Covid Impacted Learning, School Attendance, and the Future of Education
COVID-19 has impacted education in schools across the country. How has it impacted Alta?
For the last three years, COVID-19 has changed the way students learn.
In fall 2020, Canyons School District transitioned to full online learning in response to the growing pandemic. With more than 34,000 students enrolled, the district needed to transition from in-person learning to a full online model to keep students moving forward with educational objectives. As a result, Canyons announced online learning or independent study. This schedule allowed for in person learning four days a week, in hopes that the change would lower the spread of the sickness.
Jennifer Scheffner, a counselor, remembers that online Fridays had many benefits including giving teachers time to implement more online teaching methods. It also helped students and teachers feel they were getting a little mental health break.” Workload was very high for teachers, and a break felt necessary and beneficial. Trying to find interactive online work proved very difficult and took a lot of time.
Teachers were required to post work online so students could access it. As a result, many teachers continue to post work online to make it easier for students to stay organized. Has COVID-19 decreased motivation in students? Or has it introduced new models that make learning easier?
Looking back, Student Keaton Anderson says he’s happy about the educational changes that resulted from the COVID-19 online format. “I don’t need to carry around paper and feel like I’m wasting resources,” he said. “Instead, I log into canvas and have everything I need in front of me.”
Though some teachers have transitioned back to 100 percent in class learning, many students say the convenience of Canvas and assignment posting helps them stay organized.
March 2020 – The COVID-19 Shutdown
Some students did not do a single assignment during the 4th quarter of 2020. Grades were changed at the end of the year to be more forgiving to students who didn’t do these assignments, so students got A’s and B’s even though the effort they put in was decreased. Low effort and high rewards led many students to become lax in their study and homework routines. Many fell out of practice and returned to school the following year, many were still suffering from the mental stress of the pandemic, as well as having lost discipline in doing their homework.
2020-21 School Year
COVID-19 has also impacted school attendance for the past two and a half years. Hall Monitor Stephanie Christensen said the attendance for the 2020-21 school year was patchy, and the shutdowns and virtual weeks didn’t help. “Positive COVID cases definitely took a toll,” she said.
Mrs Scheffner agreed that COVID negatively impacted attendance. “Retraining ourselves to show up and be where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there, is taking time,” she said.
Around 600 students chose to do school mostly online that year, which impacted them in more ways than one. Many were isolated and school gatherings were forbidden. “The only people who attended football games that year were the parents,” said yearbook advisor Denise Ferguson. “It was definitely different and students missed out on most school activities that are necessary for social development.”
2021-22 School Year
“Teachers noticed the impact of that lack of socialization right off at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year when student behavior was definitely off,” Ferguson said.
By December, school behaviors had improved. “Students needed practice in how to be students again and to stick with school routines.
Things were somewhat better for the 2021-22 school year; positive COVID-19 cases kept students home and students missed school for that. Other illnesses like the flu and colds always impact student attendance, but the Utah State Legislature’s law forbidding schools from reinstating attendance policies definitely impacted attendance and far too many students didn’t go to class thinking they could just get assignments from Canvas.
Teachers, counselors and administration were worried that COVID-19 caused students to lose motivation in learning. Counselor Jennifer Scheffner said the resulting lack of motivation has been one of the most difficult challenges for teachers and students. “Social isolation has made students’ social skills suffer,” she said. “The motivation for school was lowered for everyone. It’s hard to get everyone back into the flow of in person learning.
For students, “COVID simply emphasized the need for people to take responsibility for their own learning, instead of relying on teachers to ‘spoon-feed’ them information.” For motivated students, this was a challenge but learning was still somewhat effective. For others, teachers felt they had to force students to learn.
Online Classes and Learning
Another educational change due to COVID-19 is the availability of online classes. Online classes are notoriously easy and effective in helping students make up credits. Motivated students learn well with online classes, but if you don’t want to learn, you won’t learn like you will in an in-person class. “It is easier to procrastinate work without the physical presence of a teacher and there are many benefits to working with others,” said senior Rylie Harris.
Harris who is enrolled in online classes said, “They’re easier and quicker than regular classes” implying online tends to be less effective in teaching. “I definitely learn better with in person classes, and the interactions help me stay more motivated.” Students are less willing to put work into class when they aren’t learning in a classroom.
Education After COVID-19
COVID-19 has impacted student learning both positively and negatively. At the very least, online learning is more accessible. Now things are somewhat closer to normal, and students are back to consistent in-person learning. Though there are some pros, like more access to online and widespread chromebook access, these things certainly have affected students. Some argue more screen time is harmful for students, others say it’s a helpful resource we should utilize. What’s important is that covid has died down, so students can no longer rely on their “Covid laziness.” School is business as usual. As one teacher said, “it’s time to return to normal because the Covid years are in the past. Let’s hope they stay there.”