Chapter 8: COVID and learning
English 102, April 2021
Before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one believed that it would have the capability of being able to shut down schools, restricting human contact, and forcing individuals of every social class to rely upon technology. These three main issues have a connection with technological communication, being their main source of keeping in contact with their needs. As a college student living within the beginning and until the end of the pandemic, I can say that society has involuntarily been forced to use technology as a compromise to spread the virus. Places filled with students and teachers are most affected in these times as they are told to decide whether they would like to be in-person or online. This major decision will affect how students and teachers can communicate with each other more effectively.
However, the school system is still not fully prepared to make such a sudden change because of how it was based to be taught in-person. Students need to have strong communication with their teachers in order to keep up with work and understand the material. This idea is also vice versa with teachers to understand if their students are struggling or need help. This is a very difficult period to survive, but both groups need to work together with technology. As a source of knowledge and power, there is only so much that technology can do before it all depends on how students and teachers use it to keep up with their studies.
The main reason why schools along with their boards of education are still running is because of the power of technology. The idea of recreating a classroom with teachers, students, and a smart/black board, creates a virtual environment that mimics the feeling of being in an actual classroom. I have begun to realize more that since I am going to continue into my major of health sciences and knowing that the pandemic will not go away shows me that we will have to rely upon technology fully until the end of the pandemic.
Since the beginning of this semester, the opportunity of being able to research the topic of how COVID-19 has affected communication between teachers and students has taught me a lot of what goes on in terms of communication and literacy. I learned more about how the pandemic has affected different social classes and their struggles, and how other students have combated against the hardships of the virus. Through research, it has allowed me to agree with myself and change my major for how things will continue in the future of relying on technology to teach students difficult material and hoping that an online curriculum will lead to the same results of an in-person school.
One compromise that the boards of education and government officials decided on was to close schools. This generally seems like a good idea to restrict human contact and relieve the stress surrounding the pandemic. However, closing schools over long periods of time will lead to affecting the academic records of students (Kuhfeld et al). With how the pandemic has continued to spread it may take at least 2 or more years to recover from the closing of schools (Kuhfeld et al). There was a research study conducted within china on young individuals with their mental health. It was revealed in the study that young people had serious mental problems (Leilei et al). There were other factors incorporated, however this simple main idea of the pandemic causing stress and anxiety for young people can be compared to other individuals around the world. Since a year has passed, the pandemic has had the power to reach most ends of the earth and we are only now creating a vaccine. These are only a few examples of the effects that the pandemic has had on a general group of individuals to show what could possibly affect students and teachers around the world.
For some additional support in my topic and outside scholarly resources, I decided to create my own study on the peers around me. The individuals included within my experiment were high school and college students as they are the population, I am surrounding my topic on. The experiment was a 6-question survey on google forms with answers of yes, no, or just a little. My thought process on only having two options was so that the students would make up their mind and to not give me confused data. I felt that it was better if I got responses that my peers were forced to think about, rather than taking the easy route and saying an in-between answer.
The first question that greeted my classmates was “Have you ever struggled with online schooling?” The reason behind this question was to see how my peers have felt about online schooling since it has been a year since the lockdown protocol. Of my 52 responses, 48.1% said yes, 19.2% said no, and 32.7% said just a little. I was not surprised so see that at least half of the responses felt that online schooling has been unpleasant. The other half of the responses felt mixed about online schooling, being average and just a little difficult. The reason this question is the only one to have a third choice was because I did not want my experiment to be boring or suffocating with just two choices to choose from. Allowing my peers to effortlessly think about their answers and respond was my thought process for getting responses that came to their mind instantly.
The second question is a follow-up to the first because I wanted to make my experiment known that this is the topic I am researching. The second question asked, “Do you prefer to take school online?” With this question, I wanted to see that if my peers enjoy online schooling then that could explain why there were people who did not find online schooling hard in the first question. The results showed that 78.8% of the responses said no, and 21.1% said yes to preferring online schooling. I was also not surprised by these results because of the research I have been conducting on my topic for the past couple of months. This entire experiment cannot be used to represent the entire population of high school and college students; however, it is a good representation of a small strata of students who live in Ohio and go to public schools. The location and environment of my peers is an advantage to other students who live with low-income, or do not have the technology to know what online schooling feels like.
With the months of doing research on how the pandemic has affected students with their studies or just living a normal life, I wanted to ask my own question about technology. Through my research I learned that there were a decent number of students around the country who did not have access to the internet or have sufficient technological devices to go to class or do homework. This frightened me because the pandemic could continue and involuntary hurt students of the lower social class. My final question was, “Do you own a device that can easily help you access your classes and homework?” Of the 52 responses, no one was able to say no, which is surprising and frightening. The idea of technology having such an impact on how students view schooling, or even having access to technology can impact on how students can go to school. This experiment has been done before on larger scales and with the same outcomes, however I wanted to create my own in order to see for myself that I could trust the scholarly articles I have been using to justify my research. With these discoveries in mind, it will be much easier to understand the reason behind the research questions I will base my topic on.
My first question dealing with communication affecting schools: How do teachers use technology to communicate with students during the pandemic? My next question is similar; however, it is more specific to college students today. How do teachers incorporate the use of blackboard collaborate and student emails to rely on the information about the course?
Research Question One
So how do teachers use technology to communicate with students during the pandemic? The purpose of my first question being so simple-worded was because I wanted to generalize about the studies and conversations that went on under this question. The idea of communication is that it requires the effort of both sides. But since the pandemic has begun exposing food insecurities around the country, students in a difficult home environment are now struggling to have something to eat daily (Lancker). In addition to their food struggles, students also do not have suitable online learning environments with no heat or reliable internet access (Lancker). Knowing that these unfortunate students exist, I still have not seen any compromises made in order to help students in general. Students with bad internet connection, unusable devices, and struggling to stay healthy are all problems that poor families have begun to face. This is the hard truth where schools and their boards of education are still going through academic year like the pandemic does not exist. However, this my biased point of view comes from the fact that I know that I am not the only student facing challenges during this difficult time.
There are not many chances where adults and children alike, get to experience a long period of struggle and distress. Some could argue that with COVID-19 having impacted face-to-face interactions it has the advantage of positively affecting our daily lives. One positive impact that the pandemic has had, is that it created a time period where we would learn new skills for the time being of staying inside all the time. New hobbies, catching up with old friends, reading books, and or having time to relax. However, James Gee’s article supports the idea that COVID-19 is negatively affecting the communication between individuals. Gee goes into detail on the ideas of “discourses” and “identity kits;” he associates these terms with the requirements of using language and where it comes from. Gee describes a discourse as an identity kit that is comes with the complete package of how an individual interacts with others to be recognized (Gee 18). He also categorizes different discourses by “primary” or “secondary” to separate the communication that goes on between and individual with their family versus outside experiences. For the purpose of this research paper, the term secondary discourse will be focused on because of its importance. In Gee’s article he states that, “beyond the primary discourse, however, are other discourses which crucially involve social institutions beyond the family.” Gee describes secondary discourses to be an identity kit that is created from interacting with outside experiences where social interaction occurs. These social institutions that Gee writes tries to explain places of work, school grounds, stores, or business buildings.
The reason why I use Gee’s idea of secondary discourses is to show that with COVID-19 coming into existence means that if the pandemic continues, then that will lead to the end of secondary discourses. In logical sense, this will also mean that people in the future will only have a primary discourse. Meaning that they will only know how to speak with family members, and not knowing how to communicate with others in the outside world. On the other hand, there is also the existence of technology which can temporarily keep secondary discourses alive. There have not been any academic articles where scientists have conducted research on the rate at which secondary discourses are disappearing, but that does not debunk the idea of that this could negatively impact society in the future.
As a freshman college student, I realized that in high school we did not get mental health awareness week. But last month from March 8-12, the college sent out emails and created PowerPoints to portray how they were trying to help their students. It was a good effort to show that the Board of Education knew that their students were facing hard times during their studies. On April 20, 2020, there was a study conducted on 584 participants ranging from the ages of 14-35. The purpose of this experiment was to understand the mental health of young people a couple weeks after there was worldwide news of the pandemic (Leilei et al). The results came out to show that about 40.4% of the participants had psychological problems, and about 14.4% had PTSD symptoms (Leilei et al). As with every experiment, we cannot use this small substratum of data to represent every young person living within the United States. For example, during the first 2 weeks of hearing about the pandemic I did not feel any sort of trauma or stress until after a couple months of being in lockdown. Correlation does not mean causation. This sentence usually shows up in academic areas of statistics or math generally. Just because this experiment has shown that COVID-19 has negatively affected the mental health of young people does not mean causation. However, with the assistance of more studies being conducted over a long period of time it will eventually justify the prediction.
There was another study conducted on the mental health of young people during the pandemic, however this time it was with college students from April 25 to May 8. So, this study was conducted around the same time with article from Leilei Liang, but with a different population of participants. There was a total of 530 college students who responded to their survey, and on average about 80% of the respondents knew of how the virus was transmitted and the importance of social distancing (Baloran). Within the study, it was found that even though students responded with having anxiety there was still several students who were able to deal with their own anxiety.
From the experiments with Leilei Liang and Erick Baloran, the only difference is that population that was used. One study had a general group of young people, and the other had students from two local colleges in the Philippines. I feel that both experiments have enough similarities to be compared with each other and I can see that I am somewhat correct in my assumption. Both were conducted at the same time, had a similar size in participants, conducted on a similar age group, and reporting on the same conclusions. These similarities can be used to support my idea of the pandemic students academically and mentally. My own research experiment, the loss of Gee’s secondary discourses, and the decline of the mental health of young people and eventually society can all be supported by these two scholarly articles. With that in mind, COVID-19 has been affecting the mental health of young people and could potentially force society to lose their ability of talking with others outside of their family. Online learning has been the main source of continuing academics, but to say that it is keeping students learning and motivated is not correct as seen from their mental health. There is only so much that technology can do in order to preserve the face-to-face communication before society reaches its breaking point.
Research Question Two
How do teachers incorporate the use of blackboard collaborate and student emails to relay information about the course? From my first research question, we found that COVID-19 affected the mental health of young people and forced them to only have primary discourses. These issues in return affect how students communicate with their teachers as seen from how students nowadays do not turn on their cameras in online classes. I have experienced this firsthand where in my biology class that only meets once a week. There are roughly 100-110 students in my section, and only about 7 students on average are willing to turn on their cameras. From a professor’s viewpoint on this situation, I would assume that they would be frustrated and confused with the sudden change of scenery. Teaching in front of a class face-to-face is very different to teaching a list of names that are blank staring back at you.
In the article, “Teachers’ Covid-19 awareness, distance learning education experiences and perceptions towards institutional readiness and challenges” the study concluded that teachers were fully aware of how the pandemic would affect classrooms. However, one big issue that comes to mind is colleges and universities who are asking for thousands of dollars in return for online schooling. Boards of education across the country have still not been able to create a solution that makes the life of their students easier. Their response to COVID-19 was to train teachers to be fluent in online learning education (Alea et al). From this, teachers will create recorded lectures, notes, and online homework assignments from prepaid textbooks. Colleges with Blackboard Collaborate have an auto messenger that sends students assignments or lectures that have not been finished yet. Professors want to keep their students on top of things, so they try to always notify their students of work that is to be completed soon. They are also trying to be innovative so that they can keep the attention of their students and to promote and enjoyable work environment at home (Suryaman, Maman, et al).
As a college student, checking your email is part of the daily routine because a professor could have an issue with the class, or wants to give information on the coming days. For me, having Blackboard Collaborate remind me of assignments is very helpful because even though I finished the assignments early it tells me that I am keeping up with my work. However, not many students can just casually do their work whenever they would like without and issues.
In the article, “Online teaching-learning in higher education during lockdown period of COVID-19 pandemic” the study goes into detail about the relationship between teachers and students on online teaching. Overall, there seemed to be no issue within the data but there was an issue between students and technology. Students from different socio-economic backgrounds were seen to be having more trouble with keeping up with school as they do not meet the technological requirements (Mishra el al). This article also noted that professors were sending out weekly emails in order to keep their students informed. I would say that it is important for teachers and professors to be persistent in their emails and messages to students to keep us at ease. I am still only a freshman college student and I imagined myself to be on campus and talking with my peers. However, I am left with a computer screen with a list of names and a professor who is lecturing from past notes.
These 2 scholarly articles allowed me to realize the importance of teachers to be prepared and ready to compromises. From emails to a full access online system that allows students to work on homework and to obtain lectures/notes. With an additional article from 3 researchers, they found that technology is one of the many factors that ensures a successful transition into online learning (Almaiah et al). A similarity that all 3 articles share is that they heavily rely upon the strength of technology to recreate a classroom environment. So far, technology has been doing well enough to keep students on track with their academics. However, at the same time pushing students back because of whether they come from different socio-economic backgrounds or rural or urban communities. Even if every student was able to have sufficient access the internet, there is nothing that says servers may crash or malfunctions when being used. Not usually, but there will be students who will face issues with their technology, and they will have to tell their teacher/professor.
For example, there is nothing in a college syllabus that protects and individual who will occasionally not be able to use their technology. Their technological constraints, along with their teachers having feedback and not knowing how to handle the technology can be a huge setback (Muthuprasad et al). Some might say to move to a different location for a better connection, however in the period we are in that is not practical. If this individual also does not have enough money to afford a new laptop, then I can assume this will cause a lot of stress for them. In the end, technology plays a huge role in whether students will succeed or fail in keeping up with their academics.
After answering both research questions, COVID-19 has been seen to have a negative impact on both students and teachers. From the multiple scholarly articles and conducting my own experiment, this is enough evidence to prove how heavily influenced communication is by technology, and how schools are not readily prepared for such a change. With how advanced technology has become, there is only so much that it can do before it all depends on how students and teachers use it to keep up with higher levels of education. With mental health and secondary discourses being affected, students are also required to fully rely upon technology in order to succeed for their own benefit. I would say that both students and teachers are required to work hard in order to keep up with the curriculum they are given. From my evidence and research questions I hope that I bring to light at how classrooms have changed due to the existence of COVID-19. This is a time where mistakes should be allowed, and teachers along with students should be ready to make compromises.
Alea, Lapada Aris, et al. “Teachers’ Covid-19 awareness, distance learning education experiences and perceptions towards institutional readiness and challenges.” International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research 19.6 (2020): 127-144. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Almaiah, Mohammed Amin, Ahmad Al-Khasawneh, and Ahmad Althunibat. “Exploring the critical challenges and factors influencing the E-learning system usage during COVID-19 pandemic.” Education and Information Technologies 25 (2020): 5261-5280. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Baloran, Erick T. “Knowledge, attitudes, anxiety, and coping strategies of students during COVID-19 pandemic.” Journal of Loss and Trauma 25.8 (2020): 635-642. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and cultures (1998): 18-25. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Kuhfeld, Megan, et al. “Projecting the potential impact of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement.” Educational Researcher 49.8 (2020): 549-565. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Liang, Leilei, et al. “The effect of COVID-19 on youth mental health.” Psychiatric quarterly 91.3 (2020): 841-852. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Mishra, Lokanath, Tushar Gupta, and Abha Shree. “Online teaching-learning in higher education during lockdown period of COVID-19 pandemic.” International Journal of Educational Research Open 1 (2020): 100012. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Muthuprasad, T., et al. “Students’ perception and preference for online education in India during COVID-19 pandemic.” Social Sciences & Humanities Open 3.1 (2021): 100101. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Suryaman, Maman, et al. “COVID-19 pandemic and home online learning system: Does it affect the quality of pharmacy school learning?.” Syst. Rev. Pharm 11 (2020): 524-530. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Van Lancker, Wim, and Zachary Parolin. “COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the making.” The Lancet Public Health 5.5 (2020): e243-e244. Accessed March 16, 2021.