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Youth Councillors frustrated with e-learning during the pandemic

by Sylene Argent Essex Youth Councillors Ehva Hoffmann and Cameron Soucie consider themselves to be good students, but the two local high schoolers are both beyond frustrated with the online learning they are enduring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both students are worried the online learning stream will bring their average down before the end of the schoolyear.   Hoffmann is in grade 11, but is also fast-tracking with some grade 12 courses. Since the beginning of the semester, she has been taking biology online, because of her advanced pace. She said there are certain topics were learning can work online, like when they are research and project heavy, but having all of her courses online has created a few problems for her.   Normally a strong student, Hoffmann said she has found difficulties in her English class, as she finds it nearly impossible to teach the course without a teacher to explain certain works, such as “Shakespeare.”   Even worse, she said, is taking physics and calculus online. “It’s a nightmare,” she said. “I’m not grasping it. It’s not working.” She said only some pictures are posted on the online learning websites to guide her when it comes to math. She does have teachers who post instructional videos, but not all teachers have the equipment to do so.   Typically, Hoffmann considers herself to be good at math, but she said she needs a thorough face-to-face explanation from her teacher in order to excel.   “I know my grades will go down,” she said.   She added it is hard to set aside time every day to do her work. Living with a rural internet connection with the rest of her family in need of internet access, the data gets eaten up quite quickly. This problem prevents her from accessing teachers via online conference services for additional help as her internet slows down when out of data.     “It’s been rough,” Hoffmann said, adding she knew heading into this semester, she was going to have a heavy course load. The online learning, however, certainly has increased the difficulty.   Hoffmann and Soucie feel for other youths who may not have the equipment needed to even have fair access to the online learning streams. For instance, Soucie said there are families out there who may have several youths needing to do school work, but may only have one reliable computer. Soucie said communication is key in allowing students to learn. He has found the websites used for the online learning to lag or be down when needed. He said the online learning has not been handled well, and hopes this will be a signal to government officials that students need to learn in the classroom under the guidance of a teacher once the pandemic is over.   When it comes to online learning, certain teachers may not be able to help as they too are in the process of learning everything, and that is not their fault, he noted.     He said there is a lot of going back-and-forth between websites, and feels like a lot of time is wasted in just retrieving the work and learning how to use the websites, rather than learning the course content. He has even had to re-do course work because his submissions did not save.   “It is all so overwhelming and stressful,” Soucie said of the online learning module. “I feel like I am looking at the computer screen, thinking ‘what am I supposed to do?’ I feel like I’m focusing on learning the process more [than the course material].”   Soucie also voiced concerns for youth who have parents who may be sick or are essential workers. These students may have to pick up the slack at home during an unprecedented time, and may be additionally overwhelmed with school work. He also had concerns with youths who have ADHD or ADD, and how they are adjusting to the online learning module. “I think kids are going to appreciate going to school,” he said of when school can return back to normal, noting he has heard from his friends that they are equally as overwhelmed. Soucie said he is also frustrated with others not social distancing as they are asked to during the pandemic.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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