As I lean back in my chair I can’t help but feel my brain recoil slowly into the back of my skull, the lesson had entered its second hour and now more than ever (especially considering the events that took place in Washington recently) do I feel compelled to refresh the news page for the fourth time in the past ten minutes. All the while my teacher’s morphed voice grows further away, my capacity for fous long since smothered by the temptation to search the internet for something just a little more stimulating, or perhaps I’d be able to get away with playing a videogame for just a little while… This so far has been my experience with online learning and from a quick survey conducted with my fellow classmates it’s clear that a lack of focus and easy access to distractions has been a problem afflicting most students during this stressful period. The reasons for this draining of focus however may not lie with the availability of the internet alone for research conducted by the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning has pointed to poor communication and misunderstandings on the part of both the teachers and students as a cause of demoralisation, from demoralisation comes distraction and a student’s ability to learn falls off entirely.

However there is a far more prevalent issue facing students across the country who are currently doing online learning: Isolation. Prior to the second national lockdown the only place where I could meet up with my friends face to face was college, fortunately talking with them online is still an option - albeit somewhat restricted by the limitations of poor internet - yet something still feels missing without seeing them in the flesh. It’s not only student’s social lives however that are taking a hit by this newfound isolation but also their capacity to learn. A research paper by Tim S. Roberts and Joanne M. McInnerney of the faculty of Business and Informatics in Central Queensland University in Australia emphasised the importance of interacting with other students in a learning environment and as such listed the relative isolation of online learning as one of its downsides. The importance of interacting with others is something I can attest to as in the classroom environment I frequently find myself compelled to raise my hand and answer questions as long as a plethora of other hands went up as well, behind the safe cover of my screen any such pressure to contribute to the lesson vanishes entirely.

The last, and perhaps the most painful, effect of online learning that I’ve seen so far is the feeling that time simply stretches on with no sense of separation between work and relaxation. This generally comes from the feeling that schoolwork has become homework and whereas before it was easy to find a distinct way to separate these two types of work now the line has become blurred and all devolves into one long school day.

Funnily enough I do still believe that online learning is the most viable solution for students in these trying times however if the government hadn’t been so indecisive over the course of action to take for this virus then maybe we wouldn’t of had to resort to this measure in the first place.