At least forty four million K – 12 students in the United States are adjusting to the sudden change to online learning. (1) Rather than waking up, getting dressed and walking, driving or riding the school bus to school, we are (hopefully) waking up and turning on our laptops, ipads or iphones to see our teachers’ faces. Will this change in learning style work? I contend that online learning during COVID-19 will not work for most students.

School can be stressful on it’s own and when you add the threat of illness and death from a relatively unknown virus, the stress level is increased substantially.  A student learns best in a non stressful environment and the current state of things is not conducive to learning. Some colleges have already recognized the effect of COVID-19 on grades and have offered students the option of taking their Spring courses on a pass/fail basis. (2) Other schools should consider this option so as to not punish the students who are having difficulty adjusting to the sudden change. 

Another important factor to consider is that teachers have been tasked with adapting their materials that were prepared for in class teaching to online teaching practically overnight.  Robin DeRosa, the director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at the Plymouth State University believes that “an excellent online course can take a year of development and collaboration among people with different skills.” (2) If it takes a year to develop a good online course with the collaboration of different people with different skills there is no doubt that expecting students to learn from online courses adapted by a teacher over a period of a few days will not work. 

Interestingly, the research on homeschooling shows that homeschooling is more beneficial to the student than traditional classroom learning.  A 2009 study showed that the percentage of students homeschooled that graduated from college was 67% compared to 59% of students from public schools, 54 % from Catholic schools and 51% from other private schools. (3) The research also shows that the biggest advantage of homeschooling is the ability to personalize the learning to the student. (3) The online teaching currently going on is not personalized to the student but rather a temporary fix. This online learning going on now is expected to be temporary in nature so most teachers and students are of the mind frame that when this is over we can get back to the real work.  In the meantime we will try to make this work. Frankly, it is not working. Schools should realize this and figure out ways to assist their students so they do not have to carry the stain of COVID-19 into the future. Agreeing to give pass/fail grades during this time would be a start.


1.   Darling-Hammond, “Learning in the Time of COVID -19.” March 19, 2020. Forbes

2.   Kamenetz, Anya, “Panic-gogy: Teaching Online Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic.” March 19, 2020. NPR

3.   Well, Chris, “Homeschooling Could be the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century – Here are 5 Reasons Why.” Business Insider.

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August 24, 2021 9:14 pm

Hello James:
I am impressed with “Online Learning During Covid Does Not Work” because it is true in my opinion it was such a different and difficult time we were in.
One sentence you wrote that stood out to me is; “School can be stressful on it’s own and when you add the threat of illness and death from a relatively unknown virus, the stress level is increased substantially.” I think is is super important because not many people realize how difficult it is to learn at home when you get distracted very easily. Not having a normal schedule to live by was the worst.
Thank you for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write because you write about interesting things that are happening now and that are super important to me.

Billy Riley Jr.
Billy Riley Jr.
May 4, 2020 6:10 pm

Hey James thank you for talking about this issue. As I am about to graduate and head to college. I notice it is hard for me to remember that I have school work to finish and sometimes I need the teachers help and since we all have lives and we can’t attend schools, finding the right hours to communicate with them can challenging. Lastly I want to bring up the fact that people can cheat on exams, hw, etc. So a lot of trust is going to be needed if the government is going to continue with online schools. Hopefully you can comment back and we can talk about more ways why online school don’t work. Great argument

April 13, 2020 3:00 am

Dear James :
I commend you on your post, “ONLINE LEARNING DURING COVID-19 DOES NOT WORK,” because its something that should be said because I too am finding it hard to work from home because i have AP testing coming up and I feel like i am not yet prepared enough for either of my exams. Plus i also an=m going into college and i wasn’t able to have a tour around the campuses so i’m going in blindly, not to mention that i need help with school both filling out financial aid info and homework.
One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “School can be stressful on it’s own and when you add the threat of illness and death from a relatively unknown virus, the stress level is increased substantially.” I think this is great because i’ve already been to high school i’ve already done my four stressful four years and learning from home when none of my teachers have reached out to me other than messaging me about how the week is extending, more homework, or not communicating at all when i ask questions about a subject.
Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because you’re writing is really good at conveying your ideas and persuading the reader

April 6, 2020 2:09 am

Hey James, thanks for writing about this issue, because it’s something that is greatly impacting us all at this moment. I agree with your contention that online school does not work for the majority of students. I as well agree that the classes should be moved to pass or fail grades if school does not return. The only question I have is what an alternative for online schooling would be? Especially being seniors it’s important we finish our credits so we can graduate on time, so if online classes were to be cancelled how would credits be rewarded.

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