COVID-19 learning: a year in review

Students remark on their experiences with a whole school year of COVID-19 structured learning.

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Courtesy of Bivan Shrestha

Bivan Shrestha ’22 works on the last assignments of the school year.

Thayer Abu-Hijleh

The COVID-19 pandemic has left its indelible mark on education. From online school to student quarantines, navigating the challenges of this year was no easy task. But how did a year as strange and uncertain as this one affect students’ overall learning?

For Anand Parekh ’22, an online student, it became easier to hold off on assignments, inevitably leading to periodic cram sessions.

“COVID-19 made it a lot easier to procrastinate homework, which caused me to cram and study more densely at certain times,” said Parekh. 

Parekh believes that the extra time on his hands didn’t serve to help him but instead led to time management struggles.

“On one hand I’ve had more time to do stuff like homework and study, but I also didn’t really use my time wisely, so the extra time wasn’t too helpful to me.”

Another hurdle to clear was the difficulty in paying attention to lessons on a device.

“I think the main trouble for me is that it’s so much harder to pay attention when you’re at home and just looking at someone talking through a screen and you don’t have their presence and the weight their words carry,” said Bivan Shrestha ’22.

Shrestha’s motivation also suffered as a result of not being around others during school.

“My motivation levels definitely went down the drain,” said Shrestha. “I don’t think I realized how much I enjoyed the little interactions I had with people day to day, and how their absence would affect my overall mood. It’s also a lot easier to do work when you can see your friends in class, learning and working on the same things… instead of being confined to your houses where instead you have to do it individually”. 

I don’t think I realized how much I enjoyed the little interactions I had with people day to day, and how their absence would affect my overall mood.”

— Bivan Shrestha ’22

This separation from others had an even greater impact on Shrestha’s motivation in extracurriculars.

“I’d say it affected my motivation levels for my clubs the most, because some of the ones I do, like speech and music, rely so much on the presence a person has in an in-person collaboration that the magic your words had or the spark your music made just vanished” Said Shrestha.

Shrestha sees a silver lining to the difficulties of online school.

“I think [online school has] given me a lot more time, however, and really made me learn how to self-study and learn things on my own better, as [this year] was more self-guided overall,” said Shrestha.

Many students prepared for AP exams through online school this year. Jonathan Chen ’22 doesn’t believe this hindered his readiness for the AP exams.

“Covid-19 mainly affected the type of preparation behind AP exams, instead of overall readiness,” said Chen. “It made me more dependent on self-studying; Covid resulted in having more time to do that. So there was probably minimal effect on overall AP readiness, but a big shift in the specific method behind building readiness”.

Like Shrestha, Aniyah Flynn ’22 found it hard to maintain motivation and stay engaged in the online school.

“Since I took online this year, it was a lot harder to learn and stay motivated… I would go weeks without doing schoolwork, I wouldn’t even attend class,” said Flynn.

This year has also had serious consequences for many students’ mental health. Already having to deal with the challenges of online school, Flynn endured tremendous hardship and loss.

“With my dad dying and having to still go to school and get decent grades, it was and still is hard,” said Flynn. “I felt like no one could help, but I didn’t want their help at the same time… I just had so many things piling up on me.”