Distance Learning vs. In-Person Classes: Which one is better?


Robert Dong

Distance learners keep a relatively short class day compared to in-person students, and they rely heavily on recordings rather than teacher’s lectures.

It has been eight months since the first novel-coronavirus patient was reported in Wuhan, China. The virus struck the United States in early February, and became one of the most devastating diseases in the US. Among all fields which were disrupted by coronavirus, the education system seemed to be totally dysfunctional during the first couple months when the virus hit. Across the world, schools were shut down suddenly and tests were cancelled. But, thanks to some of the most prominent technologies in our time—the computer and the internet—people can restore their life virtually through a simple cable. Students like me can have the opportunity to still take classes without worrying about coronavirus. However, things are drastically different between the online learning process and an in-person class.

Distance learning leans heavily on a person’s self-disciplinary behavior than the actual teacher, mostly due to the physical distance. It requires much more work, both for students and teachers, to maintain the same amount of work they used to do in class. Without actually “being” in class, distance learners have lost their valuable times like Extra Help in the mornings, after dinner, and evening Study Hall. Now, when distant learners have problems when doing their homework, asking for help becomes much slower because all of our teachers live in different time zones. A question may come through and reach the teacher by next morning, but in some cases, the question is already solved by the student once the teacher replies. Hence, for distance learners, it is hard to adjust to this new “online mode.”

Distance learners keep a relatively short class day compared to in-person students, and they rely heavily on recordings rather than teacher’s lectures.

Academics are not the only part that is different from an in-person class. Despite distance learners still having access to their friends from Christ School, they have little chance to experience school activities and events. Located in the mountains, Christ School is proud of its excellent sports and school culture that enriches every student. Greenies on campus get to experience school events like Big Brother, senior leadership opportunities, sports games, and many other activities that bond students together. But for distance learners, we cannot have that same experience. For underclassmen, they might lose the chance to build a life-long friendship with some freshmen they never knew; for senior distance learners, they might lose the chance to have fun with their Christ School friends altogether. This even poses new challenges for senior leaders who are in distance learning, because it requires those people to maintain their work ethic while also taking some sort of leadership responsibilities.

A screenshot of the most frequent app for distance learners: Scanner. It is the best way to submit homework and tests.

However, every coin has two sides. Distance learning is not the worst thing to ever happen, and it has some benefits for students. The first benefit is safety. Unlike in-person classes, distance learning has absolute confidence in protecting you from the virus. Without being in a small space with lots of people, distance learners have little chance to worry about this pandemic at all.

Of course, this means that our in-person classes pose a higher risk for students that can live at or travel to Christ School daily. Students wear masks and follow social distancing rules, which I am sure has been difficult because Christ School is such a close-knit community. So it is not just for distance learners to overcome the difficulty of pandemic, but also for students in the school.

I hope this article could help you to understand the difference between distance learning and in-person classes. It does not cover all parts of the school life, but I wanted to share my ideas to my fellow classmates who are still learning at the school, and provide you with a unique insight about our distance learning lives back in China and elsewhere.