Great Debate: Is distance learning a good alternative?

April 30, 2020

Due to the global outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19, schools all across New Jersey including BHS were forced to shut their doors until at least May 15. Online learning is the alternative way to continue classes throughout the closures. Two BHS students debate over whether or not the new online learning is effective for students.

Distance learning is NOT a good alternative

It is without question that the COVID-19 pandemic has created remarkably unique circumstances. It was difficult to predict that our schools would have to shut down to prevent risk and exposure, and our teachers and administration deserve applause for responding and adapting to the crisis quickly and efficiently. But the form of distance schooling applied now is not the best it can be.

The mechanism for learning material has been entirely replaced with the mechanism for completing assignments and going back to sleep. When a student is physically in school and sitting at a desk while a teacher delivers a lesson, there is a level of assumption that the student is in fact learning something that they will be able to apply later besides one homework assignment. There are always going to be some who simply snooze through the class period and either figure it out on their own or get the answers from a friend, but the majority of students are actually intaking information and learning the material.

There is no such guarantee that learning is actually occurring under a distance schooling alternative. There are multiple potential barriers for such – a teacher assigning a lesson and a textbook page to read from, or the incredible availability of the internet to students during their class period to assist them with finishing the homework as soon as possible, as they are incentivized to do. The result is all generally the same: students don’t need to learn the material. Not comprehensively, at any rate. A student will skim the pages for the right answers to the fill-in-the-blank worksheet, or just look it up with the technology literally staring them in the face, and then shut the book and go back to whatever they were enjoying from the comfort of their home. This isn’t blaming the teachers – we live in unusual times. It’s simply difficult to achieve under a distance schooling alternative.

From home, there are numerous ways  that students get around the learning aspect of our hour-long periods. The answers will come from a friend, or they will type their name into a classroom page saying “I am present and ready to learn!” and then go back to bed. And students will do so because it’s easy. It’s not necessarily that students hate school and every possible aspect of it, but the distance schooling alternative, how it is currently being implemented, is incentivizing the easy way out. It is giving students the options to sleep, watch tv, or work hard to understand new precalculus concepts and just hoping that they will choose the right one!

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Distance learning is a good alternative

Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in New Jersey Bernards High School enacted Remote Learning, which allowed education to continue at home since during quarantine. Remote Learning, despite students not being physically in school every Remote Learning session still counted towards the 180 school day requirement. 

Many students are in favor of Remote Learning, with Junior Adam Salmanowitz saying,” Remote Learning provides a stress-free alternative, allowing students more time with their families.” 

The Coronavirus outbreak has been hard on many people so more time with their families would be beneficial to mental health. It also drastically reduces the risk of students catching and spreading COVID-19 by making social distancing less difficult. 

Freshman Alexander Wellington said, “There are fewer classes per day,” Having only half of the classes every day allows students more time to complete their work and gives teachers more time to prepare and grade assignments.

 It also allows school to start later, meaning more sleep for students which is a big problem with traditional school. While the loss of spring sports it a major downside it could not have been avoided and would still be preferable to what would have happened if the disease were able to spread more quickly. 

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