The Lasting impacts of Virtual Learning

Cassie Weymouth and Madelena Lapinski

School will never be the same. Grades, friendships and mental health were all put to the test during the 2020-21 school year. Surviving school during a pandemic was a new struggle to everyone, and going back was no easier. Managing school online tested the limits of both teachers and students and their ability to stay motivated, manage stress and keep a routine. When the opportunity to return to school was presented, going back was a different experience for everyone. It’s easy for the county to pat themselves on the back since many students claim they were able to maintain their grades during the virtual learning process, but the drop in grades upon entering this year says otherwise.

Of the 179 student responses in the survey, 65.4 percent of students maintained mostly A’s before, during and after virtual school. At face value this seems an impressive feat but, there is more behind the scenes than the data shows. 56.7 percent of students admit that maintaining higher grades was easier during virtual learning, bringing into question how valuable learning actually was last year. In addition to this, 87.7 percent of students stated that they feel as though they are both learning and retaining more information in-person than during virtual learning.

 This begs the question, how many students actually had a beneficial year on virtual learning? With student and teacher burnout, it’s unlikely that anyone gained much from virtual learning. Consequently, there’s a large learning curve for students returning to in-person after COVID. 

Dulaney English teacher, Hamilton, says,Most students seem relieved to have more structure and are working well with timelines and expectations in person…Of course, some have not yet grasped that deadlines and missing work will not simply be forgiven this year.”

This new year will be a harsh reality check with 74.2 percent of students reporting already having to put in more effort to maintain their grades than last year. This has a direct link to mental health with 42.5 percent of students reporting their mental health suffering significantly. This was not just felt just within Dulaney; throughout the country the proportion of children’s emergency room visits related to mental health increased significantly. Lockdown affected everyone, and teens were among those who were hit the hardest.

However, test scores and grades remained relatively consistent before, during and after virtual learning for over 65 percent of the Dulaney student body. On paper, student scores reveal that the COVID induced virtual year had limited negative impact on student academic performance, however it was the difficulty in maintaining these scores and the amount of genuine learning that changed significantly. The virtual learning workload was much lighter, making grades easier to maintain at the expense of genuine learning. Consequently, students are experiencing much more difficulty during the in-person school year which could result in grade drops in the future due to student and teacher burnout.