How distance learning is challenging and changing things at IMSA? - Michael Bello '21 | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

How distance learning is challenging and changing things at IMSA? – Michael Bello ’21

Michael Bello ’21

Chicago, IL

College Selection: Undecided

Around March of last year, after the first quarter of the second semester, we were moved into remote learning. In the first quarter of remote learning, things were fairly strange as IMSA had not planned the aspect of synchronous learning due to the abrupt hecticness of the pandemic. Things were quite different such as shortened class times, more projects instead of homework assignments, and a Pass/Fail grading system. In my first semester of senior year, the academy had already consigned on a virtual platform for remote learning, leading to academics being more structured.

The main challenge I feel I faced in quarantine was learning blocks. Because we were now in remote learning, we had to really depend less on the teachers and hold ourselves more accountable for making sure we understood the class content. Furthermore, the most challenging part of learning in a remote setting was collaborating with peers. The understanding of classroom content was an easier obstacle to overcome so long as one stayed organized and scheduled, but remotely working in groups sometimes proved unsuccessful. Because of overlapping schedules, sometimes there would be one person doing most of the work. Over time, however, I adjusted to remote learning and most often times than not, made an effort with my peers to start projects earlier. Maintaining consistent contact with teachers helped me the most; whenever I was with an assignment I made an effort to contact them with any questions I had. It’s harder for teachers to notice when their students are confused within a virtual learning environment compared to a classroom setting.

What I like the most about online learning however is that I have been able to schedule my days more efficiently, and due to the weekly class structure, it is easier to make more time for assignments and study for assessments.  I can also set aside time for supplemental learning to make use of the resources that teachers set aside. Being able to enjoy more time with my family can lighten the academic stress from course loads as well. I’ve also had more time to do the things I love such as video editing, streaming, binge-watching, and graphic design.

For me, the aspect of remote learning doesn’t feel as odd since I was homeschooled for 7 years, but there have been things I reflected on during the pandemic. Being quarantined can cause one to feel unmotivated at times, and that’s completely natural. Sometimes it’s okay to take breaks if you are overstressed (I’m not condoning postponing academics without notifying the proper people). Taking a break can give you a fresh perspective and allows you to come back better and productive. Ignoring your stressors can cause unhealthy habits, so it’s important to make time for de-stressors be it going for a walk, talking to someone who is close, or even several minutes of meditation. When things don’t go the way I planned, I simply try to understand what methods may still work, and how I can apply that situation to the future. I believe dwelling on the past can be negative; while it is good to be aware, there are plenty of tomorrows that you can use to improve upon.