eLearning: A New Normal

Liam Rogers

This August, Prep commenced the start of another academic year during its annual convocation. For the first time ever, however, Prep is now offering a classroom experience in three different mediums; in light of the covid-19 pandemic, the school is offering its usual in-person option, as well as options for synchronous and asynchronous online learners. All students have the option to either attend class in-person or over Zoom, whether that be due to distance, immunocompromised family members, or any other restrictions associated with the pandemic. While all students who attended Prep last year had a taste of eLearning, only some students this year have had the experience of attending an in-person class over Zoom. While I, personally, have only utilized the in-person option thus far, I managed to ask a couple of students for their opinion on this new, unconventional model of learning.

“The best part of eLearning is the mere simplicity of it,” said Peter Heroux, ’22. “I didn’t have to pack a lunch, get my sports equipment together, or even get out of my pajamas.” Peter initially listed a few of the upsides to online learning; Peter started the academic year with a couple weeks of synchronous eLearning, and has since switched to the in-person option. He is incredibly glad to be back in the Prep building and to see his friends, and finds it incredibly easy to note the problems within the online option. “The most evident problem is that a student cannot both have a poor wireless connection and hope to participate in class. It is also incredibly hard to hear other students in class; I would often never hear a question being asked, only the teacher answering it. It is very difficult for teachers to cater to both in-person and online students.” Despite the problems Peter found within his few weeks of online learning, he believes that in time, it may be improved greatly. “For almost every problem I’ve experienced, there has always been a solution for it. It’s just a matter of informing teachers of it. That’s the most important advice I would give.”

“It’s a process of adjustment,” added Cassie Zeng, ’21. Cassie, as opposed to Peter, utilizes both the synchronous and asynchronous aspects of eLearning. Living abroad and online learning, Cassie deals with a massive time difference that interferes with her studies. “If I do asynchronous learning, I know I’m not going to perform as well on assignments. If I do every class synchronously, though, I’ll be up until 3AM.” It is a particular struggle with students living abroad to try to capture the same authentic learning experience found at Prep while also dealing with time-zone differences. Some students tune into their first period class right before bed; some students join their last class of the day as the sun is rising. “It’s just so different than what we’re all used to. I know the teachers are trying their best, but at a certain point, there’s not much anyone can do.”

In a year full of surprises, Prep is making changes around the clock in order to provide excellent education for students in varying circumstances. While students are dreaming of an end to this pandemic and the return of a normal school life, recent reports from the CDC have suggested that the pandemic may last longer than some initially expected. While in-person learning could become more feasible once the virus is contained, when will an online option stop being offered? Will it ever? eLearning has become a new normal in institutions, from universities to elementary schools, across the globe. Given the current situation, especially in the United States, it is exceedingly difficult to imagine a definite end to the pandemic . It is easy to see bleakness in these times—but we can always follow the words of advice from fellow Prep students, including Peter and Cassie: to always adjust, and to find the best in our situation.