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While the Virus Keeps Students at Home, Education Continues

Tsz Ying Lau

Xiao Quan wakes up every morning at 6:30 a.m. and picks up her phone while still in bed. She stays in bed not because she is sick; instead, she is trying not to be sick. She wakes up early, not to chat with friends or to play mobile games secretly while her parents are still asleep. Instead, she signs onto an online platform called “Ding Ding” and shows attendance and classwork. She is a middle school student from, Guangxi, China, who has to stay home to protect herself against the corona-virus.

Despite the Chinese government’s announcement of class suspension, most students still have to attend class by watching videos lectures online. As the corona-virus spreads all over the world, many countries announce not only class suspension policies, but also lockdown of towns and cities. Online education is therefore widely adopted, and video conferencing platforms like Zoom have become popular. Online education seems to be more efficient and help to reduce the risk of infection in the current situation. But is this really the case?

Although most schools strongly encourage their students to turn on their cameras during lessons, students usually refuse to do so because turning them on involves the risk of being captured by screen grabs or on video. Some students also reflect that it is uncomfortable to keep the camera on because they feel monitored when doing so. The ideal situation would be for everyone to focus on the teacher’s screen and carefully make notes of the lesson while having the cameras off. 

Nevertheless, there is always a huge distance between reality and utopia. It is undeniable that some hard-working students can stay attentive even when they can sneak out of lesson without being caught. Some other students, however, just get into the Zoom meetings and then go on working on their private issues. In other words, they waste their tuition and learn nothing during lessons. Is online education still efficient in this case?

Online education is a double-edged sword that may harm students’ academic performance. A freshman from Hong Kong expresses her preference for traditional teaching despite online education’s convenience. When being asked why, she says, “I find it difficult to get up early since I don’t have to attend classes at the college. I mean, if I really have something important to do, I will force myself to wake up. But now I feel that I’m less self-disciplined day by day.” Research has shown that online education is somehow “worse” than traditional ones: “only 2% of online schools outperformed their brick-and-mortar equivalents in reading. In Math, no online schools were better, and 88% were ‘significantly weaker’” (Coughlan).

Online education will probably gain its popularity in the future as an increasing number of people gain access to the Internet. However, it may never be able to replace traditional education until the technology has advanced to the point where students can gain the exact same amount of knowledge as traditional education. At this point, when technology is still not advanced enough to accomplish the aforementioned, so let’s pray that everybody stays healthy, the coronavirus ends soon, and that we may resume traditional classes.