Starting at the end of last school year and continuing through today, schools have been doing online learning as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been doing this through various platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, but the aspects of virtual school raises the question of fairness. Students participating in virtual school have a slight advantage over in-person students during tests and quizzes; however, in-person students have the advantage in the long run as it is easier to learn in-person. 

A large concern involving online school is concerns of cheating. Students that are online have a much easier way to cheat, as they can turn their microphones off and ask Siri for an answer, or turn their video off and look up an answer on their phone. On the other hand, in-person students do not have this luxury. The teachers can see exactly what they are doing at any given time, making it much harder to cheat. Online students can not pay attention in class and still make A’s, while in-person students have to work that much harder for those good grades. Teachers are combatting this by making more assignments open-note; however, even if teachers do this, it does not change the fact that online students have the whole internet to work with while in-person students are limited to their own notes. 

In-person school may have an advantage over online school because of the extra connections that can be made with teachers, as well as a consistent Wi-Fi connection. Certain students may have terrible Wi-Fi networks, which can cause classes to lag. If a class lags, students may miss information or not be as engaged in their classes. Regular school can already be boring, and taking a class through a computer screen, as well as sitting in the same place for the whole school day, can increase student boredom even more. These online students also cannot interact with their teachers as easily because they have to set up a meeting online, or email them, whereas in-person students can just walk into the classroom and ask questions. This is one way that in-person school might have the upper hand over online. 

Another way in-person may be better is the negative effects of continuous virtual learning. Online students tend to pay less attention to class because of distractions, which can result in them hardly learning anything, especially with how easy it is to cheat on tests and quizzes. This will affect them in their later academic years because they will have nearly wasted a year of school. When students who have been online move up to the next grade, they won’t be able to recall what they learned last year, causing them to do worse in classes that are dependent on the previous year or learning. 

Teachers are coming up with resolutions to the fairness question, such as forcing students to pay attention and making them turn their cameras on, in order to combat cheating and level the field between online and in-person students. Schools across the country have started to require these policies because they do not know if their students are even participating in class, or just joining the class and then leaving the computer on while they leave to go do something else. Teachers are also starting to use special testing services that let them know when the students have left the tab they are taking the test on. One of these is known as Quia, which puts a red asterisk next to a student’s name if they leave the tab. Another service is the AP lockdown browser, which will not allow students to leave the tab during the test, thus promoting more honesty among students. These are just a few ways schools and teachers are trying to make the current schooling situation more fair. 

Online learning is slightly unfair, but not as unfair as some make it out to be. Online students do have a slight advantage when it comes to tests and quizzes, but in the long run, in-person schooling is the better option. 

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