The Battles of Virtual vs In-person

A look inside the obstacles and perspectives of education with the arise of COVID-19.


Students pose with masks outside in the courtyard.

Demaris Wiley, Staff Writer

2020 was a year to the world unlike any other. While racial injustice, weather disasters and the recent presidential election was enough to discuss on its own merit, there was one without question that took center stage- the COVID-19 epidemic. The outbreak forced the world to take a good look at itself and question things that are often taken for granted. The virus among many aspects created new topics of conversation while questioning ones that we thought were commonplace. As it has seen, the epidemic has also put many at the opposite sides of the table creating debates, confrontations and moves for social reform. In respect to this, currential state of education has come up again and again as a subject of controversy. One being whether it is in a student’s best interest to take classes virtually online at home or to make the decision to take classes in school. Either way, our current educational system is put to the test to make these decisions that are embraced, scrutinized and analyzed every single day. 

      Taking an inside look on the effects virtual learning has placed on students during the pandemic- it has afforded students both advantages and disadvantages as they take the trek towards their academic success. Nikki Eye, a columnist for Scholarship America, states that online learning releases the restrictions that most students have in having to take classes in a limited number of environments. She goes on to say “a major benefit of online education is the convenience of it all, allowing students to log on when they see fit. With the wide availability of Wi-Fi connections, students can be logged in from anywhere in the world.” Online learning also supports the aspect of social distancing which has become the norm in many academic environments. In contrast, there are others that question the health benefit over the impact online learning may have on mental health. On a website post from that focuses on the disadvantages of online learning, a claim is made that online learning threatens social interaction, which they feel is a major component of the overall learning process. Staff from note that “many of the students and teachers who inevitably spend much of their time online can start experiencing signs of social isolation, due to the lack of human communication in their lives. Social isolation coupled with a lack of communication often leads to several mental health issues such as heightened stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts”.

Turning attention to in person learning, it is known that this method has been the style of choice for hundreds of years. Ever since the first educational institutions were established, the concept of meeting at brick and mortar locations has established relationships, forged new methods of learning, while creating social norms that last a lifetime. However, the presence of COVID-19 has come around to challenge everything that was thought to be the norm. At the beginning of the school year and right here locally, meeting in person at schools all across the Palm Beach County School District, was met with staggering numbers as it relates to the current pandemic. As broadcast by WPTV Channel 5, “more than 1,000 Palm Beach County students have been told to stay home because of possible exposure to COVID-19, school district officials said Friday. According to new numbers from the School District of Palm Beach County, as of 10:15 a.m. Friday, 1,020 students are at home. A spokesperson said the school district puts students and staff members on a “stay-home directive” if it’s determined they may have come in contact with someone infected with COVID-19”.  Since this time, an in-state “war” has been waged with the Florida governor and some school districts on whether mask mandates should be the letter of the law. Despite the current health risks that in-person learning may pose some feel that the risks don’t outweigh the overall benefit. According to IDEA public schools, “students learn more when they are in-person at school. Students receiving in-person instruction have fewer distractions, increased concentration, and can receive more direct, personalized learning experiences that keep them from falling behind”.

As the fall season arrives, the debate will rage on as to whether virtual or in-person learning is what’s best for students. Suncoast student Shovik Saha, 12th grade, gave his opinion stating “I think online school was better because I was able to be in the comfort of my own house, sleep more, and spend less time commuting back to and from school”. Farah Mesadieu, 12th, also made a statement similar expressing “I think school should be online, I was way more comfortable at home”. 

The Palm Beach County School District will continue to monitor the latest COVID-19 numbers, while students will choose what they want in terms of an educational atmosphere that works for them. What is certain is that as the COVID-19 epidemic continues its push forward, it does not give any thought to how society plans to continue the fight against it. Whether we are virtual or in person will continue to be a topic that continuously evolves which not only addresses the effects of COVID-19 but also how the educational system will operate beyond the pandemic. The focus should then be the people’s choice as to how students should be educated but how decisions keep us healthy, safe and unwilling to detract from our pursuit of academic excellence.