Connection Error: How does online school impact student teacher relationships?


Ellie Pearsall, Staff Writer

Poor wifi might not be the only thing causing bad connections with remote learning. While zoom is a practical alternative to in person instruction, it isn’t always the best for growing strong relationships with other students and teachers.

I’m not having many problems so far with the technology side, although the connection with the other people in the class is strange,” senior Fern Mellor said. “There’s no chance to really get to know anyone else, no way to get a feel for anyone’s personality except for maybe the teacher. A lot of the time everyone just does their own thing but I don’t see that as a totally bad thing either, school is a lot easier for some people this way.”

Many teachers use breakout rooms, which is a setting on zoom that assigns students into smaller groups. Most teachers use it to allow students to work on group assignments or discuss their opinions on something talked about in class. It differs from student to student how comfortable they feel using breakout groups in their classes.

I have not been able to replicate the classroom environment and culture as much as I would like. Students are surrounded by distractions that are beyond their control and I am still new to all of this! The biggest challenge is connecting with students in the way I would in person; greeting them at the door, asking them about their extra curricular activities,” English teacher Rodney Allen said.  “ I have recently begun using breakout rooms to get the students into small groups and complete tasks such as Google slides as their product. I was inspired to do this by my English colleagues Kristen Kennedy and Parker Hunt. Students seem more willing to talk in the smaller groups.”

Breakout rooms can feel less intimidating for students to share their opinions and answers opposed to a full class discussion. The effectiveness of the groups can depend on the assignment or the people that they are paired with.

“If you get put with a group where no one wants to talk then it can be very awkward and uncomfortable,” Mellor said. “However, it is also a nice break to be put into smaller groups, and if everyone feels like talking it really can be an easier way for us to talk a bit more personally.”

Online learning really works differently for every student, and it depends on the learning style of the individual student. Some find it easier to stay on top of their assignments with the organization of the online platform or more comfortable from the comfort of their own home, but others can find school difficult without the traditional social aspect of in person instruction. Allen agrees that online learning forces a higher level of organization and preparedness. 

“Online learning definitely leaves a lot of the responsibility up to you,” Mellor said. “There’s no one right in front of you making you do your classwork. You have to keep up with the schedule and actually show up and pay attention in class in an environment where it’s so much easier now to just stay in bed. “You also have to stay accountable for work, for some reason there’s less pressure to complete things when you don’t have the guilt of being one of the only people in the room without the finished homework on your desk.”

While online learning has proved a difficult transition for both students and teachers at Reynolds, people are doing their best to look on the positive side and make the most out of a difficult situation.

“I think I prefer in person schooling but the online school definitely isn’t what I was expecting,” Mellor said. “Honestly, I expected much worse. It’s harder to keep up with everything for me, but it’s also nice to be at home, and the structure of having asynchronous time between classes is very helpful. I have found that I have more time between classes to really absorb what I’ve just learned rather than just keep moving through all my classes all day long and never retain anything.”