Students share their experiences about distance education

What do the students think about the education they are receiving remotely? What elements do they want to keep and what should go back to the way it was? And why is school important to them? In order to find the answer to these questions ‘School Leaders for the Future’ organised three online discussions with students at the end of May 2020. Gain insight into the current needs of students and read about how they prefer to study.

Studying at home

A number of students said that they enjoyed the additional freedom whilst studying at home. Ling tells us: “I like it at home, I have a lot less stress now. I can even everything in my own time. I feel like I am working for myself and not for school or for grades.” Jara informs us that she likes not having to constantly change classrooms and that she is less distracted at home. However, a number of students also indicated that they had problems with the additional freedom. Noa: “School provides a certain routine and rhythm.  Finding a rhythm is a lot harder when you only have online classes.”

“I feel like I am working for myself and not for school or for grades.”

Supervision by teachers

Remote learning means that students have to work more independently. Should teachers now check more regularly if students have mastered the material? Fleur: “It is obviously your own responsibility to do your homework, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that students know what is expected of them and that they understand the material. Ilknur indicates that she prefers a certain level of supervision: “It is helpful when teachers check your work and give you feedback. They tell me what I should pay more attention to next time and I can really learn from that.”

Social contact

Almost all the students miss the social contact the most now that the schools are closed. They find the social role school plays very important. Eva tells us that she has made friends with people at school she would otherwise not have met, because at her school the lower secondary education classes, mavo, havo and vwo, are mixed together: “As a result, my circle of friends is very diverse.” Jara mainly misses discussing things with other students: “Discussing things at school is not the same as talking on the phone.” Chris indicates that school is also a place where you learn social skills. “At school we have to frequently work together and sometimes with people you usually would not choose to partner up with. You also learn to stand up for yourself and to reflect on things, according to Chris.

Online versus offline

When you ask students whether they prefer online or offline lessons, they say that it depends on the type of lesson. Noa: “If it is just an explanation, it can be done online. If it is a matter of application then I prefer live lessons.” Chris adds: “I require more help for some subjects, so I would rather have those lessons at school.” Fieke agrees with this: I have noticed that I have more trouble with understanding maths when I get the explanation online. It is better for me when there is someone next to you who is paying attention to what you are doing.” Noa also says that it is better to follow the more creative subjects at school.

“If it is just an explanation, it can be done online. If it is a matter of application then I prefer live lessons.”

Practical assignments

Taking exams from a distance is harder than at school. Should there be fewer exams? Chris thinks that tests are a pleasant way of processing the material: “Then I really immerse myself in the learning materials.” He elaborates on this by saying that his preference for exams mainly has to do with the fact that they are the best way for him to prepare for the national final exams. Eva tells us that she learns the most from practical assignments, because they force you to apply the subject matter differently. Elise agrees with this: “Exams are to test what I already know. I learn more from the feedback I get from assignments.” Noa thinks that the practical assignments in particular are the most useful: “You have to apply the subject matter yourself and you can be creative. In the future you will rarely have to solve a math problem.”

More freedom of choice

In conclusion, most students indicate that they would like to have more freedom of choice regarding the lessons they do and do not have to follow. Ling tells us: “Sometimes during math I think: I have already mastered this. I would like to be able to say: I am going to do something else for the time being.” Cané has a different opinion: “That would also allow students to skip classes when they are not in the mood. If I were to do that, I would not understand a thing.” Fieke indicates that this is why it is important to learn about how to make choices regarding attending lessons.

Students’ tips

  • Look at what works and does not work for each student. Some students prefer more guidance, while other students like to work more independently. And some students prefer taking an exam to demonstrate that they have mastered the subject matter, while others prefer to demonstrate this by making a practical assignment.
  • Look into which (social) skills students want to learn at school. Several students have indicated that they want to learn skills that are required in society, like giving a presentation or writing an application letter.
  • Offer students the possibility to attend classes at different levels. A number of students have indicated that this would motivate them to study.
  • Look into the possibility of offering some of the lessons online to students who want this, but never completely switch to digital education.

In total, 14 students from different schools and years took part in this online discussion.

Try it yourself? Here you can find the Questionnaire

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