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Virtual Learning: The New Norm for Students

Across the United States and around the world, virtual learning has become the new normal for many elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing currently underway, virtual learning has become a source where students can finish their required school year from home for the rest of the year, if needed. Learning as we go, virtual learning is a first for many school districts, like Nutley, leading to some challenges during this unexpected and unique situation. 


At first, many students were excited at the thought of being taught online from home for a couple weeks. The idea of not having to wake up early, being able finish school on your own time, getting to work from the comfort of your own home seemed to many that it would be easier when it came to stress and anxiety. But for many, it turned out to be the opposite when a couple weeks turned into a couple months. “You’d think that it wouldn’t be that difficult because of the presence the internet has in our everyday lives, but we really take face-to-face interaction for granted,” says NHS sophomore Caroline Warburton. “Which I think is the most challenging part of not being in an environment that could help us learn and grow.” 


All students have different experiences when it comes to, not only virtual learning, but also learning in general. School is an atmosphere where many different learning techniques are applied between the students and teachers so that everyone can learn in their own way. Virtual learning has put a toll on that atmosphere making it an awkward transition for many students to adapt to being taught through a computer screen. “The most challenging part of virtual learning is not being able to interact with teachers, and classmates, making it difficult to learn,” says NHS sophomore Samantha Tucholski. “It is stressful to have all eight classes everyday and sometimes having to teach myself.” 


Although virtual learning hasn’t been the same interaction as being at school, communication is still ongoing between students and teachers. Many schools, including NHS, are utilizing programs like Google Meet to have meetings and interact using more communication than just email as a way for students and teachers to actually see each other. Some teachers are posting videos of themselves teaching lessons to help ease the at home learning process, too. 


Considering the circumstances of virtual learning being a must right now in our world, the Nutley District is trying to find different online resources to help not only students but also teachers throughout something that was unplanned for everyone. “I truly feel that our students and teachers have been doing a great job in sustaining learning,” says NHS Vice Principal Mr. Joseph Materia.  “Especially now, that we have a month of experience, things appear to be running smoothly. Teachers are having virtual lessons/meetings and students are enjoying this as well.  I believe our students will have a new appreciation for school when we overcome these new challenges.” 


Going to school for the majority of the day for five days a week was a routine most students had for most of the year, and being at home in the middle of March and April has put a roadblock on that routine. “The most important thing that students can practice in order to alleviate some of the challenges of virtual learning is to organize themselves with a daily routine,” says Mr Materia. “Young adults require a form of structure in order to be successful.  That structure can vary, but  nevertheless, we need structure to complete tasks.” 


For many students, it has been difficult learning in an environment unlike being at school. When at home, there is no one enforcing students in person to do their work like a teacher would, which could make the learning process more difficult. Motivation and procrastination are things many students are facing to do the freedom of working from home. Having a new routine for the school day at home helps students to get back to a schedule with goals for the day. “In order to organize my day, I have created a daily log of tasks I need to complete.  At the end of each day, I organize the tasks that I anticipate for the next day.  This has helped me tremendously,” said Tulcholski.


Virtual Learning is something that teachers, students, and schools districts are learning to adapt to as the process continues. A new appreciation for interaction is gained throughout this new experience that not many people have experienced before.