Student Journalists Offer Firsthand Insight into Online Education

By: Daniel Tyx

For their final project of the semester, students in our English 9/10 class produced their own online newspapers. It was the capstone of a unit on nonfiction writing in which we read and reflected on a series of newspaper articles from the New York Times Learning Network website, which this spring focused largely on the world’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

  While students had the option of covering any topic related to the Monteverde community, many chose to focus on the impact of online education on students in Costa Rica during the quarantine period–a subject with which they had lots of firsthand experience. Their reporting illuminated the views on online education of students across Monteverde, and even around the world.

For her group’s newspaper Monteverde Times, 10th grader Angelina Figuerola López conducted an online survey via Instagram of 150 students at three local high schools. She also did in-depth interviews with three students, one from each school, to learn more about their experiences.

The survey found that only 27 percent of students felt confident in their ability to learn online, while 73 percent did not. Challenges mentioned in the follow-up interviews included maintaining a schedule, staying motivated, and in some cases, lack of communication with teachers. Angelina’s article concluded with the following observations:  

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing us into a new age of education. This situation has proved that online schooling is possible, and as a result some might argue that traditional schools will no longer be necessary. Although this shift could be favorable in some ways, our survey data and interviews suggest that traditional schools are not on the way out, nor should they be. The truth is that schools provide students with much more than facts and critical thinking skills. The daily schedule is important in giving students structure, and for many the time away from home and family life is important. School is also important for the development of social skills in children and teens. Interpersonal skills, leadership, sports, and learning to present in front of others are all important aspects of school.

Leo Powers, an exchange student this year, expressed similar sentiments in his online newspaper The Covid Courier. Leo interviewed students at his home campus in Vermont, and compared their experiences with his own in Monteverde. He then wrote an editorial arguing that online education during COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital divide between students with access to fast internet and reliable technology, and those without. 

His editorial also reaffirmed the value of in-person education:

“Every kid I have talked to, in both the US and Costa Rica, agrees that they would like to go back to school now,” Leo writes. “Distance learning sounded all right at first, but has just ended up being stressful, annoying, difficult, and not fun.”