My Online Learning Experience: Erin...

My Online Learning Experience: Erin Rebello

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By Erin Rebello

On Friday, March 13, millions of students across Canada left schools for an extended March break. Like many others, I was excited about the 3-week break, and couldn’t wait to kick back and lounge around my house. What I certainly didn’t expect was to leave school for half a year, only to be tossed into the unfamiliar waters known as “e-learning”. While in theory, online learning seemed easy and fun, I had a very mixed experience.

The Good

I’d like to start on a positive note and discuss my good experiences with e-learning in the past year. For starters, I liked that I was able to work in the comfort of my own home. My school board also didn’t use Zoom or any synchronous learning platforms which meant no meetings or in-person classes. As an introvert and someone who likes to sleep in, this was quite the treat… at least at first, but more on that later!

My school is a part of a Catholic school board meaning that we usually follow a strict uniform, which can be stuffy and uncomfortable. Without daily meetings, there was no need for a restrictive uniform, and I was able to complete my schoolwork in clothing that I liked. This was definitely a game-changer and made studying feel less stiff and boring.

Another huge advantage of e-learning was the fact that I didn’t have to commute to school! As someone who lives over an hour away from school, the daily bus rides can quickly add up, eating into my free time. By subtracting over 2 hours from my daily commute, I was left with more time to complete assignments, relax, and even pursue my extra-curricular interests.

Finally, the last benefit of the switch to e-learning was the lightened workload. As declared by the government of Ontario, secondary school teachers could not assign more than 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students. As a student taking 7 courses, this meant that I only had to complete 10.5 hours of work a week, which is quite manageable when you think about it. My school board also cancelled all exams, replacing them with cumulative projects instead. As someone who stresses excessively over tests and exams, this change was certainly a relief.

The Bad

While some of my experience with e-learning was very positive, it would be dishonest if I didn’t also disclose my negative experiences. Considering how little time teachers were given to prepare e-learning material for students, it’s understandable that there were more than a few flaws.

As mentioned earlier, although it was fun to work from home initially, I found it to be very problematic over time. As someone who has trouble focusing on schoolwork, the comfort of working at home soon melted into an inability to complete assignments. Without the physical environment and structure of school, e-learning simply didn’t feel real. I felt lost, and it was as though my assignments had no meaning or importance. As a result, I fell behind in my work at first.

Another huge issue was being suffocated by family while simultaneously feeling disconnected from my friends. Although I love my family and can usually tolerate my little sister’s antics, being cooped up with them 24/7 for the past few months has definitely been draining, and I miss my friends. School used to be a way for me to connect with my friends, however, e-learning has shifted most of my communications online, removing the daily social interactions that typically brought me immense joy. Coupled with several other factors, this has definitely taken quite a toll on my mental health.

Finally, although the course material was adapted to be more digestible, switching to e-learning meant that many key topics were cut out to meet with official guidelines and be manageable for students. Although I am thankful for such consideration, I’m already worrying that I won’t know enough material from grade 11 to thrive in my grade 12 courses.

Looking Forward

In conclusion, my experience with e-learning over the past few months has been very mixed, with both positive and negative aspects. Although I do have some worries when going back to school, I’m optimistic for a better learning experience in these next few months. During the summer the school board (along with teachers) have had the much needed time to adapt the curriculum for both e-learning and hybrid learning. On a more personal level, I have also grown more familiar with e-learning platforms and have developed an ability to focus better in e-learning classes. All things considered, I’m excited to start the new school year and continue my e-learning experience.

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