Online, not Virtual

by Ben Zhao ’22

Source: The Express

Published Oct. 20th, 2020

The world has been under lookdown for around 8 months now and students and adults alike have spent much of their lives in front of a screen to attend online meetings on platforms for school or work.

As a result, people are trying to adapt to a life more centered on technology and being able to do work online more than any time before. This is a time in which students attend “virtual” classes which are meant to replicate education and allow them  to be distanced. 

Virtual, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is something that is “being on or simulated on a computer or computer network.” A common usage of this adjective is virtual reality, which shows a simulated 3-D movie-like experience. Yet, in terms of online learning, students engage with other very real people in a different environment through technology.

As a result of online learning, we have more agency than ever because we learn and work within our own homes; students experience a greater degree of freedom in how they wish to study or whether they choose to pay attention in class.

Without a doubt, it is difficult for students to be engaged in online school compared to learning in a physical setting. It is also very difficult from the perspective of teachers to engage with students in online school.

When asked about his thoughts on distance learning, Aaron Xi ’22 responded, “one pitfall of distance learning is the dampened communication between teachers and students, and it is easy to fall behind.” Students throughout the period of distance learning are forced to take greater responsibilities and work independently more than before.

MHS’s English teacher Ms. Kriger said she liked that distanced learning forced her outside of her comfort zone as she looked for different ways to approach teaching. According to Ms. Kriger, one frustration of distance learning is “grading student work online, and typing feedback instead of reading from student’s handwritten work.”

Although “virtual” and “online” are somewhat synonymous while describing events or class, it is a matter of a mindset towards people and how we treat our own lives. Online is a better adjective that describes the current state of remote education, without implying that the connections we make are not real. 

Whether we hold ourselves back or adapt to become more independent individuals, it is all up to us. Although school is temporarily online, our experiences are, in fact, very real.

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