What Remote Learning Misses: The Motivation Factor
By: Dami Akande
From mid- to late March, school administrators all over the country began to make the difficult
decision to shut down their physical sites as the threat of an uncontrollable Covid-19 outbreak
loomed. Millions of students were promptly transitioned into a remote learning system,
utilizing online applications such as Zoom or Google Classroom, to complete the remainder of
the school year.
The transition to online learning was met with much backlash from students and parents alike.
While the need to reduce large gatherings is acknowledged as a necessary public health
measure, school officials have been criticized for failing to consider several factors that make
remote learning a poor long-term substitution for traditional learning. From the assumed universal accessibility of a reliable internet connection to the additional educator role placed on working parents and older siblings, remote learning clearly has its disadvantages.
While several discussions have been held surrounding the faults of online learning, a primarily
student-led topic of discussion has been the importance of their mental health. Students across
all ages and backgrounds are struggling as they are expected to go on with business as usual
while living in the midst of a pandemic. The question of how to stay motivated and focused on
schoolwork while watching the world descend into chaos unprecedented in their lifetime is
pressing and revealing itself to be completely rhetorical.
Everywhere, students are facing varying degrees of motivation and lack thereof. As a student
myself, I can speak to my experience being amongst the latter.
When I was first notified that my last quarter of college would be cut short, I felt all kinds of
emotions. I was confused, upset, and admittedly frustrated. Though I understood the
significance of the public health precaution, I couldn’t keep my disappointment at bay. I felt
that it was unfair that I wouldn’t be getting a conventional conclusion to my college career and
was rushed to an end I didn’t anticipate.
2 months later, I have somewhat made peace with the way my senior year is playing out, but
that hasn’t made the final stretch any easier. If anything, it has become much harder. As I
balance a mere two courses this quarter, I am struck by how little motivation I have to end
strong. I am among the lucky few who had understanding professors who avoided workload
inflation to “accommodate” online learning however, I still occasionally find myself dealing
with novel levels of apathy.
Conversations with friends, posts on social media, and student-written articles online have
shown that I am not alone in this sentiment. Students have witnessed life as they know it shift
tremendously over a short period of time and it is no surprise that school work isn’t at the
forefront of their minds. Adapting to social distancing, being barraged with negative news all
hours of the day, watching loved ones lose their jobs (or losing jobs themselves) are just a few
issues rightfully commanding the attention of students during these times. Not to mention the
fear of watching themselves or a loved one fall victim to Covid-19. How can anyone be
expected to remain alert, motivated, and focused given such a reality? Given the state of the
world, any remote learning format that matches or exceeds the strain of traditional learning is
setting up students for failure.
As the possibility of an online fall semester becomes more and more salient, it is crucial that
school officials take into account the mental and emotional burden students have carried over
these past few months. School curriculum and workload should reflect a thoughtful
consideration for the mental health of their students. The world has made adjustments while
existing in uncharted territory- why should it be any different for the education system?