Distant Learning VS On-site Classes


By S5YC(4) Cheah Yuen-Ling Zoey

Judges, teachers, editors and audiences, good afternoon. For the past two years, I’m sure all of you, to varying extents, have suffered from the pandemic, whether you are a student who was prohibited from attending face-to-face classes, or a parent that had to work from home while your kids were playing around, screaming or doing everything that could distract you. Yet, the pandemic isn’t just about a series of unfortunate events, it also boosted the development of online learning, using platforms such as Google Meet or Zooms, Google Classroom and Mentimeter. Nowadays, it is no longer mandatory to attend classes physically, we just have to turn on our electronic devices and you are automatically in a lesson. The future of distance learning is just in front of our eyes, but can it replace on-site classes? I don’t think so, therefore, I strongly disagree with todays' motion, "the policy of distance learning should be promoted to replace on-site classes in the future".

To start with, let me state what is so irreplaceable about on-site classes. Back in the old days of online learning, students often turned off their cameras halfway through the 40-minute classes as the teacher couldn’t keep their eyes on the meeting every second during teaching and notice one, then gradually all the students turned off their cameras. Behind the screens, they could do nothing but to request students to turn their cameras on; if students refused to, there was nothing they could do. Behind the turned off cameras, us students might be physically present, mentally absent. Most probably surfing on Instagram, playing computer games or maybe taking a nap. Even if we left our phones somewhere else, deleted all the games, blocked any websites for entertainment, the short distance between students and the screen was like miles away. Concentrating in class had become the most arduous task to achieve, not to mention digesting and absorbing the massive amount of knowledge. Meanwhile, during face-to-face periods, the stares we receive from the teacher, the learning atmosphere and rules of the class couldn’t be found in online lessons, this is why on-site classes are irreplaceable. We are forced and accustomed to focus on the materials and perceive the facts delivered by our teachers. The process of absorbing all the concepts is comparatively easier compared to distance learning when our self-discipline isn’t strong enough to allow us to stay motivated, concentrated without the supervision of adults. In short, we can learn much better during on-site classes at school.

Opponents may say, parents can be the supervisors. However, in 2021, on average only 2.4% of parents in America are stay-at-home parents. In general, adults have their jobs and tasks to finish, it is impossible for them to supervise their child for 8 hours straight at the same time. While, on-site learning will have teachers to finish the exact same task which they are paid to do.

Physical lessons at school also allow more variety in terms of educational activities that keep us engaged. Distance learning can only include repetitive online engagement tasks that carry similar "quizzing" natures, such as Kahoot, Quizlet Live, etc, while some teachers, when distance learning is in place, opt for reading textbooks and writing notes on the shared screen for the whole lesson.

The problem is, these two things can also be held physically with our electronic devices on hand, making them appear as very limiting, non-exclusive pedagogical options. What is more is that face- to-face sessions can hold profound philosophical inquiry discussions, spelling bee competitions and other events. The competitive nature of adolescents awakens, we are more willing to participate and compete with our peers; the memorable and meaningful experience will remain in our hearts, readily recalling the key points during tests or exams. We aim for a pleasurable study experience, we should let our student fall in love with, not to be tired of learning. Having the passion towards studying in our hearts is the most effective way for a school to foster high achievers.

On-site classes provide teachers with the best teaching environment. The reactions of students are real-time, once they observe any hints of confusion on the faces of students, they can adjust the teaching pace or teaching method that fits our study needs. Teaching online will make educating students more complicated, teachers not only have to switch screens, they can hardly get any responses from students, they can't monitor their progress and adjust accordingly. The responses received are mostly from the same students, the question and answering can only reflect certain students’ understanding not the class as a whole. The teaching effectiveness is low, both students and teachers are mentally worn out during the process, not to mention the low percentage of information taken in by students.

Opponents claim their children are able to get more rest under distance learning as studying at home saves travelling time, the longer sleeping hours provide more energy for concentration in class. As a matter of fact, I gained 2 extra hours of sleep after distance learning during the pandemic, waking up a few minutes before class starts. I saved the time for preparation, had breakfast in the first lesson but because I saved the time from tidying myself up and walking to school, I was barely awake and ready for studying. On-site learning pushes students to prepare and get themselves ready, most importantly psychologically prepared.

In my view, distance learning should be used on special occasions when on-site learning is not feasible to allow students to continue their studies, namely during pandemics with prohibition on group gathering. To sum up, considering the poor learning and teaching efficiency in online classes, on-site learning cannot be replaced by distance learning. Thank you.