Teaching online for the first time can be time-consuming and stressful. It always takes longer than you think to learn new technologies and teaching approaches, develop new materials, and possibly qualify and communicate more of what you needed to do in your on-campus classes. As debates rage across the country about whether schools should teach online or in person, students like Sean Vargas-Arcia have experienced the pros and cons of both. “It's stressful to worry about contracting coronavirus at school,” said Sean, who has health problems, including epilepsy, and a grandmother who lives with her family.
But his online classes wear him down. There is no doubt that the pandemic has been tough on children, whether their schools have reopened or not. An avalanche of research in recent months has found alarming peaks in depression and anxiety among children and their parents. Multiple studies have found that students, especially those with disabilities and from low-income families, are learning less than they should.
But a new study from NBC News and Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, is one of the first to shed light on the differences between students whose classes have been exclusively online and those who have been able to attend in person at least one day a week. Throughout this week, watch “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and the TODAY program to learn more about “Kids Under Pressure,” a series examining the impact of the pandemic on children Last Fall's survey of more than 10,000 students in 12 U.S. UU. Challenge Success, an educational research and school support organization, surveys the majority of students in dozens of schools each year to help teachers and administrators better meet their needs.
The 12 schools surveyed last fall, in Arizona, Texas, New York and the Midwest, are demographically similar to the nation in terms of student household income, although not necessarily in terms of race, Miles said. Schools have become increasingly tense, with parents and political leaders, including President Joe Biden, loudly calling for schools to reopen and teachers in some parts of the country threatening to quit work for safety reasons. On Friday, the Biden administration released guidelines on how to safely reopen schools, recommending precautions including face masks, social distancing and contact tracing. Miles said the new research doesn't mean schools should rush to reopen before implementing safety protocols.
Instead, he said, it demonstrates the importance of making sure teachers and staff members feel comfortable returning to the classroom. But, at the same time, he said, the study highlights the damage that online learning is doing. Those who wear masks in their class listen to the same lectures and watch the same demonstrations as students who watch the live broadcast at home. When writing or drawing on their computer tablet, students at home see the same images on their screens that students in the classroom see projected on the wall.
But Salhoobi students aren't receiving the same benefits, he said. While it's difficult to compare the performance of his students, Salhoobi said his in-person students sometimes stay after class for extra help that online students rarely ask for. Online students seem more reluctant to raise their hands and often seem tired. When Yonkers began offering a hybrid option in October that allowed students to attend in person on Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays, most students chose to stay online.
Only about a third of students are currently in the hybrid program, a spokeswoman for the Yonkers district said, leaving many classrooms with only a handful of students. Full Coverage of Coronavirus Outbreak Yonkers Director Jade Sharp said she hasn't seen significant differences in grades or test scores between remote and hybrid students, but she wasn't surprised to see survey data showing her remote students are more stressed. The school is doing everything it can to support students, Sharp said, limiting instruction to noon on “wellness” Wednesdays and organizing after-school clubs focused on mental health. But none of that offers what you can do even a couple of days in the classroom interacting with teachers and peers, said Tara O'Sullivan, who teaches U, S.
Tanya Palmer, 16, a junior from Yonkers, has managed to maintain her grades this year, but only because she puts in extra time to make up for what she loses in class. Things have improved since the beginning of the school year, when technical problems were more common and teachers were still adapting. But when he finishes his five hours of online classes each day, he often stays looking at extra hours of research and reading to really learn the material. Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts on the coronavirus outbreak.
Sean Vargas-Arcia had more energy when he was in school two days a week and more ways to understand his courses, he said, recalling how he struggled last semester to visualize the molecular structure of fatty acids known as lipids until he saw a 3D model in his biology classroom. With college applications looming, Sean worries that his grades in online classes will suffer, costing him his chance at his first choice, Brown University, next year. He is also struggling with isolation from his friends. He used quiet hours during the summer to reflect and, in September, came out to family and friends as transgender.
He announced his name change on social media, but most of his peers haven't seen him in person since. Everything has been more difficult this year for students at Yonkers, an academically selective school that attracts a diverse mix of half-Latino, 20 percent white, 15 percent Asian, 13 percent black students from the city of the same name, just north of New York City. Sports and after-school programs have largely disappeared, and school events, such as the gala that Yonkers traditionally hosts in the spring to celebrate the school's many cultures, have been canceled. For some students, it's a small price to pay to keep their families safe, said Emma Maher, 17, a junior who chose the online option because her sister has asthma and her grandmother has a compromised immune system.
But educators worry about the long-term impact on a generation of children who are stressed, struggling to learn, and miss their friends. Erin Einhorn is a national reporter for NBC News, based in Detroit. Overwhelmingly, educators and faculty report increased levels of stress and anxiety. Most educators were given a few days' notice of the transition to digital classrooms.
Developing a curriculum for an online course is a serious task under normal circumstances. Add to that the stress of a global pandemic and mid-semester transitions, it's no surprise that many educators have felt overwhelmed and exhausted. My online learning experience as a student has been very stressful and irritating. I honestly feel like I'm not learning anything, I'm just getting consecutive tasks.
The only thing I like about this is that I can be at home and choose when I want to do the work. I don't like the fact that I'm not learning anything, just watching YouTube videos and trying to figure out what I'm doing and if it's right. In the future, if I didn't decide to do online learning, because I usually hate it and it would only stress me out more than I already have, besides, if I have a question about something, I have to wait for my teacher to answer. And sometimes that answer doesn't come until the next day, when you could have finished the task the same day you were doing it.
I also prefer to be in a physical classroom because I can also get help from my peers if I need it and if it's online, no one is going to help me at all. It turns out that the stress of online learning can be intense for a lot of different reasons. And for at-risk teens, that can lead in bad directions, such as substance abuse problems. In the era of COVID-19, our coping skills are more important than ever.
Online learning is high on the list. If the stress of online learning isn't handled well, it can have more serious consequences on a teenager's life. It is essential to act before that happens. The danger is that the stress of online learning can lead to worse consequences.
Some people may choose to self-medicate. Once educators understand their transition to online teaching, it's time to focus on helping students transition to online learning.