By Frances Elwood ‘23 News Reporter
Virtual learning was never meant to perfectly simulate in-person learning, and that is certainly being felt by many disheartened students and teachers. Many feel that they are missing a key aspect of the learning experience. Whispering with friends, interrupting to make a quick joke, vigorously arguing over something: these are the human experiences that make a classroom feel like more than just a room to be pumped full of facts and they have been, unfortunately, stripped away.
Although Mercersburg rebooted its online experience this fall with Virtual ’Burg 2.0, both teachers and students are still feeling the limiting effects of the online learning experience. John Blanco ’23 explained that virtual learning makes him have “less motivation to do [his] work and less enjoyment doing it.” History teacher Tim Kerr seems to share Blanco’s sentiment: “It makes it difficult to engage with students…[I]t can sometimes be draining putting so much into something and feeling like it doesn’t move the needle in any way for some of my students.” So clearly, the lifelessness of virtual classrooms can be frustrating and tiring. As one virtual student explained, “Staring at little black boxes and talking to faceless people for an hour can feel very disappointing… I feel very separated from everyone else.”
This feeling of separation doesn’t end in the ‘classroom.’ Many virtual students feel they are not connected to the community as a whole. While PGAs are normally a time for students to bond over a shared love for an activity, now many feel isolated in theirs. Emily Jiang ’24, a new ninth grader, explained that her volleyball PGA doesn’t offer her “much to do other than exercise.”
And as for the option of SAC and other community events, virtual students seem like they were not informed about them. Kellian Sisovic, a new student, wrote, “I’m not too sure about what SAC Events are.” Another student said, “Virtual SAC events? I didn’t even know they were a thing.”
So clearly there is something missing from the virtual learning experience. Students feel disconnected from the community and each other, and teachers feel disconnected from students. But how to solve this problem? Emily Jiang says she wants “exposure to more people in [her] grade.” Another student had a similar idea, saying “I’d like it if we could just hang out together or something.” All together, clearly what is needed to liven up virtual school is more genuine human interaction, something we are all starved for in the pandemic world.