Taking breaks during online learning


Maya Leshem

Students working through assignments at Aspen High School.

With a new and unfamiliar way of learning, teachers, staff, students, and parents face the ongoing challenge of figuring out and master online education. Virtually teaching can be  an impossible task, but so is learning. 2020 has opened up a new way of using technology in our everyday lives, but school through a computer is unexpected. 

Spending most of the day sedentary at a desk is not a new concept, but children and teens are used to going to school every day, spending face-to-face time with their friends and teachers, and getting fresh air. School is also a climate that allows students to learn social cues and behaviors while creating meaningful bonds and connections with teachers that is very difficult to achieve over a screen. 

During these times, the priority for learning should not be completing busy work and getting assignments turned in by 11:59 pm. Teachers should be flexible with due dates and understand the impact that late assignments have on grades. Assigning a worksheet and making it due that day, or the next, seems unreasonable. Students face enough as it is and are not as resilient and flexible as everyone might think. Students value schoolwork and teachers, but piling a large workload affects mental and physical health.  Of course, deadlines and due dates are important, but how important? 

In any regular year, homeschooling is an option. Each state has its regulations, but in Colorado, students, “must average four hours of instruction per day,” according to hslda.org The online school at Aspen High School runs from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm, four days a week. This is six and a half hours of “school” every day. After a long day in school, students and teachers are burned out, and students are stuck completing their day’s worth of homework. 

Staring at your computer screen all day affects your mental health and your physical health. 

Aris Mosley, MD, writes in Valley Wise Health, “The light emitted from electronic devices interferes with the brain’s sleep cycle and can prevent getting a good night’s sleep…Heart health is also impacted and can lead to a higher risk of diabetes, increased blood pressure or cholesterol,” wrote Mosley. 

The stress of late assignments, keeping up with grades, and just understanding class material becomes even worse when your screen time increases. Studies have also shown that it is most useful to take breaks to keep your brain engaged while studying. 

Onlineschools.org writes about how to take sufficient breaks to benefit your studying and moral, “Old-fashioned exercise is a great alternative to hopping online during study breaks. While the brain produces the same amount of neurons regardless of physical activity, researchers found that people who exercise form more neurons that emit a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which has been proven to calm the brain and reduce overall anxiety.” -Onlineschools.org

As we start 2021 with another year of online learning, students and teachers should find a better flow of information, classwork, and homework that will keep everyone engaged and able to keep up with assignments and grading. Taking necessary brain breaks more often during class, shorter lecture times, more interactive lessons, and less additional homework could benefit everyone’s learning experience. 

It is also important to remember that everyone is doing their best. Under the circumstances, teachers, staff, students, etc., have put in the most effort possible to continue learning and adapting. 

 Shanya Joubert, a journalist for North Eastern, writes, “An online program demands the same focus and motivation as is required in a traditional classroom setting. Factor in additional distractions that online students encounter—such as children in the home while taking classes—and the workload can easily feel more challenging.” wrote Joubert. 

The flow of classwork, homework, and tests makes a lot more sense when moving between school and home. Students find themselves doing four subjects worth of lectures and classwork assignments on a regular school day during online classes. Then after classes end for the day, they are faced with many hours of “homework.” Tasks get piled up, and deadlines seem to crawl up on you. Motivation to participate and stay engaged in class has become forced rather than wanted. Procrastination is always the first choice for getting your work done;