Pros, cons of digital learning

Students, parents share experiences with school

Due to the effects of the COVID-19, numerous schools across the nation have had to sacrifice their in person sessions and switch to a new world. Between teachers, students, and parents, the shift to online learning has affected everyone’s lives in different ways. 

A majority of school districts had hopes that in-person learning would be able to take place despite COVID-19. Many opted to go fully in-person, fully online, or a hybrid. No matter which way school districts maneuvered around their form of learning, virtual classrooms have been reinforced, especially throughout the state of Wisconsin. Howard-Suamico School District (HSSD) is a prime example of this switch.

“It’s been very stressful,” mom of two HSSD students, Bethany Parins said. “They need to be online at a certain time, but those times don’t coincide with my work schedule. Oftentimes they have to do their Google meets in the car or at my work, but the teachers get upset with that.”

Parins, along with many other parents, have faced numerous challenges with online learning conflicting with their occupational schedules. Bay Port Spanish teacher Jenny Johnston has faced similar challenges being a teacher during virtual learning.

Johnston states that she feels guilty about not being able to give her children the amount of attention they want while she is hosting virtual sessions. She mentions that her children can often distract her while she is working and that she gets more done when they are elsewhere. 

Teachers and parents aren’t the only ones who struggle with distractions during their workdays due to online school. 

“There are distractions while I’m home,” Bay Port sophomore Alex Brunette said. “I tend to procrastinate until the last minute. The teachers all give us work that isn’t due until Sundays, so it is easy to get distracted and hold it off until then.”

One way students get distracted at home, according to Johnston, is when they have the ability to turn their audio and video settings off during online classes. 

“I’m very appreciative of the students who come to class and turn their cameras on,” Johnston states. “It makes students feel more connected, and teaching while staring at blank screens is really disheartening and makes teaching much harder to do.”

On top of Johnston having to teach her students, she, along with other parents, have had to find ways to assist their own children with their schoolwork. 

“With my younger child,” Parins said, “I have to sit down and do each homework assignment with him which can sometimes take three or more hours a day. Trying to find the time to do that, between work schedules and everything else that I have going on, is a lot.”

While many find the new way of learning to be difficult and stressful, others have an opposing mindset. 

Alex mentions how he has felt that the new way of learning hasn’t affected his stress levels. He states how for him it has been more relaxed but “can have moments of stress” as well.

Despite the negative and positive effects of online learning, many feel that HSSD has been providing a variety of new resources to enhance learning.

“They’ve been good,” Johnston said. “They’re providing us with tools and getting us more digital subscriptions that can really help with both teaching and learning.”

With online school sweeping the nation once again, parents, students, and educators believe that students’ personal learning has been affected both positively and negatively.

“I think my children do very well with the structure and tend to focus better when they’re in a classroom setting,” Parins said. “My youngest in particular has a very hard time at home and I’ve noticed that the subjects he was good at like math and reading, have gone downhill because he just isn’t focused.”