Distance Learning Should Not Imitate In-Person Teaching

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Sara Ortega, Copy Editor

Imagine you are a high school student taking a calculus test at home. You look through the questions and have no clue on how to solve them. However, your best friend excels at math. Would you ask for their help or fail the test based on your knowledge? In this situation, the vast majority will cheat to pass. Moving away from a traditional classroom setting, where a human being teaches and interacts with their students daily, has triggered cheating and a lack of learning. Distance education became ubiquitous as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Because of these circumstances, online teaching and learning had an indispensable role in early school education programs, but is it achieving education’s primary function?

The lack of direct supervision and reforms in subject plans caused by virtual learning allows students to easily cheat and “pass” without learning. Students have little to no motivation to learn and engage in classes, which opens the door for dishonesty. According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration (NASFAA), “Notably, 86% of all undergraduates surveyed identified the lack of motivation for online learning as the biggest obstacle, and 76% of graduate and professional students felt the same way.” 

The significantly high percentages of students who claim to have lost the motivation towards learning during the virtual age may be primarily due to the ease students have to distract themselves in their environment. The absence of interactive activities and assignments that involve critical thinking or answers that can’t be found on Google leads to the loss of interest in school subjects. On the contrary, some passionate students might not suffer the need for interactive activities or extra motivation, “I believe it all depends on each student because if you care about a subject, you will want to learn. In my case, I am motivated to learn math because I can concentrate at home,” Isabel Mora, TCS senior, said. However, this relies on the level of academic responsibility of each individual. Schools need to find a way to incorporate those who have not yet reached such a level.

There is clearly an absence of creativity in the school’s new distance-learning format as they aim to recreate the methods of in-person teaching for virtual school, which fails the purpose of education. According to The Washington Post, Before the coronavirus forced millions of students online, ProctorU, one of the companies that monitors online tests, caught people cheating on fewer than 1 percent of the 340,000 exams it administered from January through March. However, during the height of remote testing, the number of exams jumped to 1.3 million from April through June, and the cheating rate rose above 18 percent.

The increase of traditional tests taken online clearly demonstrates the correlation between the recreation of in-person teaching material and cheating. Having multiple-choice tests and online assessments, in which answers can easily be obtained, explains the ease of academic dishonesty shows that cheating lies in front of us.  Considering how rapidly the world advances and distance learning as the new reality which the world has adapted to, there should be no doubt that schools should incorporate different methods of assessing students to measure their understanding and push them to work hard. Traditional academia is gone, and so should the ordinary teaching methods to prevent students from effortlessly passing without learning. 

Schools continually fail to prioritize learning over grades as they are blinded by numbers that mean nothing and is why students cheat. Many motivating factors influence our interest in getting good grades. In many institutions, grades are used to rank students against one another, universities use them to accept and determine inscriptions, and even companies use GPAs as decisive factors in their hiring process, as stated by Pearson. The reason why students place grades over learning is strictly because of the pressure of institutions. In other words, schools should blame themselves when reflecting upon the many unethical actions taken by their students, which in reality are only to obtain passing grades. In the end, the truth depends on the student and how much they value learning.

This is why schools should use virtual learning as an opportunity to open students’ minds and push them towards the performance of more “purposeful” activities and interactive processes that require real effort and dedication. To achieve education’s primary goal, schools should shift to the “means of assessing”  by considering the outside factors given to students during distance learning and provide an adequate system with no room for academic dishonesty and promotes learning.