By Hania Raza
Covid-19 has brought many changes to the daily lives of students and teachers at North Cross School. This is the first time that North Cross’s daily activities have changed so drastically. Many students are choosing distance learning to avoid the risk of exposure to a possible asymptomatic carrier.
Distance learning brings many challenges to students and teachers alike. When asked about the difficulties faced in online learning, Aashee Nanda ‘24, a distance learner in the United States, says that it is harder for them to ask questions during class. “In normal school, it’s easier to ask questions,” Nanda said, “especially if you’re taking a test.”
International distance learning students have adapted to more drastic changes. Instead of being able to participate in live classes, some choose to watch recorded zooms sessions because of the time difference. It is harder for them to ask questions, do assignments, and contact their teachers. International student Tammie Le ‘21 says that asking questions on Zoom can be difficult. “With in-person learning, I can easily ask my teacher any question at any time,” Le said. “And when I need to ask some private questions or problems, I just need to stay after class to tell them, unlike on Zoom, my voice will come out very loud from the big tv, and everyone can hear it.”
Likewise, it can be aggravating when students cannot figure out how to do an assignment, or when they cannot hear teachers clearly. International student Kevin Dinh ‘21 expressed that sometimes he cannot hear clearly during zoom classes. “It's kind of frustrating when I could hear next to nothing the teachers were saying due to technical difficulties,” Dinh said, “I had to ask them to basically type the entire lesson out.”
Another problem facing international students is that they do not live in the same time zones, which makes it even harder for them to zoom with teachers or talk to other classmates. When asked about the effect of time zones on learning, Dinh expressed that the Time Zone difference is a big problem for him. “Time Zones is one of the biggest issues I had to deal with,” Dinh said. “Ever since I got back to Vietnam and started online classes. I'm required to stay up from 7:30 pm up until 2:00 am of the next day.”
On top of that, it can be harder to concentrate in class if you are not in the classroom. “I personally like taking in-person classes more,” Le said, “because from there I feel like I'm involved and can focus more easily, as we are all in the same classroom and are doing the same thing.
However, there are some advantages about distance learning as well. “Distance learning is easier because it is less stringent than school policies,” Dinh said, “[I am able to] do my schoolwork at a much more comfortable pace compared to normal school.” Learning online also means that students will be working more independently on class work. “Sometimes, on distance learning, teachers will let you out earlier so that you can do your work,” Nanda said, “You can do things a lot more independently.”
Teachers also have had to make changes to the way that they teach and had to learn how to communicate with their students online. For example, teachers must be able to assign work online using Google Classroom for the distance learners. High school English teacher Mr. Dickenson says that he has changed some of his lesson plans, so that students can maintain social distancing and everyone can participate. “If you had a handout, you could just hand it out to your students in class and give them a paper copy,” Mr. Dickenson said, “and so now that we have a number of distance learners, we have to remember to keep everything posted, so that they have access to everything that you are doing in class.”
Likewise, teachers also have had to learn more about Zoom, so online students can fully participate. They have to record their zoom call so that the international students can watch it later. “In most of my classes, I have maybe two or three distance learners, so my only thing is, because they are not in front of you, sometimes it is easy to forget to call on them because you are not just actually seeing them in the chairs in front of you,” Mr. Dickenson said, ”so I do have to regularly remind myself that they are part of the class just like every other student.”
Sometimes, they have to change their lesson plan to accommodate distance learners. “It’s really complicated to have people working in groups because we have to maintain social distance,” Dickenson said. “We are not able to do in the same way, but in my planning, I do try to make sure that whatever lesson you are providing will come off as well for the students who are distance-learning, as the students who are actually in the class because I want it to feel like an even experience, as much as possible, for everybody.”
Distance learning has posed its problems and difficulties. At the same time, it has opened new possibilities for learning and teaching.