Wearing pajamas on a late morning and relaxing at home: this isn’t winter or summer break, it’s the 2020 fall semester. Students this year get to choose between virtual learning or their usual in-person classes. This has been a hot topic recently as many schools are letting students choose rather than forcing them to do one. However, once a student has to be quarantined due to Covid-19 exposure the choice is gone. The student must stay home for two weeks and participate in virtual learning.
This made me believe that grade school students need to do virtual learning from the start. Though I wasn’t a fan of online learning before quarantine, I am starting to see the benefits that it holds. One grade school student let me communicate with them via phone in order to see what virtual learning in quarantine is like. After potentially being exposed to Covid in her class, her parents were notified that she needed to remain in quarantine for two weeks. The student, who I will refer to as “Lilly”, had no idea who tested positive or if she was in close contact with them. Her virtual learning began the following day.
Having just started the fifth grade, Lilly thought her biggest worries would be switching classes and finding her locker, but now it’s navigating online assignments. Though Lilly was frustrated by the news at first, she grew more fond of virtual learning as the first week of quarantine progressed. Her frustration stemmed from not understanding why she needed to stay home. However, she found that online learning was easier for her and she was often done with her work by one o’clock. Lilly said, “It would usually take the entire school day to get my work done, but I get to work at my own pace this way.” I wondered if doing the work online was harder because she wouldn’t have her teacher there, but Lilly said that she participates in Zoom meetings daily in order to interact with her teachers. She meets with her homeroom teacher for one to two hours a day and then her math and science teacher for an hour. This is how Lilly is able to learn new lessons and ask any questions she has. Not all zoom classes require her attendance, but she goes when she feels it’s needed. Though Lilly thinks it’s easier to learn with the teacher there, she understands Zoom lessons better because there’s less distractions.
Lilly says, “I get carried away easily at school, that’s why I like online better, because I can catch myself. Sometimes I fidget with things and I’ll get yelled at by my teacher, but with online I can catch myself beforehand.” Other distractions include pets and parents, but it was surprising she spoke of herself being a distraction first. She still gets to talk with her friends via social media and text, so that doesn’t affect her view of online learning either. She says, “I do kinda miss my friends, but I still get to talk with them through Snapchat, phone calls, and texting so I’d still rather do virtual than go in.” This surprised me the most. I assumed students would want in-person classes specifically to see peers, but that isn’t the case.
I began to wonder if virtual learning is actually better for grade school students. College students often want online courses because it’s more convenient. Currently, fifteen of my credit hours are online and it would be chaos if they were in-person. Online courses are more flexible with schedules and you can go at your own pace. Even while doing virtual learning for a short time in quarantine Lilly discovered this. It hints at the idea that virtual learning may actually be preparing young students for higher level grades and college. Participating in online courses now lets them get practice at doing so. They won’t enter college with no understanding of how online works, as many college students do. The increased independence with their learning may also better prepare students for when getting work done is solely up to them. They can start developing good learning habits now that will aid them for college courses, such as study and homework habits.
Though being in quarantine sounds like a bummer, young students may find that it helps prepare them better than in-person classes. Having the ability to create their own schedule, go at their own pace, and feel more comfortable doing so will aid them in future semesters. Plus, as Lilly tells me, “You get to eat whenever you want!” Students of all ages can get behind that idea.