COVID-instigated online learning: A curse or a blessing?
Starting in 2020, many high school students went online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These students now find themselves in college.
BY VRITTI CHOPRA
After a long and excruciating pandemic, Irvine, California is finally seeing a consistent decline in COVID-19 cases. With this decline, more and more people are seeing their lives return to some semblance of what they used to be before the pandemic.
During these past few years, however, education was seriously impacted. To begin with, schools had no distance learning system in place to implement on a district-wide level. At best, the last semester of the 2020-2021 school year was rough. At worst, it was dire. As time went on, however, the Irvine Unified School District implemented a new system of learning. To make it easier for students, IUSD allowed students to check out free chromebooks. Furthermore, A brand new high school was created to accommodate students who wished to remotely study, and hybrid (partly virtual, partly in-person) options were offered to students who wanted a more in-person experience. Still, the online experience initially presented a few challenges.
“When I was learning online, I craved face-to-face interactions from typical school environments,” Maya Passananti, a first year at the University of California, Los Angeles, said.
Passananti’s online learning experience is one that many Irvine students can relate to. Now, over two years later, many students who were underclassmen when the pandemic started have graduated and are finding themselves navigating the college experience. How has learning at home affected these students’ new, in-person college experiences? Is virtual learning all that bad, or does it have some perks that can prove to be handy in college and later on in life?
According to Jax Pham, a professor at Irvine Valley College, one of the biggest concerns that incoming college students face is an “increased level of social anxiety between peers and […] instructors.” Pham shared the example of how “a student emailed an instructor during class to ask for permission to use the restroom. Unfortunately, the instructor was not checking their emails while giving a face-to-face lecture in front of the class.”
Clearly, there have been some inhibitions from students, but how has this transition to in-person learning affected their adjustment to college? Ayushi Bharadwaj, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, spent twelfth grade learning in an online format. For Bharadwaj, “Adjusting has taken energy, but has been rewarding all the same.”
As the time went on, the district, along with the rest of the world, adjusted to the virtual format. IUSD’s online high school even created a student government and clubs to help students socialize and feel as if they were a part of a community while learning online. The pandemic and quarantine may have brought about some abrupt changes. Nonetheless, it seems as if everyone is learning how to adapt to post-COVID life.
Many students attend college in hopes of being able to secure a more lucrative job. Most work industries, however, were heavily impacted by the pandemic. Layoffs and pay cuts were implemented, and nearly every industry had to find a way to be able to finish work remotely. Even as the world is somewhat back to normal, with the expectation that “25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023.”
With more and more jobs becoming virtual, college graduates may find that the skills they learned during online school can prove to be useful when navigating the professional world. Some may even continue to take online classes to enhance their learning. According to Pham, “Online learning provides students with the opportunity to juggle work and school more effectively.” Many college students recognize that the digital world is here to stay. Passananti claims that she would be “open to taking online courses down the road, if needed.”
With how IUSD has offered its learning formats (in-person, hybrid, or fully online), some students currently in high school have spent longer in online learning than others. Regardless, many of them share the same experiences as those that are now in college. Bharadwaj has some advice for these students.
“You don’t want to get burned out or overwhelmed by the difference,” Bharadwaj said. “College can be highly stimulating, and this is one of the reasons it is so exciting and illuminating. But take time to unwind […] you won’t miss out on anything […] You are entering one of the most vivid times in life, so much to learn and see, but don’t forget to charge up for the adventure.”
On that note, let’s say hello to the start of a new school year!