Socially Distancing Six Feet Apart or Between Screens – How Does this Affect Students in the Classroom?

As we expected, COVID-19 has brought major changes to the learning experience, one being the implementation of a new hybrid model. With kids in school 2-3 times a week, the belief is that students will acquire an authentic learning experience with limited risk of exposure. But is it really THAT simple? Read on to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of the new hybrid model!

By Audrey Goldberg 

While many of us are excited to be back in school, it is certainly an adjustment for all  students (and teachers!).  The new hybrid schedule poses challenges and requires a different set of skills when learning from home versus learning at school.

When learning at home on the computer, note-taking is done online and not on paper.  To respond to this dramatic change,many students are using the “kami” program to annotate online documents and PDFs.  As you might expect, this is very different from taking notes in class.  

Another challenge is participating in class while you are at home.  It is strange to learn from home when the teacher is also addressing students in the classroom.  When it was all online learning last spring, students at home had the teachers full attention during the live synchronous classes.  With the hybrid model, the teacher’s attention is split.  The result?  On-line students must be EXTRA proactive to engage with the rest of the class.

Also, when learning from home, it is easy to be distracted and to even slack off at times.  Learning from home requires increased focus.  Byram Hills Sophomore Sydney Balck agrees that “students can be distracted by their home space.  From phones to looking out the window… I find it harder to stay attentive throughout the day.”  

The hybrid schedule though certainly has its perks. Byram Hills Sophomore Indiana Ingberman feels “It’s definitely been different, but I’ve enjoyed some of the changes.  For example, the schedule allows me to talk to my teachers in the mornings and afternoons.  It also spaces out the classes more so there’s no rush to get to class.”  The breaks throughout the day are a good time to do homework and study.  The peaceful atmosphere is relaxing, especially at the beginning of the day.  While at home and in school, Byram Hills has ensured enough free time to get work done.

On the other hand, there are so many more restrictions placed upon the students at school.  Now, the freedom we used to enjoy has been severely limited.  It is difficult to learn while wearing a mask all day, and the restrictions on our movement through the hallways provides another challenge.  In addition, the technology in coordinating between the online, at- home students and the students in the classroom has not always worked smoothly, resulting in frustration among teachers and students.  Finally, it is difficult to communicate and enjoy school with the necessary social distancing measures.  

The new periods added to our school schedules– small group tutorials and independent eLearning– also provide a major adjustment.  These periods require students to determine how to best use their time.  With more independent time and less classes, there is more responsibility placed upon the students to take advantage of this time and use the time wisely.

The 2020 schedule is new to all, and will take a while to get used to.  It’s a different experience than we predicted, but hopefully it will be refined over time to give students and teachers the best experience possible under the circumstances.