Online school should become the new normal

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Online school gives students freedom and the ability to make their own decision on how to study

Athira Nair, Senior Opinions Writer

In Mid-March, most students have been thankful for a well-needed break from school. But as weeks turned into months, it was clear an online form of education was necessary to finish the school year. And while online school is nothing new, it has never occurred for such a long period at this scale. Teachers and students alike have been adjusting to this new normal, but seeing the vast success of online school as well as its benefits, it should last much longer than a few months. 

The transition to virtual learning was quickly executed. Teachers had all the resources required to engage students ranging from learning platforms like myMCPS canvas and google classroom along with zoom sessions. Additionally, MCPS helped to bridge the digital divide by providing Chromebooks to those who do not have reliable access to the internet, enabling all students to participate in distant learning.

  Online learning gives students a taste of what they never had in a traditional school setting: freedom. Conventional school days start from around 7-8 a.m. and end at 2-3 p.m. in most places, leaving about seven hours for extracurriculars, sports, part-time jobs, homework and anything else a high school student struggles in. With online school, there is a full 16 hours for students to utilize and they have the freedom to allocate that time appropriately based on their needs and activities. 

Teachers provide assignments, videos, zoom sessions and anything else a student may need to succeed and the student decides when they complete these assignments. This also teaches essential time-management skills as a student has full rein on what to do with their time instead of having a bell dictate what classes they will attend and when. 

There is much more to a student’s life than school, but school and its associating homework take up most a student’s average day. Even though most activities and extracurriculars are postponed or canceled to adhere to social distancing, many have moved to video chat platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. Students can now dedicate a majority of their time doing things they are passionate about and work towards goals that school may have hindered them from achieving. 

A major result of COVID-19 shutting down schools for the rest of the school year is MCPS’s decision to implement a pass/fail grading system for the fourth quarter. This system allows students to decide to either have a letter grade on their transcript or to simply have a pass on their transcript. The former choice would impact their grade point average (GPA) while the latter would not. 

Students can choose what they think would be best for their grades depending on their situation. If this pandemic is nothing more than an extended summer break where the student has a lot of time to complete work and focus on academics, they can choose to have a grade. If the student may be going through a stressful situation because of the circumstances and can not devote themselves to school, they can still pass their classes with no repercussions.

Colleges would also be very understanding of what was going during the year of 2020, and would not penalize a student. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Students get some leeway for their grades and MCPS was able to compromise on grades.

Students can also learn at their own pace. According to a New York Times article, one of the biggest complaints students had about school is overcrowding. This leads teachers to have more students to teach and less time to individually focus on the student. Classes are fast-paced with a lot of information crammed into 45-90 minute sessions leaving students little to no time to take notes and process information, let alone ask clarifying questions. 

With online learning, many teachers send pre-recorded lessons and slides which students can go through at their own pace. It is crucial to properly comprehend the lesson when it is first presented. Students can use a variety of resources such as textbooks, friends, and the internet to supplement lessons. 

There is no right way to learn, every student is different which a traditional school structure and curriculum simply do not acknowledge. The freedom and possibility provided by online learning makes it flexible and adaptable to every student’s needs. MCPS along with a lot of parts of the country and world have found an efficient and valuable learning system that could be utilized for years to come.