By Énoa Gibson
North Carolina —COVID-19 has forced society to move education online, causing both teachers and students to focus on navigating how to proceed with this new way of teaching successfully.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, these nationwide closures are impacting over 90% of the world’s student population. The United Nations organization recommends that educators implement digital learning to help prevent kids from falling behind academically, and the group has a list of education resources.
Amaya Jeffers, a sophomore student who currently attends Myers Park High School in Charlotte North Carolina, said she isn’t coping well with online instruction.
“I personally do not like that classes are online. As a student, I don’t feel like I will learn anything with this current plan. Yet, the thing I hate the most is how unknown everything is,” said Jeffers.
Jeffers explained that communication from teachers needs to be improved if they want the students to be able to balance the demanding course load.
“Although I think online class plans will positively affect education in the future, if teachers and the board come up with a refined plan to give students, it will make the learning experience increase immensely,” she said.
Another student, Thalia Rivera, who is currently doing online instruction after leaving early from a school year abroad in Spain, explained how difficult the transition is from roaming the streets of Spain to being stuck in her home strictly learning online.
“I definitely am not the happiest when it comes to classes being online because I am used to a more environment-based education. My year abroad in Spain allowed us to take advantage of the foreign country to really learn about the culture and all the things we were learning in class,” she said.
Rivera sees both pros and cons from this change. While she appreciates the stillness, she prefers face-to-face interaction.
“The only thing I like about online education is that I can make my own schedule, and school feels less stressful now. What I don’t like is the way education has changed, and now that we aren’t face-to-face, we have so many essays and writing assignments,” said Rivera.
Rivera recommends that her teachers vary the work they give her so that she can be more receptive to the material.
“I think cooperation is key. My advice to the teachers would be to get more creative and try to understand what kind of work you are giving. My advice to students would be to provide constant constructive feedback on what is working and what isn’t,” she said.
Dr. Felicia Eybl, the Principal at Waddell Language Academy, relayed that her school has faced some difficulties when it comes to the newly-adopted online instruction.
“The difficulties have been making sure the students that need technology have the technology that they need at home, and they can access the work that teachers are pushing out to them and participate in the zoom meetings,” said Dr. Eybl.
In the US alone, more than 20% of householdsdo not have a computer. People living in low-income households or in poverty are more likely to experience difficulties accessing technology, according to the Pew Research Center.
Although technology poses an issue for students who don’t have it at home, Dr. Eybl explains how Waddell Language Academy is supplying their students with the technology they need to get their work done.
The quality of the internet connection at the students’ homes is also a concern for many teachers.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency,as of 2019, 90% of adults in America use the internet, either irregularly or frequently. Therefore 10% of Americans — nearly 33 million people — are living without internet, according to a new Pew Research study.
“Now mainly I’m hearing from teachers that the students have a device, but if other family members are on the WI-FI, it can reduce the quality of the connection. It just adds a dynamic that a lot of people probably never thought about,” said Dr. Eybl.
Dr. Eybl said teachers have varying views when it comes to the success of online teaching.
“Some like it and some don’t. I think it’s harder for the teachers who teach younger kids like kindergarten to first of second grade because they like to be interactive with the students, where they can talk to them and encourage them with interpersonal relationships,” said Dr. Eybl.
It is much harder to keep students engaged, especially the older students, explained the principal.
“The main struggle I think with the middle school teachers are the students who just don’t want to engage. Some of them have just chosen not to, so that is a concern. We are still figuring out what we are going to do with some of those students,” said Dr. Eybl.
Dr. Eybl, however, believes that in person education is important going forward.
“I think that public education is still important because that levels the playing field for everybody. I also still think that you need that personal contact with a real teacher who is going to be there to provide you with not only what you need for learning but some of those things that you need for life.”
Dr. Eybl says that it’s important that the teachers and students stay engaged with each other and focus on the importance of learning.
“I would just say that our teachers have provided enormous amounts of contacts and things for our students to do. The teachers have to stay engaged with the students, and the students have to be willing to engage with the teachers in a way that they are not used to. Everybody just needs to stay engaged and make the best of what is really a bad situation,” concluded Dr. Eybl.