Online students adapt to their new lifestyles while remaining safe during the pandemic

Online students adapt to their new lifestyles while remaining safe during the pandemic

The 2020-2021 school year looks different for everyone. With the choice of either the hybrid schedule—consisting of both A and B cohorts—or remaining fully remote, learning is delivered within two main contrasting methods this year. The decision of going to school during a pandemic is risky, so senior Lindsey Starks, sophomore Christian Bethea, and freshman Rachel Buccholz all chose the especially safe route: attending school entirely virtually. 

The option of going back to in-person-school guarantees human interaction and face-to-face learning—or rather mask-to-mask learning. For these three students, they’d rather stay mask-free and in the comfort of their own homes to learn. However, they each have different outlooks on their individual decisions. For Christian, he maintains a neutral attitude toward this new era of education during COVID-19.

“I don’t really have a preference,” Christian said. “The only reason I chose online was [that] I thought school would shut down at some point anyway.”

On the other hand, Rachel is not neutral but instead regretful. Being a freshman, the transition from junior high to high school is nerve-wracking, and because of this, she is hoping to switch to the hybrid schedule in her near future.

I feel like [online school] has sort of made me feel like I should go back to in-person-learning because I’ve noticed that virtual learning [isn’t] for me,” Rachel said. “I know some people who are doing just fine with it, but I’m struggling. I didn’t think that it would be this confusing when I first signed up.”

The Forest Hills community as a whole experienced online school after spring break in mid-April. Quarantine required everyone to stay in their houses for months, a necessary but tough decision as there was suddenly no spending time with friends, no open-seated restaurants, and constant aimless family walks and game nights. There were absolutely no exceptions for social interactions outside of your immediate family. With that in mind, Rachel feels as if that difficult period of time months and months ago blended right into the start of her freshman year.

“I’ve realized that school is the way I socialize,” Rachel said. “It’s hard because [online school] lacks communication with my friends since they can’t talk to me during school hours. I don’t think I would do it online again just because I am struggling with the social aspect.”

With the school’s no-phone-policy, social media communication with friends when they’re in school on others’ day off has proved to be very difficult, to the point of being nearly impossible. But for Rachel, her off day is every day, so the amount of social interaction is extremely lessened. 

Contradicting Rachel, Lindsey feels that she has more time to focus on her social life along with her education. On top of school, Lindsey has a job; she works at the Aerie storefront in Woodland Mall. Her daily schedule consists of waking up around 9 a.m., completing school after about four hours of work, then either making plans with friends or working an afternoon shift.

“I actually enjoy doing online [school],” Lindsey said. “I like it because I can spend more time with friends and leave time for hobbies.”

Every student’s school day is laid out differently. For Christian, his school day starts with a nice breakfast and an English Zoom call at 8:30 a.m. in the morning.

“My English Zoom is from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m,” Christian said. “When that ends, I do as much work as I can fit in from 9:30 to 12. Then, I get my lunch and go onto my Chemistry 215 Zoom from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. My last Zoom is Algebra 2 at 1:30, and after that, I finish up the rest of my work for the day.”

[Online school] almost still feels like summer.”

— sophomore Christian Bethea

The workload amount does indeed differ between online school and in-person-school. There is certainly less homework, yet remote learning over Zoom calls results in endless hand-cramping, on-paper writing assignments.

“I definitely have more work to do online,” Lindsey said, “only because you have to take a lot of notes, but homework wise, I have less because there just really isn’t any.”

Compared to Christian’s previous years, he claims the amount of work given truly depends on the class. Although, since he is enrolled in more advanced courses like AP U.S. History (APUSH) and Chem 215, it evens out.

“I have some Forest Hills teachers,” Christian said, “and we have the same amount of work, it’s just done at your own pace and due by the next day. We use another platform called Michigan Virtual, where I do my APUSH class, and it takes up about two hours of my day. So, overall, I feel like I’m doing the same amount of work as I would in school.”

With online learning comes positives and negatives which transfer into pros and cons. In regard to both the social and educational aspects of remote learning, Christian finds that the freedom from online classes outweighs any cons.

“A nice thing is that I can do my work at any time I want,” Christian said. “This allows me to take my dogs on a run, go hang out with friends, and then finish up work later.”

But moving on from these positives, the negatives of online learning sadly overrule. According to Rachel, it has had an effect on her attention span and work ethic.

“To be completely honest,” Rachel said, “it’s kind of hard to pay attention in class just because there are so many distractions, but I got used to it after a while. It is pretty difficult in my math and economics classes because I don’t feel like they explain it the best. It would be so much easier with a visual representation, but unfortunately, we don’t have that online.”

Full virtual learning is an unfamiliar program within Forest Hills. These unprecedented times call for never-before-done actions, which leads to the enforcement of this new learning method. Therefore, students from FHC have online teachers who are within the district, but the online option includes teachers from all over Michigan. 

“I wish I had more Forest Hills teachers teaching my classes,” Christian said. “Juggling three different platforms and emails for school gets stressful.”

With help from the variety of teachers working in the remote learning program, online students are learning just as they would in face-to-face school with assistance from Zoom calls.

“Teachers are easily accessible,” Lindsey said. “I have all of their emails, and they respond fairly quickly.”

For these online students, to persevere and adapt to the new way of full-time learning without personal interaction is highly praised during this change in education. On the upside, online school leaves extra time for social lives, traveling, and new learning experiences within academics. So in a way, the feeling of summer has never ended.

“I have way more time for my social life,” Christian said. “I hang out with my friends 3 to 4 times a week, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything doing online school. It almost still feels like summer.”