Beyond the




What Kids Love—and Hate—about Remote Student Learning

Frustrated child screams at a laptop screen.

As COVID-19 spread around the world, many schools quickly transitioned to remote student learning. Teachers immediately pivoted to creating engaging and effective online learning experiences for their students, and students adapted to a new way of learning. It was a challenge, but it wasn't all bad.

There are important takeaways to unpack from the remote student learning experience—things that kids loved, other things they hated—that can help teachers as they return to the classroom.

Further Reading: How Teachers Can Help Families Deal with Remote Learning Challenges

5 Things Students Love About Remote Learning

1. No Commute

Many students told me that they enjoyed not having to plan what they would wear to school, do their hair, jump on a bus, or walk to school. I teach in New England, where students didn't miss trudging through the snow to get to class. Students appreciated the extra sleep time. Many also said they liked that they didn't have to wear masks in their homes.

2. Learning Time Management and Organizational Skills

Many students said that remote learning has helped them prepare for college, careers, and life. Students had to quickly learn how to work independently, manage their time, and prioritize their workloads. They've learned how to create and submit their work online and how to stay engaged while learning.

When they return to the classroom, teachers should continue to provide opportunities for students to hone these skills. Teachers should encourage students to create schedules, set up deadlines, and use the tools in online platforms, keeping them aware of when assignments are due and can help them avoid procrastinating.

3. Less Anxiety

Remote learning has done wonders for students with anxiety. Some students told even me they wish they could do it forever.

"I love the fact that I don't have other kids literally breathing on me in a pandemic," one said.

And many said they appreciated that they're "not distracted by other students and can get down to work," as one student put it. Students felt safer at home, too, as there's less chance of bullying.

4. Teacher Accessibility

The students I spoke with told me that they think their teachers have been more accessible during remote learning, and they hope they'll continue to be when brick-and-mortar classrooms reopen. Students have learned to email their teachers with questions, direct message teachers during Zooms and Google Meets, and conference with their teachers one-on-one in breakout rooms. Self-advocacy is one of the most important skills students can learn, and students are mastering it during remote learning.

Teachers should ensure that students continue developing this skill. At the start of a new class, teachers should share with students how they can be reached via email and demonstrate to students the right way to communicate with them. Teachers should also show students how to message them privately in the chat of a Zoom hangout or Google Meet if they have a question or need the teacher to slow down or repeat something.

5. Online Class Platforms

Google Classroom and platforms like it have helped students and teachers organize, set due date reminders, and combat plagiarism. The platforms are accessible everywhere, so long as you're connected to the internet, and they make communication simple.

"No matter what happens, I always know what the work is and when it's due," one student said. "Even if I'm absent or late or my internet bombs, everything's in one place, and I can always find what I need to do."

Online platforms will continue to benefit students—even after schools transition back to full in-person learning.

5 Things Students Would Like to Forget About Remote Learning

1. Isolation

Every student I spoke with put missing their friends at the top of their list of things they hated about remote learning. Students miss their peers, of course, but they also miss face-to-face communication with their teachers. They miss recess, prom, sports, and club activities.

"I just want to have people to talk to about the small and big things that are happening," one 10th grader lamented.

2. Technical Difficulties

The technological disparities students face across our nation were highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, Education Week reports. It's an important discussion point: many students lack the resources, internet access, and equipment that enables remote learning success, and the gap between students who live in poverty and their wealthier peers is only getting wider.

But even if a student has the right equipment and technology, the internet can be shaky or go out altogether in bad weather. Microphones can break. Computers can crash.

"I hate when there are technical difficulties with me or other remote kids," one fourth grader said. "I'm frustrated for them and for me."

Nearly every student I spoke with reported being consistently aggravated by technology hiccups. Complicating matters, many students don't have workspaces in their homes, and those that do often have to share that space with their siblings, making communication and concentration difficult.

3. Communication Breakdown

Breakout rooms help a little to sustain a discussion, but it isn't easy to find that easy back-and-forth banter that classrooms provide via a screen. Being unable to incorporate discussions and collaboration into lessons has reinforced how valuable they are.

4. No Hands-On Projects

Most students love hands-on projects. Physical education, science, art, and music classes are especially difficult to teach online, and students in elementary schools missed out on much of the movement that's part of learning at that age.

My school's returning to a hybrid model, and I plan to focus on as many hands-on projects as safety allows.

5. Screens Stink

Nearly every student I spoke with agreed: spending so much time on a screen is brutal. Being on screens for extended periods is frustrating and agonizing, especially for younger students. I think we'll all be glad to cut down on screen time when in-person classes return. When it's safe, teachers can and should go back to hands-on lessons, role-playing, acting, manipulatives, and any noisy assignment that requires movement.

Further Reading: How to Combat Absenteeism during Remote Learning Days

The pandemic has been challenging for students and teachers alike. With the return to in-person school imminent, it's important to remember the good and bad of remote student learning.