Here I sit, in front of the desk which I have been married to for four weeks already. Many students would nod in agreement and mutual relatability. Online Schooling. A word that evokes both fear and intrigue in some of us… but for others, enjoyment. Let us examine how students have evaluated the online learning experience.
The first trend is that teachers tend to overestimate the amount of work we as students are able to complete. An Executive member of the VicSRC, Em, remarks that for her it is like a “constant stream of homework” that becomes extremely “exhausting”. Bri (also a VicSRC Exec) expressed similar views, agreeing that the “workload has definitely gone up”, and as a result has shifted her “school-life balance… out of wack”.
I can definitely sympathise. I totally relate to Bri’s overwhelming feeling of always needing to be “switched on”. For some of my classes, teachers are leaving endless amounts of homework that it becomes physically impossible to cope; headaches, exhaustion and the accompanied mental burnout. It could be 11:30 at night and after all homework and revision, I must force myself to read another chapter about Japanese Expansionism or review a chemistry chapter because of the sheer speed with which lesson content has been zoomed through.
Another Exec, Mitch, raised that teachers at times make the comment that What else could you be doing? You can’t go anywhere! Okay, teachers, this is certainly true. However, the exhaustion of being at home all day without a distinct separation from school and home life makes working extremely difficult, overwhelming our minds with an endless amount of information.
In synthesising the data I have collected through term 1 and term 2, I found a conspicuous increase in my study hours; almost doubling due to the increased amount of work, and the increased need to become an independent learner due to the lack of teacher support.
Typically, I am an organised and incredibly determined student, and in the school term my study-hours are quite consistent. However, in the transition to online learning, I have found that my study-hours have jumped up and down, often in cycles that reflect: Motivation – Demotivation – Guilt – Motivation. This results in rapid mental burnout for most of us, and without the typical support network offered at school with your peers and teachers, most students end up feeling alone and trapped in this exact mindset of needing so much to be ‘productive’ that they do not allow themselves a break. For instance, I am finding that without all my extracurriculars, I have pushed myself to be increasingly productive during these times, and thus am managing to complete more work. Many would relate to this, and consequently feel exhausted and generally burnt out.
With this being said, some differ on the subject of workloads. Michael from the VicSRC for one feels that the “workload has not increased that much”, but expresses that remote learning is significantly more challenging due to “constant sitting at a single desk on a laptop”. Michael makes a good point by saying that different environments act as ‘barriers’ for school and home, whether it be travelling to or from the school yard or home. The coalescing of school and home life seems to most of us like just an “endless stream of homework”. As a year 12 student, I have found this incredibly frustrating due to the pervading ‘school’ atmosphere that has now been associated with home, which is meant to be a getaway from the chaos and stress of school.
Although there is no general consensus on whether workloads have gone up, it seems to be universal that many of us are losing the motivation and determination to do work as assiduously compared to actually going to school. One member of the VicSRC said that doing work individually becomes “unmotivating”, but the greater flexibility of time organisation allowed them to become “more in control of work” which can be also seen as a positive.
I definitely agree that online schooling has allowed me a greater flexibility in terms of time management; I utilise a technique called ‘block scheduling’ to organise myself, on the Google Calendar app, where I plan out my entire day the night before, and amend it as the day goes. Without travel times, and the other unpredictable elements of day to day life, I have found it easier to organise a schedule befitting to myself rather than what is happening around me. This is definitely a positive, as I have been managing to do more work and revision. The biggest problem though then, is not whether students are getting enough work done, but arguably, their mental health. I have certainly found it harder to cope through online schooling due to putting pressure on myself to be more productive and complete more work.
Furthermore, one recurring theme in the responses received is the changing roles of teachers at schools. The general consensus is that many students agreed that there is a general decrease in meaningful student-teacher interactions. Naufal expressed the difficulty in asking questions remotely as teachers are “only spend[ing] time explaining their presentation and giving work”, and the class is over before any meaningful interaction can occur. Some schools still do not permit 1:1 teacher-student interactions, and this is further hindering the ability of students to access help and support readily from their teachers. For me, the teacher-student dynamic is certainly quite different depending on the subject. In some subjects there has been no change, whereas for others there is an increased distance from teacher to student, which has prevented many of us from seeking help where we need it. As an IB student, term 2 is especially crucial for us, and 1:1 conferencing with teachers and supervisors is vital for the completion of our Internal Assessments and external Extended Essays; the experience has differed for many of us. Some students expressed that their teachers have been “best described as absent”, others have really been appreciative of the ongoing teacher support.
Overall, the general consensus is that online schooling is truly a double-edged sword. While online learning allows us greater flexibility of time to complete work and extra revision, as students, we find that many of us descend into demotivation. Extra support from friends, family and teachers during this time is absolutely crucial, and ensuring a well-balanced life not dominated by too much work or stress is very important to keeping ourselves in check mentally.