Students reflect on the challenges of remote learning and contemplate the future

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Remote learning during a global pandemic is hard, but how has it changed now that KO is almost fully in-person?

While KO has provided its students the option of in-person learning since the start of the school year, elements of remote learning have been retained. For example, KO implemented remote learning weeks after returning from breaks, and we experimented with Asynchronous Wednesdays and remote Wednesdays. But what are some of the differences between the remote learning that happened this year compared to that of last year? 

In interviewing students and teachers, the clearest themes were that Asynchronous Wednesdays were beneficial and that they should be added back into the schedule, that last year’s remote learning experience was slower, and that being a remote student while attending a school in which most students opt to attend class in-person is a challenge. 

Reflecting on last Spring, some students had mixed feelings about remote learning. For the most part, students said that they enjoyed remote learning because of the slower pace, and it was, in a way, a bit relaxing. 

Senior Margo Dowgiewicz said that the slower pace of remote learning took some of the stress off of junior year for her. “Junior year is a lot of stress trying to plan for college and everything,” she said, “so not having as much on my plate was kind of relaxing, while also maintaining good grades and focusing on school.” 

Freshman Luke Daugherty said that connecting with his friends virtually was one of the best parts of remote learning last year. “We would have a group hangout for my friend group,” Luke said, “and so we would talk and video call during breaks and after classes or during lunch break, and you can play virtual chess which is nice.” 

Science teacher Lisa Bailey felt like the slower pace of the day was one of the good parts of last year. “I guess the schedule was a little different,” she said. “I wasn’t at school from 7:00 to 5:00 every day. The flexibility of that was nice. But I’d rather be in person.” 

Now, during this current school year, there are some new challenges with remote days and remote learning. Before we went on Thanksgiving Break, the school implemented a new feature in the schedule: remote transition weeks after a break to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if a student traveled outside of Connecticut. 

But how do students feel about this? Do they like it? “I think it’s definitely like a little transition period,” Margo said. “I mean, I kind of enjoy it because it eases me into school rather than hitting the ground running.”

Freshman Alexa Prahl, who has been in-person all year, talked about the feel of school during remote weeks. “It felt like school because I had to be in class,” Alexa said, “but it also didn’t feel like school for like study halls and stuff because we didn’t have to be anywhere.”

After remote learning last spring, some students admittedly enjoyed occasional remote learning days. Students also reacted quite positively to Asynchronous Wednesdays. 

Mrs. Bailey said that most of her students enjoyed these Wednesdays. “I think trying to be off of Zoom for a day, and especially for the remote learners, five days of Zoom all day, I can’t even imagine,” she said. “I know my advisees used those Wednesdays to catch up on work and to step away from Zoom” Mrs. Bailey also talked about how useful the Wednesdays were for students and for the faculty as a whole.

Some students, however, found Asynchronous Wednesdays as a distraction in the schedule. “I didn’t do any work on Asynchronous Wednesdays because I just considered them a time to not be in school but that’s just me,” Alexa said, “but sometimes, they’re also convenient because you have time to meet with teachers. Wednesdays can be just like a weird distraction in the schedule, and it feels like a weekend, but it’s not. And then you have to go back to school.”

One of the biggest differences between this year and last year is that there are a handful of students who are learning remotely while the rest of the students are learning in person. Most of the students who are learning remotely are international students, but others are remote due to COVID-19 exposure prevention or personal reasons. 

Mrs. Bailey gave her perspective on the challenges of remote learning. “It’s really tricky having the concurrent learners, mostly because I worry about making sure they all are getting as much of the same experience as I can, even though it’s certainly not the same experience,” she said. 

Alexa added that teachers have been doing their best to engage with the remote learners. “Teachers have been doing better with trying to engage with the remote students,” she said, “but again, they have more time and some more resources like the school building and new regulations to help as well as they have been more creative with what they can do.”

Margo added that she is sometimes less engaged if she is learning remotely. “In my classes, I am participating less because it is hard to stay focused when just staring at a teacher walk around in class,” she said. “In some of my classes, the remote learners are sometimes left behind because it is hard for the teachers to manage all the aspects of the class.”

After hearing from the students, there are some clear contrasts between remote learning during last year’s quarantine compared to now. Teachers have become more equipped to teach remotely, students like the extra breaks and Asynchronous Wednesdays, and there still needs to be some improvements to classes where there are remote students, such as resolving tech issues early on and making sure the meeting rooms are opened early enough so remote learners can be fully included. Moreover, this past year, we have learned that sometimes, we all simply need an extra break to catch up on schoolwork and a day to have time to do just that.