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Inside the Virtual Classroom, Part 3: Hidden Student Challenges

We’ve arrived at the third and final part of our series, “Inside the Virtual Classroom” (here are Parts 1 and 2) and this week we explore student challenges. Some of the more talked about challenges, such as distractions and technical difficulties, are more obvious, so we wanted to take a look at some other challenges students are experiencing to shine light on the difficulties of virtual learning. Here’s what our instructors highlighted:

What are some of the most hidden challenges that students are facing?

Julie C.

Surprisingly, students feel much more vulnerable online than in school. With cameras, they don’t know who is watching them and they feel much more exposed. You would expect it to be the opposite, but that’s not the case. And like others have said, athletes are extremely discouraged because they’ve worked really hard to get scholarships. They’ve invested countless hours, energy, and effort into excelling and now they are missing out on opportunities.

Lina B.

Many students are experiencing loss in their communities due to COVID. This has become clear from their sharing. There’s quite a bit of suffering from grief and loss. Students are also sharing how tired they have become of virtual school, and how there’s a lack of motivation. Perhaps these are not surprising, but it has been important for me to recognize the fatigue and sense of loss for those who have lost family and acquaintances in their communities.

Amy E.

Students have adjusted to the routine that they have had to develop for virtual learning. For some, it is an easier and more convenient method of attending school, so some students are not looking forward to returning to in-person instruction. They have gotten used to not getting up as early, almost zero travel time (especially if they do not attend a school in their neighborhood), and have become comfortable with not having to get ready, dress up, or put on uniforms for school.

But they are also contending with a lot of different kinds of loss. First, there is a loss of connection. With virtual learning they are a lot more isolated. They miss the sense of being part of a group — homecoming activities, clubs, dances, team, graduations. They’re also missing out on positive experiences, like encouragement and support, that come from being in school in the natural course of the day. And lastly there is the loss of motivation, the lack of positive challenge or having something to strive for. Lowered expectations have reduced motivation, even if they have seemed necessary right now. Students aren’t expected to achieve as much, and this lack of expectation can potentially have far reaching consequences.

Holly H.

We see the normal technical issues that can present challenges (like spotty internet), but we also see elements of the digital and socioeconomic divide. Some students have access to better technology, some may not have the internet in their houses at all, and some students may be self-conscious about who may be in the room with them. On the other side, teachers are overwhelmed and are trying to get students to do the bare minimum to pass, while parents are less involved too.

We hope that Inside the Virtual Classroom has been informative and insightful. Again, here are Parts 1 and 2 if you missed them!

Coming up next week: The Transformative Potential of Mindfulness.