Punahou Students: Learning ON Campus vs. ONline

Artwork+by+Joy+Leung+%2723

Artwork by Joy Leung ’23

After months of learning from home due to the spread of COVID-19, Punahou students returned to campus for the first time on October 13, 2020. The reopening of campus had been much anticipated by students who were eager to return to a more normal school environment. Most teachers began teaching block classes in person, but also accommodated for students opting to continue learning from home. However, even though many students are back on campus, semester classes are still being held online. 

Many students who have returned to campus have felt that the in-person learning experience was an improvement. For Maddy Hodge ‘23, learning in a classroom setting rather than from her home was more suitable to her learning style. Maddy said, “I can learn and retain information much better when I interact with people in person.” She also noticed that it was easier to access help from teachers when in the same classroom. In addition, Maddy found that there are many more opportunities for her to do interactive activities in class, including hands-on projects, which she wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in while learning from home. 

However, there are definitely limits to what can be done in classrooms while maintaining safety measures. For instance, keeping a safe distance from peers can prove challenging when trying to interact with them. Brooke Bailey ‘23 said, “My learning experience feels a lot more disconnected even though we are back on campus. It’s overall harder to interact when we have to stay socially distanced and communicate with others who may still be learning at home.” Paige Inouye ‘23 said, “It’s different because there’s definitely not much freedom to what we can do, or where we can go.”

And, for semester classes, hands-on projects are not an option. Since they are not yet held in person, semester classes still meet during synchronous class times via Webex. This requires in-person learners to log into their individual online classes while surrounded by peers. Celina Lim ‘23 felt that attending online classes at school is distracting and “can sometimes be noisy in the classroom with multiple people in different online classes.” In addition to this distraction, Eleanor Cowell ‘23 observed that students seem to be more uncomfortable with participating in class activities. She noticed that “people are a bit quieter now, since many of them are in shared classrooms with other people.” 

Unsurprisingly, students are also finding it difficult to adjust to the discomfort of staying in classrooms all day. “Staying in the same classroom for hours at a time can sometimes be mentally and physically tiring,” Celina said. Especially after months of learning from home, transitioning to a less comfortable environment can be exhausting for students. However, many students are also noticing advantages to their new learning environment, such as being able to focus more on their schoolwork. 

Celina, for one, has noticed changes in her productivity after returning to campus. She said, “At home, I was able to work at my own pace, but at school, I am given more guidance and structure.” For most students, this helps them to get their work done faster. While it is nice for students to be able to take their time completing asynchronous assignments, for some, extra encouragement from studying periods at school can help them to stay on track.

On the other hand, many online students are still glad they chose to continue learning from home. With more time to rest between classes, students find that attending school from home can be a little less tiring. The flexible schedules also allow people to complete schoolwork, exercise, practice instruments, train for sports, or pursue other interests during breaks. Katelyn Chen ‘23 said, “This also helps my parents because they would not have to worry about when to take me to and from school, which saves time.”

With students beginning to learn from school, many students continuing classes from home feared that they might not be given the same opportunities as in-person students. However, Katelyn said, “online, I personally found no difference in my learning experience. The teachers are still equally engaging with the students online and the students in person, and I am still able to learn effectively through the screen during class.” Katelyn does not feel that her learning experience has been negatively affected now that other students are learning in person.

With both in-person and online learning options available to Punahou students, people are able to choose how they want to attend school. Most importantly, all students are able to learn in an environment that feels suitable for them based on their own learning preferences. Hopefully, as the number of coronavirus cases in Hawai’i subsides, more classes will be able to transition back to campus. But for now, most students are satisfied with the school’s course of action upon reopening.