Online learning is effective for chemistry

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on society and, even though categories such as grocery store employees, healthcare professionals, and other essential workers have been highlighted in the news, the truth is that the pandemic has affected all groups of society, students included. Students tend to be left out of the news, but schools have been some of the first public places to close down, triggering unprecedented changes in the education system.

Now, students are on summer vacation, but it’s still unclear when and how schools will look like once they reopen. Many experts say that transmission will be imminent and that reopening schools is a dangerous experiment that will lead to a surge in cases. In all this anxiety, students still have to worry about grades, exams, social life, and future studies. So, how are they coping?

80% of students say that the Coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health

The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to people’s mental health. Living under lockdown, without access to the usual facilities that they’ve gotten used to, and facing constant fear and uncertainty have led to some worrying results. A study conducted by the World Health Organization revealed that the prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased and that many people are feeling tired, having less energy, and worry about the impact that COVID-19 could have on their lives. For students, these effects could be felt even harder.

Even before COVID-19, students were facing their own mental health crisis. Compared to students of the last generation, the current generation is more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, leading to higher suicide rates among students. Additionally, it has been long debated that the way schools and universities are being run put a huge strain on students’ mental health and that students have to juggle too many responsibilities at once.

When we add the stress of the pandemic, the pressure can become overwhelming. A New York Times survey revealed the things that students worry most during the pandemic:

  • The health of their older relatives, which are more susceptible to getting the virus
    The lifestyle disruption caused by schools closing, such as not being able to meet with their friends
  • Students in final years don’t know what will happen to their admission exams or whether they’ll still be able to get into their dream college (especially if it’s abroad).
  • Not being able to get a job to support themselves
  • Juggling online classes with home responsibilities

The attitude towards the pandemic greatly depends on location. For example, students in the United States and the UK tend to be less stressed about its impact, while those in developing countries worry that COVID-19 will have grave consequences.

In this context, it’s up to parents and teachers to support students and help them get through these difficult times. Although communication takes place solely online, teachers must learn how to request feedback and encourage students to voice their concerns.

Online classes are the new normal.

Before the pandemic, e-learning was a trend and a promising one at that. However, even its most enthusiastic believers saw it as a way of complimenting the in-classroom experience, not necessarily a way to replace it. But now, with schools closing down and strict social distancing rules in place, online classes are the only type of classes allowed.

All over the world, more than 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom, and it’s now up to online classes to help teachers connect to their students. Whether it takes place on Zoom, Google Classroom, Skype, or custom platforms, e-learning is set to reach $350 billion in the following five years, and considering the increasing adoption rates, its value could become even higher.

In general, both students and institutions acknowledge the benefits of online classes during the pandemic, and even skeptics were convinced that it works; students tend to retain more information when learning online and also learn faster because they’re in a familiar environment. Online learning is effective for chemistry, Math, foreign languages, even IT. In fact, it can be even more effective than the traditional classroom because students feel more at ease asking questions and experience less anxiety.

However, that doesn’t mean that online classes don’t have their challenges. In order for them to become sustainable in the long-run, governments and schools need to work together to address these shortcomings:

  • Poor Internet access or low bandwidth
  • Access to laptops, tablets, and smartphones
  • The financial gap between students in privileged areas and people in disadvantaged communities
  • Young students need more attention because they’re easily distracted and learn better in a structured environment
  • Educators need to find ways of focusing less on traditional academic skills, and more on skills such as critical thinking and adaptability
  • Teachers need to be trained and learn to use e-learning tools with the same ease as students. In fact, as a result of the pandemic, e-learning courses have become more and more popular.

Family dynamics have changed.

Students who live with their parents are facing their own share of challenges when it comes to the dynamics of family life. From having to share the family laptop with parents and siblings to juggling online classes while doing house chores, students don’t always have it easy. For example, many young adults have to take over babysitting duties while their parents are working from home themselves. Again, opinions are split: while some kids have found solace in spending more time at home, with their families, others feel the disruption in their schedule and would rather go back to school. Then, there are the students who could no longer pay for student accommodation and had to return to their parents’ homes and study remotely. For them, quarantine comes with two challenges: adapting to online classes and readapting to life off-campus.