What are students saying about Distance Learning?

As of now, all Hawaii Department of Education schools are scheduled to implement distance learning through the first quarter of the 2020-2021 academic year, which ends on Oct. 2. 

So far, distance learning has presented various benefits and challenges to students at Kalani. 

Having limited social interaction has been a huge consequence of distance learning. Students and teachers are meant to be able to connect through the online video conferencing program Google Meets, but bonding through a screen has been challenging. 

One challenge is that the majority of students choose to keep their cameras off during virtual lessons. 

“I personally don’t turn on my camera,” Malia Korybski (10) explained. “I just find it weird because not everyone turns on their camera and if you’re one of the few people [with your camera on], I feel like everyone’s just staring at you.” 

This has been a common concern among students.

“I’m not comfortable with the people around me in the [Google Meet] because I don’t really know them,” Rin Isoe (9) admitted. “If I actually met them in person…I would be more comfortable showing my face.” 

Teachers find it difficult to teach when students have their cameras off. 

 “As I am delivering instruction, a lot of how I decide how much (or how little) time to spend on a topic depends on the feedback I get from the students,” 9th grade Kalani social studies teacher Racer Moody stated. “Feedback can be verbal, but also it can be simple facial gestures that show whether students are comprehending or are confused.”  

However, teachers say they also understand students’ perspectives.

“I do wish most if not all students would turn ON their cameras because it feels better to see faces that you’re talking to and…makes us feel like we “know” you,” Kalani Spanish teacher Arturo Morales said over email. “BUT [Morales’ emphasis] when I put myself in the students’ shoes I understand that there may be MANY reasons some students do not want to turn on their cameras.” 

Students’ decisions to keep their camera’s off also adds a greater level of difficulty for 9th graders who are new to Kalani this year.

Isoe mentioned that a huge disadvantage of distance learning for herself, as a freshman, is not being able to meet new people. 

“We’re not familiar with our classmates and our teachers, so it makes us more uncomfortable,” she stated.

Students report that getting to know your peers is even more challenging when you can’t see their faces. 

In addition to the challenges around cameras, students say that distance learning has also increased stress levels. 

“I think they’re higher because you’re kind of just relying on yourself to get work done,” Isoe said. 

She explained that there is also an added level of stress for shy students. One-on-one conversations with the teacher aren’t possible when an online class is in session. During online lessons, all questions are heard by every student in the class.  

“I’ve been continuously stressed for longer times with online school, but at a lower level [than in-person school],” Malia Korybski said (10). She explained that this could be because we haven’t been in school for very long and are not at a point yet where there’s an overload of work on our backs.

In spite of the many downsides of distance learning, students also report some benefits of working from home. 

Distance learning gives students more freedom over their time and allows them to work in a more ideal environment. 

“You can learn at your own pace and stay in the comforts of your own home while doing so,” Sarah Mishina (10) said. 

Isoe explained that learning from home helps to develop independence, something that all Kalani students will need after leaving high school. 

The DOE has recently reported that starting the second quarter, Oct. 12, they will be using a new benchmark to determine when schools can reopen to in-person learning. According to these new guidelines, if there are 5.1 or fewer Covid-19 cases per 10,000 residents on Oahu, students will return to school in-person. 


However, it is still uncertain as to when this will be. Until then, students and teachers will have to make the most of and adapt to this new form of learning.