OPINION EDITORIAL: Communication is key, especially in distance learning

After sitting in bed and scrolling through social media for the majority of the period, a student looks up to see they are the last participant in the meet. Worried they may have missed an assignment, they write an email to their teacher asking about the day’s homework. Later, after their final meet of the day, a teacher checks their email to see a flood of new unread messages. Exhausted from staring at a screen for so long, they shut their computer and leave the emails to be dealt with at a later time. 

Communication is a crucial aspect of a productive and rewarding school environment. Distance learning, however, creates problematic barriers regarding communication that can affect both students and staff.

Before distance learning, getting help from teachers and staff was simple. Additionally, being in a real classroom held students accountable for starting on assignments during class. Students were more inclined to work and could directly meet with their teachers throughout or after class. With online school, however, the ease of communication is absent. When some students choose to do other non-school related tasks during class, they lose the opportunity to ask for help when given the time. 

In a Google Meet with approximately 30 other students, some may find it more daunting to ask questions in front of the entire class on an online platform. Since it can be difficult to get individual help, students have to take initiative to reach out, and many do so in the form of emails. 

Teachers and staff receive a plethora of emails every day from admin, other teachers, parents and students. Messages from students seeking help become buried within the deluge of notifications from the school, Google Classroom and more. With dozens to sort through, teacher and staff response times become delayed.

Some teachers have taken to assigning their students work during the class period and leaving the meet, or not checking in with students who have questions. The class time is ultimately wasted and oftentimes unproductive.

The lack of communication can improve with effort from both students and teachers to utilize given class time and student support hours to their fullest potential. While students should stay on task and work on assignments during the class period, teachers can try using independent work time as an opportunity to assist students individually, similarly to how they could when school was fully in person. Teachers can provide help by pulling students into breakout rooms so they can privately assist each student for their individual needs. The perfect time to offer these separate meets would be during independent work time when teachers are not actively teaching. 

During a time of stress and uncertainty, it can be easy to blame miscommunication and misunderstandings on either students or staff, but it is important to remember that all members of the community are experiencing hardships and putting forth their best effort. Both students and teachers should express more patience and understanding in order to help everyone.