OP-ED: Is Online Learning Draining Student’s Motivation?

Students Seem to be Struggling More This Year Than Any Other


Caroline Michailoff, Editorial Director, Junior

The 2020-21 school year is certainly unlike any other, especially when it comes to motivation amongst high school students. It has been exceedingly difficult this year to keep the usual mindset when it comes to getting school work done on time and to put the best foot forward every day. When students are working, without anything to look forward to, sitting at their desks at home all day, it becomes increasingly grueling for them to put full attention and effort into a task where they are seemingly getting nothing out of it. Students described the difficulty of learning this year, from inadequate equipment to glitching technology, to the lack of social interaction and the confusion of assignments due to not getting the same effective instruction as normal school years. Other students discuss how they would just sleep in, joining online classes in their pajamas minutes after waking up.

From an online survey done among 100 high school students, it was found that motivation has gone down by at least 30% this school year. When students are asked what their main motivation is for putting in the most effort for school, their answer is almost always grades. Students always want to excel academically, and with that comes the motivation to get their work done, even when times get difficult. High school students often come to the realization that their grades will  matter further down the road, so they are motivated to put in the work now. 

“I have definitely seen a change in motivation in the students this year compared to years past,” said Mrs. Livaditis, a French language teacher in the high school. “I think it largely has to do with learning from home. Even with structured days (periods of the day, desk-location, getting dressed, etc.) learning from home is very difficult. It’s hard to separate the comforts of home (relaxing in PJs, scrolling through Instagram, or watching Netflix) and now be expected to stare at a screen to learn with minimal classroom contact” Livaditis continued. “This has made teaching harder because if students are not interested; it makes the content and the teaching approach very boring. The attempt at exciting content or novelty of games/interactive exercises or activities falls short of my expectations.”

In addition, students are missing the accountability they have from being in school all the time. Students mention that without a teacher watching them do their work they did not feel the pressure to get their work done. The virtual school environment comes with many distractions. Students are free to get up and leave in the middle of class and do not receive mandatory study hours. Also, students at home can easily be distracted by family members or face the temptation of jumping onto their phones than they would when receiving in-person instruction

“The long hours of Google Meet can be super tiring, and it gets difficult to stay engaged and interested when staring at a screen for hours on end,” junior Maya Spunberg said. “Spending so much time on the computer during the day also makes it difficult to find the motivation to spend even more time on the computer when doing homework.” 

Spunberg also reflected on instructional time.

“Not getting to experience certain lessons in person can sometimes make it more difficult to fully understand and visualize some concepts. I’m normally pretty self-motivated to do well in school. Because of this, I’m not entirely sure why it’s so much harder for me to get motivated this year,” Spunberg said.

When high school students are given the option to not do work, they will almost always take it. Even more so in current situations when students feel they are not getting the same benefits that come with a normal school year, they do not feel the need to do extra work. Schoolwork can no longer be hands-on, turning many classes into lecture-type lessons which can get boring and hard to focus on after a while. 

Seniors especially can find it extremely hard to be motivated even in a normal school year. ‘Senioritis’ is a common term used among seniors to describe their last semester of high school where they feel they no longer need to put in the effort. Putting online learning on top of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to prompt positive work and study habits. Senioritis becomes an all-year issue, not just students checking out in late spring after receiving an acceptance letter.

Evidently, there has been a Jurassic change in motivation among students this year. With students sitting at the same desk all day staring at a computer screen with all sorts of distractions, it’s extremely difficult for them to get the same sort of education they were receiving before the pandemic. With all the confusion in class and not feeling like there is anything to look forward to, students just no longer see a point in doing work, especially to the same quality as in years past.