is an uncomfortable thing to ponder on, yet an important one for schools to consider. Giving up some of the learning privileges that they experience in the physical classroom could be better for their long-term health.
One UMSL professor understands that switching to remote learning was in everyone’s best interest. When asked about his thoughts on switching back to online learning, he said that he completely understands. Though the fact is that he has to put up with extra struggles due to the switch. Professor Sellinger says, “I have to contend with students leaving their videos off during class, students not paying attention/being distracted by their environments, etc.” Though Professor Sellinger faces these extra challenges due to remote learning, he understands and sees that it’s for the students’ and staff’s safety due to the rising number of cases.
A high school teacher I spoke with, Mr. Bryan, sees the concern many people face with the pandemic but doesn’t see additional benefits in remote learning. He feels that “nothing can replace the physical interactions between students and teachers, especially at the critical elementary level.” Mr. Bryan understands why schools would switch to virtual learning, but feels that the sense of “normalcy” that school can bring to students isn’t something that should be taken away. He says, “I don’t have a problem with in-person school as long as it’s done safely and that protocols are followed correctly by both teachers and students.” He also talked about the difference in how students might be contracting the virus. Mr.Bryan says, “most students who are being sent home with either symptoms that turn into a positive COVID case or the ones who are being sent home for being a close contact, are involved in extracurricular activities.” This does make sense and could be another thing schools need to consider in their pandemic plans.
Though most of us college students will be viewing one another through a screen, grade school students may very well finish the school year off in-person. Schools need to check that they are keeping their students’ best interests in mind both in their long-term COVID plans and their day-to-day procedures. This way, all staff members’ and students’ health will be taken seriously. As Mr. Bryan said, “all we can do is follow guidelines and procedures that are put in place for the safety of all, even as frustrating they might seem.”