The Effects of Online and In-Person Learning on Students Well-Being


In the fall of 2020, it is estimated that 76.1 million students across the United States are attending school within the 2020-2021 academic year ("Fact Facts: Back to School Statistics", 2020). 76.1 million people are constantly making decisions about whether it is best for safety reasons to complete school remotely or to attend classes in-person while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). In mid-March of the year 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic swept both the nation and the entire globe, causing a global lockdown of non-essential businesses. A large portion of the global student population had to drastically switch from learning and interacting in a face-to-face environment to learning only through the use of technology. Thus, it resulted in certain students flourishing in their studies. While with other students it hindered not only their academic success, but it also impacted other aspects of their life including mental health and social interaction. The differing education styles between online and in-person learning can affect a student’s well-being.

Online learning allows for a smaller amount of communication with others, which benefits students that have difficulty socializing with others. Students who may suffer from social anxiety, who are more introverted, or are socially being harassed by other students can benefit from not having to interact with certain students or a large number of students. That is due to the fact that in an online learning format, students can primarily interact with others through discussion board posts or students can turn off both their cameras and microphones during Zoom lectures. Therefore, students don’t have to worry about having to interact with any certain students one-on-one or being pressured to speak in class, which can occur inside of the in-person learning format. 

Online learning requires diligent self-motivation and persistence, in which students who need external motivation to succeed can hinder both their grades and their mental health. Numerous students are accustomed to receiving continuous motivation to work hard in school based on being able to constantly interact with classmates, teachers, and friends. As an illustration, according to the Harvard Business Review (2013), “For the typical student, taking a course online rather than in person would decrease his or her likelihood of course persistence by 7 percentage points, and if the student continued to the end of the course, would lower his or her final grade by more than 0.3 points on a 4-point scale.” Certain students are losing persistence in their online courses because they are used to having scheduled breaks, social times within classes, and group projects that allow for collaboration built into an in-person school style. As a result, it encourages students to come back to their studies mentally refreshed and ready to start working again. However, inside of the online learning style, students are pushed to create their own personal motivation to work or study. There tends to not be scheduled social breaks or social time throughout the day to motivate students to keep studying and keep working. Therefore, without having a strong social motivation to encourage students to continue forward with their studies, students’ academic progress could be considerably impacted and could feel mentally drained from only focusing on their studies. 

In-Person learning allows for students to receive both free one-on-one academic help and face-to-face mental health services, which benefits student’s mental health and academic success. While inside of a physical classroom environment, students are easily able to raise their hand to instantly either ask a question or receive one-on-one individualized help from the instructor or teacher. In which, this can help improve a student’s grade because when a teacher is reexplaining the course material and practicing problems, in the future the student is more likely to remember how to solve problems on a future test, quiz, assignment, etc. Similarly, in-person learning offers all students the opportunity to have in-person free therapy sessions from licensed school counselors. These mental health services allow students to openly share about problems that they may not be able to talk to anyone else about, and it helps students to relieve stress, deal with their thoughts and goals, etc. Certain families may not have enough financially to put towards an outside source of therapy. According to a study done by the American School Health Organization, “Adolescents who had public insurance, were from low‐income households, and were from racial/ethnic minority groups were more likely to access (mental health) services in an educational setting only” (Ali, et al., 2019). Therefore, students who may not have the resources to receive the mental health help that they need, can receive access to those services and start to mentally heal.

In-Person school creates a social environment that requires socializing with different people, which can affect students who have a hard time communicating and creating relationships with others. Every day, students have to constantly interact with classmates and teachers, whether it be in small talk conversation with classmates, being a part of a group project, being called on in class, etc. The in-person school environment creates specific time blocks for students to socialize with friends during lunch, study hall periods, and free periods, which is helpful for students who flourish from socializing with friends or other classmates. On the other hand, students who may have social anxiety, who may be more introverted, or are being socially harassed at school may end up feeling mentally, physically, or emotionally drained after a 7- or 8-hour day at school. Therefore, these students may be able feel more comfortable and succeed more within a less social environment. 

Learning, millions of students across the nation and the globe attend school every weekday to learn. There was always the misconception that it doesn’t matter the way that you learn the particular content, as long as you are retaining the information and learning it. Although, the pandemic has helped teach students across the globe that the way each person learns information does matter. It matters because each student’s learning style is different and unique. Some students find that having face-to-face interaction and hands-on instruction of in person school helps students become happier, healthier, and academically successful. Whereas other students thoroughly enjoy having to be self-motivated to succeed in online school and are much happier socializing digitally through a computer then in person. No matter what education style any one person chooses, each student should be able prioritize their education that will best serve them and their wellbeing.

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