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From ‘pretty good’ to ‘really difficult’ — students at one high school talk about online learning during the pandemic

Pasadena High School graduating students Alexis Farias and Rosie Gongora check their mortars before the official portrait at a drive-through studio during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Pasadena, Calif., on May 8. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

What do students think about their experience with online learning during the covid-19 pandemic?

Here is a snapshot of views from eight students at Luther Burbank High School in south Sacramento, provided by teacher Katherine Bell.

Luther Burbank is a comprehensive high school, where 84 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Bell, who has been at the school since 2005, teaches social science, and during her time at Luther Burbank has taught all of the grades in the high school. She is also the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program Coordinator.

There have been a number of small surveys in different parts of the country about how students feel about their experiences with online learning during the crisis, and for the most part, they find the same things: some have adapted well to digital learning at home and others have not.

Here are the questions that Bell asked some students, and the responses.

How has distance learning been for you? What are the challenges? What are the benefits? Have you discovered anything about yourself as a learner?

Téa Feliciano, freshman

Overall, distance learning has been pretty good for me. I have been keeping up on my assignments and [am] able to finally complete them. It benefits me because [when I’m working on] paper, it’s all cluttered and things are getting lost and it all just seems overwhelming. I have enough stress as it is. … [Distance learning] is easier for me because I don’t want to see some people. … It is sometimes challenging because for Spanish and math, I would prefer for them to be teaching me in person. … I discovered that I am more of an online person most of the time. I have always preferred to keep my laptop with me and sit in my own little corner.

Natalie Vu, sophomore

Distance learning has been a challenge for me. It is hard for me to stay focused, productive and to stay motivated. I think some benefits are that this kinda helps me for the future because college will be similar to this, as in taking online classes. I have discovered that it is easier for me to learn and engage when there is a teacher physically there with me.

Kaitlyn Vang, sophomore

Distance learning has been a little difficult for me because i’m not a very good techy person so it’s hard to maneuver around it. Some of the challenges are not having a teacher teach me and go into depth. … I don’t get as many visuals as I used to in school so trying to imagine things is a little difficult. I also don’t have physical form of things such as books or papers that can help guide me. Some benefits are that I am still learning new concepts. I get to learn more about how to use certain websites that can help me with school work.

Safiyya Mohammed, senior

For me personally distance learning has been really difficult just because I always get my work done at school. Once I’m home I don’t have time to do any school work; therefore it’s hard to sit down and focus on school work, whereas going to school was easier and staying in the library and finishing my work worked for me. With distance learning I’ve learned that you’re basically on your own. Some teachers just assign you the work for their sake, and become hard to contact for help. However, it’s also a good thing as well because we get to be protected from this outbreak and learn from home. Unfortunately, I’ve came to the conclusion that I’m someone that has to separate school from home; once I’m home I can’t do anything for school.

Jessilyn Saetern, senior

For me, distance learning has been rough. It’s a challenge to find the motivation to do anything, not even just schoolwork but just to get out of bed these days. Another challenge is not having someone to help and explain things to me right when I need it. A benefit is that we get a little more time to do the work assigned to us. I have discovered that I need someone to push me and make me focus on the work or else I just won’t do it.

Vy Nguyen, senior

Distance learning has been quite difficult for me personally due to the chores I must finish around the home — from taking care of two toddlers to making sure the house is clean and sanitized all the time for the safety of everyone. Some challenges I encounter [are] finding the motivation to do work after a long day of chores and babysitting since little kids can really be difficult to take care of. … Balancing between home life and school life at home can be difficult. … Some benefits in distance learning are preparing myself to adapt to self learning because in college I won’t get the same help from teachers, and the workload [online] is lighter than physical school. I’ve discovered that I like to put myself on a … schedule like when I was still in school because I can be more productive, and house chores and schoolwork don’t get mixed up like [they do] right now.

Mercedes Torres, senior

For me, distance learning has not been that dissimilar to regular schooling because I’ve always kept to myself. One challenge for me would have to do with my extracurricular activities. It is my last year as president of the GSA club [for LGBTQ students and allies] and this has put a dent in my growth of this club. A benefit to distance learning is that we have more time to do our assignments. Another benefit would be the cancellation of IB [International Baccalaureate] exams. Yes, the exams may help us when it comes to college and it would be amazing to say you received an IB diploma, but these things aren’t certain. What is certain is that we would have been stressed, most of us having to take two or more exams. So for my peers’ and my sanity and health, I see this as a benefit. As a learner I have discovered that I do not like auditory learning and prefer a text that I can read. Most importantly, I have learned that school was stressful and not always good for my mental health, but I also learned that even those who don’t like people miss the social aspect of school, whether it be clubs, community circles or just hearing the sound of other students in the hallways.

Edmar Joseph Tagaca, senior

I think distance learning has been pretty good for me and manageable enough that I’m able to balance it out with my personal life. Some benefits are that I’m able to do things at my own pace. With the extended time to do assignments, I, as a senior, have a lot of time to use for university and scholarship purposes. The challenge is also that I’m able to do things at my own pace. I’m a master procrastinator and being that I’m surrounded by many technological devices, I often don’t do work and such until the last minute. I haven’t discovered much as a learner, but I do feel like I need to relearn some subjects.