Scot Scoop News | Online learning: a thing of the future or the past?

For many people, the 2020 pandemic was their first taste of full-time online learning. Teachers had to scramble to find a curriculum for online classes. 

Soon after online learning started, teachers encountered difficulties keeping students engaged. 

“It was a lot harder to have organic conversations where you can call on kids quickly,” said Andrew Ramroth, a math teacher at Carlmont. “Especially when the student on the other end said they were having technical issues, which many did. So now that kids are just a black box, it’s a lot harder to keep in touch with them.”

Ramroth found that the interaction between students and teachers became less frequent, but he places importance on these conversations to help his students learn.

According to a study by Frontiers in Psychology, student-teacher interactions positively helped students learn through the effect of engagement and the psychological atmosphere. 

“The number of conversations you have with individual students just goes way down. I found there’s a lot more friction to getting a conversation started with a student, so that was the biggest challenge. The conversation is about getting to know students so that you’ve got a better relationship and improved learning. It’s also being able to check in and how students are doing and seeing what questions they have,” Ramroth said. 

Some concepts are more challenging to learn than others online. Online learning websites like Khan Academy often offer plenty of material for math but very little for the humanities.

The number of conversations you have with individual students just goes way down. I found there’s a lot more friction to getting a conversation started with a student, so that was the biggest challenge I had.”

— Andrew Ramroth

“In online learning, the subjects are more objective like math and science, whereas the more subjective classes like English are harder to learn because they require much more communication,” said junior Paul Zhou.

Despite the initial struggles though, students often found online learning very convenient, as they did not need to face the commute.

“You can do online learning anywhere from home instead of going to a classroom. Additionally, if you miss any classes, you can go back to online lectures and look at those,” Zhou said. “I would prefer to have all my classes online so I can have a decent sleep schedule because it’s just more convenient. In-person learning forces me to get up earlier, and I’m not a morning person.”

In addition, some kinds found online learning more enjoyable than in-person learning. According to Pew Research, 27% of teens surveyed said they would prefer an entirely online or hybrid learning environment. 

“There was a subset of kids who liked independent learning. They were like, I really thrive in this kind of environment, and I don’t need a teacher on me every two minutes and I don’t need my parents to tell me what to get done and all this stuff,” said Dr. Kemi Oguntala, an adolescent medicine doctor at Kaiser Daly City. 

On the teacher’s end though, keeping track of how students were doing became increasingly difficult. 

According to a study by Frank Castelli and Mark Sarvary, 41% of students had their cameras off because they were concerned about their appearance. In addition, other concerns stemmed from what was behind a student’s camera and not wanting to be seen walking away from the computer or being distracted. This prevented teachers from seeing what students were focusing on. 

“For student distraction online, I can’t even know because, on the other side of that black box, I have no idea what’s going on. I have to imagine student distraction at home is all across the board,” Ramroth said.

The majority prefers the traditional way of learning. 

“I prefer in-person learning a million times more than online for me as a teacher. That year was pretty miserable. I didn’t enjoy my job nearly as much as I enjoy it when I’m in person,” Ramroth said.