Extended Distance Learning Demoralizing EVHS Students



Ms. Graves provides students with tips for dealing with distance learning on her Instagram account, @cougarsupportden.

Karen Chen

In March 2020, students celebrated what many thought would be a short break from school due to the pandemic. After nearly a year, the short break has turned into a long pause in in-person learning. The once positive outlook on distance learning has taken a turn for the worse. 


Since distance learning has started, students have expressed negative responses to changes in school. Frustrations towards losing many anticipated events and adjusting to distance learning has lowered many students’ morale. While students were given time to readjust to the new online school setting during the first semester of this school year, student feedback on the experiences have brought up concerns for mental health. 


Results from the Fall Pano Survey, a survey taken by students at the beginning of the school year, show that a large portion of students initially were impacted negatively emotionally by distance learning changes: 24% of students reported feeling frequently or almost always lonely, 42% of students reported frequently or almost always feeling worried, 21% of students felt frequently or almost always sad, and 36% of students felt frequently or almost always frustrated. Additionally, students also initially felt that distance learning was difficult to follow and adapt to. In the Fall Pano Survey, 25% of students also felt that distance learning was slightly difficult, 14% of students felt it was somewhat difficult, and 11% of students have felt that distance learning was very difficult. Despite these difficulties, many students have been able to readjust to the new conditions of distance learning.


Fortunately, after the first semester, many students began familiarizing themselves with distance learning, even utilizing its convenience. Trisha Graves, Evergreen Valley High School’s social worker said, “Let’s be honest, many students are going to school in bed. We are moving so minimally.” Learning from home has allowed students to stay in a comfortable and familiar setting during class and attend with minimal participation, as they have the choice to turn their cameras and microphones off. 


The new digital resources and unique circumstances for online classes have created a better learning environment for some. Pari Sharma, a current sophomore, said, “I feel like this whole distance learning thing has been equivalent to or maybe even more beneficial than in-person, because I feel like I’ve learned more… because it’s more focused.” Being able to message and directly express concerns during class has helped Pari engage in certain classes more easily. Having more time to complete assignments and get tasks done has also been a great perk of distance learning. 


Ms. Graves has observed that due to online classes, students spend a majority of their time in their rooms. From attending classes to socializing, activities are all located in the same place. The flexibility of digital resources and the lack of direction or changes in day-to-day routines has caused students to feel less motivation to participate and engage in classes. 


Allison Lau, a current sophomore said, “I feel like recently, or like as distance learning has continued, it’s been harder to stay focused or be motivated.” Without immersive in-person learning, focusing on classes has become a struggle for some students. The interactive elements of a classroom setting hasn’t easily translated to online classes. Self-studying and seeking extra help has become a common way to counter these issues.


However, getting too comfortable with these schedules could backfire on students in the future. Katie Lau, a student, said, “Before distance learning, I packed my schedule with a lot of things, so it was really overwhelming for me and it was also very tiring. But now that everything’s online, I feel like it’s a lot more manageable and I feel like my stress levels have gone down.” Without the need to travel and being able to access most resources from electronic devices, the workload and stress of a normal in-person class has become significantly less overwhelming. When returning to in-person school, Ms. Graves fears that students will experience a worrying “level of exhaustion” due to the sudden change in workload.


“This distance learning has gone on for so long and most students are getting overly comfortable with it,” said Ms. Graves. “It’s pretty nice to not have to get up and go to school and not get yourself ready.” Students don’t have a classroom setting where teachers are able to indirectly pick up on any confusion or issues. By giving students more options to opt-out of focusing in class (muting, no cameras, etc.), Ms. Graves says students are “barricaded… in our [their] safe place, our comfort zone.” 


When students are able to return to a normal classroom setting, these safe and comfortable options won’t be available anymore. Having to see peers and start getting ready for classes again can make adjusting to in-person learning an anxiety-inducing experience. Furthermore, distance learning itself hasn’t been great for some students as well. 


Distance learning has brought upon concerns in learning for other students. Ian Marwong, a student at Evergreen Valley High School, said, “I feel like I’m not learning as much as I should be if we were in in-person school, and I guess distance learning has just become a routine, so it’s just something that I do, I don’t think much about.” Not being able to implement certain learning methods normally available in in-person learning has been difficult for many students to adapt to. Students who benefit from more interactive lessons and hands-on experience, for example, have had to find different ways to adjust to online classes. 


In order to combat these changes, most students have organized a new routine for school work on their own. Ms. Graves advises students to find ways to vary and change their routine in order to create more opportunities to find excitement and motivation as a preventative measure. 


Ms. Graves said, “Finding activities other than just staying in your room, making an excuse to get outside of your room, I think, is greatly beneficial to students whether it be that you found a new hobby or picked up an old hobby.” For the many students who find themselves holed up in their rooms, being able to implement an activity or diverse routine to give normalcy is crucial to staying motivated and maintaining a flexible mindset before students are able to return to school. At the very least, by finding ways to create a healthier environment, students might have an interesting story to tell of their pandemic experience.