By Hannah Patricia Abril | February 18, 2021
Who would’ve thought that on a random Friday in March 2020, we were told to pack our things and take the earliest ship, flight, or bus ride to our hometowns? Some parents frantically called their sons and daughters studying away from home as soon as they heard the news of class suspensions and border lockdowns as the COVID-19, initially termed as nCoV, started to spread in the country, ergo, the whole world.
It suddenly felt like the beginning of a twisted sci-fi movie. I saw my friends leave in a day just after a class celebration with teachers where we had a small salo-salo of Palabok, cheese sticks, dynamite, and pizza. We had established plans for extra-curricular events and not-so-extra-curricular ones like a mini vacay to the beach after the school year. We drew plans and we never got to “color” them as soon as the world shut down.
As much as we thought this COVID-19 situation was going to die down in merely two months, here we are, celebrating its first year anniversary. We are stuck at home and some students were forced to take online distance learning (ODL).
It is no joke when I hear the frustrations about ODL almost every day—some from my classmates, mostly from my own experience. Maybe it’s because even if we’re taking ODL for almost two semesters, it’s nothing compared to the normal classes we were so used to.
In the academic perspective, articles and blog posts were published about students overwhelmed by the increased amount of assignments they get from teachers than they normally would. This may be due to the teacher’s thought process that students have more “free-time” now that they’re stuck at home. There are also instructors that merely send PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, and Youtube videos of their topics without a class discussion, then next thing, they will require an assignment. In my experience, I don’t feel I had a deep learning and understanding on my subjects since the first semester of ODL. I feel like I am just floating around, trying to survive the school year, and just doing my best in submitting assignments in order to pass.
For teachers, online learning is a paradigm shift from the traditional classes that they’re accustomed to. Some of their lessons may not be applicable to the new setting and therefore cannot teach it by simply lecturing the topic on the computer. Some subjects require field visitations and the using of equipment that is only available at school.
Many had also spent more time in their computers than they’re used to and therefore developing computer fatigue or computer vision syndrome, which according to UCLA Health website, the combination of eye and vision-related problems associated with prolonged computer use. Some had also developed health-related problems due to the lack of physical activity and exercise, and skin disease because of the lack of sun exposure.
Although technology has blessed us by allowing education to continue despite the biological dangers waiting outside our doors, it has taught me that it blocked us from what really matters most: the ability to learn under the comfort of human connection. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, technology alone isn’t enough to fulfill our social, and in our case, educational needs — we need face-to-face interaction to thrive.
In Joseph Novak’s theory of meaningful learning, he states that “human feelings are tied to the construction of new knowledge and that human empowerment underlies meaningful learning.” In the face-to-face setting, we may not be aware of it, but the emotions we feel while learning and the emotions we feel within a physical classroom are huge factors on how we grasp new information and motivates us to initiate intellectual discussion with our classmates and instructors.
It doesn’t mean that ODL has deprived us from learning anything. It will also require the student’s perseverance and drive to really assimilate new knowledge despite the lack of human connection and the discomfort in adjusting to the new normal. We make use of what we can despite our unfortunate circumstances, and Online Distance Learning is the result of that.
However, it is only convenient as of the moment — a patch to the wound, per se. If we can, and I hope we will do, ODL ends this semester and face-to-face classes resume next school year.