What Secondary Students Reveal about Distance Learning

  What Secondary Students Reveal about Distance Learning

Distance learning is a learning curve. As teachers, it is really important to listen and see what is working and what isn’t working for our students. When COVID hit, it was an emergency and we were in survival mode, but now distance learning may be a theme of the future, so it's time to take a look at what secondary students reveal about distance learning. Let’s see what they said!


First, let’s jump into the aspects of distance learning that teens really did enjoy. Many teens really benefited from getting up later in the morning.  We know how much teens hate getting up early, so this one makes sense as the number one positive. Getting up later seemed to reduce stress levels and helped many students have a more productive day. 

Another aspect teens really did like was being able to work at their own pace. There were due dates, but they could manage their time and work on different classes on different days or complete all the work immediately to have more free time.

Fewer distractions. was definitely a positive, but you will see this one on the con list too. (Not all households are the same.) For teens that had a quiet space to work, distraction from classmates was a non-issue, helping with that much needed focus.

There was an overall theme of appreciation of the teachers. Teachers really did stay connected to their students. Teens enjoyed logging on to the virtual meetings and being able to connect with classmates and their teachers.


Now let’s jump into what teens considered failures in distance learning. First off, they miss everything about school and many of them came to realize that they take school for granted! Teens missed socializing, friends, teachers, clubs, sports and just the routine itself.

Next, the workload for many students was overwhelming. Many students revealed that there was a ton of work, and it was too difficult to maintain all of their subjects at once. If you think about it, our teens were thrown into managing 6-7 classes all online, and for some, all alone. Some students thrived working like this at their own pace, but on the other side are the students who really need the organization of a schedule. Students are used to a routine of listening to a bell ringing to know when time is up for one class and time to start another. The school schedule was seamless in knowing the dedicated time for study hall and time to catch up or time for quiet reading in ELA. At home, ideally students would have had a schedule too, but again not all households could do this.

A commonality amongst teen responses was home was not ideal. At home the distractions were different. Siblings are definitely a huge distraction. Imagine there is a crying baby in the home or a toddler that demands attention at all times. Unfortunately for many teenage students, they were called on to babysit while their parents continued to work and if they were school aged, focused on their siblings' schoolwork and not their own.

On top of the home life distractions, many students revealed that they had a lack of motivation at home. When parents or guardians are working, who is really there to motivate teens when teacher check ins aren’t daily? Between lack of motivation, and distractions from home, some students seriously fell behind.

Lastly, students had trouble with the format of distance learning. There were sometimes conflicts with teachers meeting times. It was harder to ask questions about assignments because there wasn’t an immediate response. This led to frustration and frustration led to not completing the work.

What's next?

With all of the new insight we have into distance learning, we should be able to make the future for students a lot easier. Distance learning also will not be a sudden shock to everyone. Some of the biggest revelations from our students are they want to stay connected; they need help being organized, and they need us to try to bring in some type of extrinsic motivation!  Continue to be compassionate, and clear and distance learning will absolutely be a success.

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