Diving Into Student Perspective–Do Students Prefer Online School or In-Person School?

Diving Into Student Perspective--Do Students Prefer Online School or In-Person School?

Mary Stevenson and Sarah Villa

Masks are on, computers are open, and stress is high during the first quarter of the SHS 2020-2021 academic year. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on Scituate Public Schools has been significant, demonstrated by the introduction of hybrid learning and the development of cohorts–a word many students didn’t even know until this year. 

For some students at SHS, adjusting to the isolation that online school brings and the headaches that in-person school creates has been challenging. With so many new and overwhelming tasks, adjustments, and lifestyle changes, students have been forced to consider if they prefer online learning or in-person instruction more.

When reaching out to students about the hybrid model, we learned many students think it’s nice having a teacher in the school, but they also enjoy having freedom while at home. When discussing whether students preferred the at-home or the in-school portion of learning, SHS junior Ella Ward said she likes both because you can “have your own freedom, but still get the structure.”  

According to a recent survey of SHS students, 63% prefer in-person learning while 37% prefer online learning. Although the majority of students prefer learning in person, some students do prefer at-home learning because they can get their work done more efficiently and effectively compared to if they were at school. Disciplined, organized students who work best independently are thriving with online learning. However, for many students, in-person instruction allows them to reach their greatest potential.

When Cohort A and B students were asked if they would ever consider switching to Cohort C (fully remote learning), there was a difference in opinion for many reasons. Junior Abigail Short, along with other students, has “been thinking about it.” There is a lot to think about when a student considers whether or not they want to partake in the hybrid or fully remote model, because many students agree that the amount of work given in school and at home is very overwhelming, and students are craving a better balance of the two. 

While the majority of students are participating in the hybrid model, getting the “best of both worlds,” many students found that switching entirely online was the way to go. SHS senior Anja Soltesz is one of the individuals who made the daunting decision to switch to Cohort C, rather than being in Cohort B and attending school through the hybrid model. She initially suspected that the hybrid model was the best way to attend school during the pandemic, but simply found it “awful.” Making the switch to online school has been extremely beneficial for her. Soltesz is an independent worker, which comes as an asset when completing her work entirely from home and managing her time.

Many students, like Soltesz, have responsibilities at home that can be easily fulfilled while learning from home. For Soltesz, this entails taking care of her pets and going to her job a few times a week. She finds the connection times online at the beginning of class very helpful, but feels that there is “a lot of busywork.” When asked if she would continue doing online school even if SHS students had the option to return to in-person school full-time, Soltesz stands by her decision and would continue to complete school work from home. Soltesz finds that “when applying to colleges, completing [her] chores, working at [her] job, and prioritizing [her] health,” switching to online school has been a positive experience for her.

Students’ mental health has been a primary concern this year, as the school environment has changed dramatically. School counselor Jennifer Lopes anticipated that students would be impacted by returning to school this year in a variety of ways. Lopes knows that with the circumstances of this year, any previous mental health issues for students could increase due to these unprecedented times. Lopes is typically informed on any issues that students may have in and out of school; however, it can be difficult to stay informed and further connect with students when not seeing them every day.

As challenges arise with this school year, Lopes predicts that students who struggle with a lack of structure will be heavily impacted by this year’s learning model. Lopes feels like the foundation for school this year is contrary to adolescent development because of the structure and rules. In some cases, the motivation is lacking for students, especially with friends separated by cohorts.

Lopes suggests that if students are deciding whether or not to switch to Cohort C, they should make a list of pros and cons and weigh them carefully to consider every aspect of both styles of learning in relation to how well it would fit into the life of that specific student, especially being aware that many different situations could prevent a student from wanting to go to school. 

This school year has been an adjustment for all students–whether they are in school or at home. Students and teachers are still adapting to new academic structures, and teachers are working hard to accommodate everyone’s needs. Whether students are online or in-person, life is more different than ever before, and feelings of uncertainty are at an all-time high. Students and staff at Scituate High School are doing everything in their power to make the school year the best that it can be in these circumstances. By wearing masks, wiping down desks, and following all the health precautions in place, hopefully, the year will go smoothly, whether students are at home or in school. The 2020-2021 school year will undoubtedly be one to remember.