The COVID-19 pandemic’s online learning format brought with it school-based consequences for students according to recent research. Additionally, one study from the academic journal Perspectives on Politics cites that impacts of politicalization influenced schools when determining whether or not to open their classrooms. Despite all of this, the Oconee County Library has taken steps to help remedy the impacts of online learning for local students.
Why It’s Newsworthy: In a study recently published by the Journal of School Health, researchers found that students are presented with significant school-related challenges when faced with online learning. However, the Oconee County Library provides both educational and social opportunities to support students outside of the classroom.
“That community and sense of place that the library provides is super important, and I think that was missed during the, kind of, the lockdown and during COVID,” says James Mitchell, branch manager of the Oconee County Library.
The Oconee County Library offers students a variety of opportunities that range from activities to academic resources, according to Mitchell.
Though the Oconee County Library provides an accessible environment for students to learn and interact with others, the research study from the Journal of School Health shows that students are experiencing the ramifications of not being in the classroom.
The study, titled “Effects of Remote Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic on Young Children’s Learning and Academic Behavior in Georgia: Perceptions of Parents and School Administrators,” encompasses research on schools located in varying areas across the state and found that students are more likely to thrive academically if they are in a healthy classroom environment.
Jill Klosky, a researcher on the study’s team while in graduate school at Emory University, explains how some students and families experienced a variety of impacts of online learning.
“So, some people were able to manage it more than others, depending on their resources to be honest,” says Klosky.
Both Klosky and the study in the Journal of School Health highlight several obstacles that appeared in online learning, such as the employment requirements of parents and network connection.
While Klosky and the study cite these difficulties and their impacts, Mitchell explains that the Oconee County Library has resources, such as computers and other technology-based tools, through the Athens Regional Library System for people to use.
“Little kids, trying to like compel them to be on a device for hours, you know, that’s just not really feasible,” Klosky says.
According to the United States Census Bureau, people younger than the age of 18 years old makeup 26.3% of Oconee County residents, which shows that over one-fourth of Oconee County residents are pursuing or are about to begin their education within the next few years.
Though the findings published by Klosky and other members of the research team highlight students’ school-based needs, the Oconee County Library aims to fulfill student’s interests outside of the classroom.
Mitchell describes the impact of the library on student visitors as one that encourages learning without the stress that can accompany schoolwork.
It really allows children to explore the world of ideas and different things like that in an environment that there is no pressure for them whatsoever,” Mitchell says.
Ash Dial fulfills the role of teen program specialist and adult services coordinator at the Oconee County Library.
“Our goal always is to provide information for people and help people to learn, um, but I think specifically for, kind of, programs especially in the young adults, it’s mostly building a safe space and community for teens to come,” says Dial.
Yet, Dial explains noticing a shift in discussion of the students attending library activities since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve heard them talk more about, like, mental health issues now than I ever have before,” says Dial.
According to Dial, Prism, one of the activities held by the Oconee County Library, enlisted the help of Nuçi’s Space, a facility that advocates for mental health awareness, to speak about this topic to the library’s teenage participants. Dial explains that the Nuçi’s Space event appeared to help the teenage attendees.
Klosky explains that there are key issues that should be addressed in relation to online learning when thinking about the future.
“If there can be more planning with, again, an eye for equity,” says Klosky.
Celia Lovell is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.
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