Major Project #4: The Struggles of Adapting to Online Learning Amidst a Global Pandemic

Dagny Haim

Professor Weaver

English 1102 Section 330

27 April 2021

Why has online learning been a struggle for students to adapt to during COVID-19?


The development of COVID-19 across the world has caused widespread panic amongst students and teachers. Many were scrambling to transition to online learning as quickly as possible, which caused a lot of stress for education everywhere. With online learning, a lot more independence and self-motivation became necessary for students to get their work done. The days of being monitored by teachers and communicating closely with peers were over, at least for a period of time. 


Over a year ago, the CoronaVirus pandemic initiated a worldwide shutdown, which included the shutdown of educational institutions. Eventually, schools and colleges were able to swiftly change their curriculum to fit a virtual learning experience. With resources like Zoom, a group video call service, teachers were able to adapt their lectures to an online platform. International web companies started to offer free services for education purposes, according to the article, “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how.” It also shows a graph of worldwide school closures from February 2020 to March 2020, featuring 1.38 billion closures at the end of March. Authors Cathy Li and Farah Lalani say that “[w]hile some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning – with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth, others believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge, with significant benefits” (Li and Lalani). They discuss the differing opinions on how a rapid switch to online learning could affect the future of education. It could negatively affect an entire year’s worth of education for those in school, but it could also jumpstart an entirely new format of learning online. After mentioning the struggles of online learning for those who do not have reliable access to technology, they say that “[s]ome research shows that on average, students retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting” (Li and Lalani). When students are allowed to work and learn at their own pace, there is significant improvement in grades and material retainment. 

A different article that disputes Li and Lalani’s conclusion that students are able to learn better online is “Students are falling behind in online school. Where’s the COVID-19 ‘disaster plan’ to catch them up?” The article starts by telling the story of a 14 year-old freshman named Ruby, who is struggling to motivate herself to stay onboard with e-learning. Author Erin Richards explains that “[v]irtual learning might be keeping Ruby, 14, and her family safer during a public health crisis. But it has made it exponentially harder for her to stay motivated and learn. Her online classes are lecture-heavy, repetitive and devoid of student conversation” (Richards). Being a high school freshman is notoriously difficult as it is, but adding a new layer of an entirely new change to the way students are learning sounds outstandingly stressful. The article states that about half of students in the United States are still only attending online classes (Richards). Richards reinforces the topic of under-privileged schools mentioned in the previous article when she says that “[t]he consequences are most dire for low-income and minority children, who are more likely to be learning remotely and less likely to have appropriate technology and home environments for independent study compared with their wealthier peers. Children with disabilities and those learning English have particularly struggled in the absence of in-class instruction” (Richards). On average, students might be able to handle the stressors of learning online, but there are obviously a few stragglers, as pointed out in this article. 

A research study conducted by Georgia State University professors came to a similar conclusion about how COVID-19 has impacted education in today’s world. Most articles about the changes in education in 2020 featured more information about grade schools, but this research study broadens a reader’s perspective on how CoronaVirus has affected all academic levels. Once again, this study is also keen on reiterating the unfortunate fact that not all students have reliable access to technology by saying that “[t]he best tools can be in place, but without equitable access by all students to the tools, adequate preparation time and training for faculty, and the adaption of existing curricula, or the development of brand-new course syllabi, it will be difficult to replicate the in-person learning experience, online” (Armstrong-Mensah, et al.). Going further into the study, the researchers explain their scientific process of gathering information on GSU’s student body. According to their tables, one hundred percent of students they interviewed had some sort of access to technology, which made their transition to e-learning much easier. The study also mentions resources that Georgia State has offered to students during these difficult times, including wifi hot-spots and pre-recorded lecture capabilities. Another statistic deemed important by the study was that thirty percent of students preferred synchronous learning, because it allowed direct communication with their instructor and peers. On the other hand, the transition to online learning made the academic workload more strenuous for sixty percent of students. Contrasting to the second article, GSU’s study states that a little over half of interviewed students said they were able to stay motivated for their online classes (Armstrong-Mensah, et al.). 


There are many differing opinions on how COVID-19 has affected the transition to online learning. Some believe that the development of remote education can allow for more technologically advanced education services in the future, which could make things easier for both teachers and students. On the other hand, students who had to learn how to adapt to e-learning may struggle with motivation for extended periods of time, which can affect their futures.

Works Cited

Armstrong-Mensah, Elizabeth, et al. “COVID-19 and Distance Learning: Effects on Georgia 

State University School of Public Health Students.” Frontiers In Public Health, Georgia 

State University, 18 Aug. 2020,


Li, Cathy, and Farah Lalani. “The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Education Forever. This Is 

How.” World Economic Forum, 29 Apr. 2020, 


Richards, Erin. “Students Are Falling behind in Online School. Where’s the COVID-19 ‘Disaster 

Plan’ to Catch Them up?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 13 Dec. 



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