COVID-19 online environment still effecting students’ abilities to learn inside classrooms

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Online courses were a convenient way to hold classes at both the high school and college level given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the shift back to in-person classes has not been easy for many students across the country. Getting used to rolling out of bed and opening their laptop has changed the way these students have gone about their school routine, and that includes how they study and learn information.

Ryan Lanigan, the principal at Oswego High School, has noticed that his students have been affected by the return to in-person classes.  He felt as though the easy accessibility to answers on the internet were a main factor in students losing some of their ability to learn in a classroom. However, he also said that the majority of that responsibility falls to the teachers.

“I don’t know if it’s a COVID issue or a global issue that we are struggling with in education,” Lanigan said. “We talked a lot about staff now needing to be facilitators of learning, because there are now apps that can take photos of your work and do it for you, or write an essay for you. There are so many resources that students have access to and can send them answers, but they aren’t learning.”

Lanigan also said that because teachers weren’t prepared to teach in an online space, that they now need to re-teach students how to learn and how to use the online resources at their disposal appropriately.

Since students returned to in-person classes, Lanigan said he has not noticed a dip in students’ GPAs. But Lanigan mentioned that that could be due to teachers giving students a grace period to reacclimate to the in-person climate.

“We are starting to see a dip in GPA now because the expectation is the students have had some time to readjust,” Lanigan said. “Unfortunately, students have had some gaps in their learning and missed learning some key foundational skills, and they are struggling to put the pieces together in a meaningful way in some courses.”

To try and help students who have struggled with in-person learning, Lanigan and his faculty have created a learning lab which is a five-week experience used to help students that may be failing multiple courses or that have been absent for multiple weeks at a time due to COVID-19 policies for ill students.

According to research done by Bastian Betthäuser, a researcher at the Center for Research on Social Inequalities at Sciences Po in Paris, students have missed about 35% of a school year. He also said that while students have stopped falling behind, they have not rebounded and continued to move forward as they were before the pandemic.

Students in college during the pandemic have felt the same effect as high school students. However, Quinn Jones, a SUNY Oswego student, feels he didn’t get hit as hard by the return to in-person classes.

“My situation was kind of unique, I took a year off when classes went online and ended up not taking online classes,” Jones said. “When everything came back and classes were in-person, the transition was very seamless for me. Other than having to wear masks in class, it felt exactly as it did before the pandemic.”

Jones also says he prefers the in-person style of learning to the online style. The personal connection you get from being able to interact with your professor and your classmates creates a better learning environment in Jones’ eyes than in an online class.

“My grades were actually better in person and I think that speaks to how I am able to learn better in-person,” Jones said. “I tried online classes and it was really difficult for me to keep up and to get the work done because it was really hard to communicate with my teachers. So I actually saw my grades improve when I moved back to in-person classes.”

Jones also says the use of professor’s in-person office hours were a much bigger help, as the communication was much easier than through a Zoom meeting.

With online courses becoming a mainstay due to the pandemic, as well as how much more convenient they are compared to in-person classes, teachers, college professors and students have tried to find ways to make the information in online classes easier to absorb, so students do not have to rely on looking up answers to pass their exams.

“I think online professors should be treating classes as if they were in-person,” Jones said. “More hands on, do an actual lecture online, allow students to ask questions. Just doing the best they can to make it like an actual lecture is the best way to get the students to learn the actual material.”