As we wrote in PART ONE and PART TWO: 

“During the winter and spring of school year 2020-21, , International Virtual Learning Academy (IVLA ) a division of Global Student Network (GSN) ( conducted a scholarship competition directed at high school students currently attending school 100% online.  Students were asked to write an essay in answer to the question “What was the most significant takeaway you believe students learned about online education during the coronavirus pandemic?”  Over 700 high schoolers responded.  Their thoughts and feelings sometimes fell into predictable categories and at other times were surprisingly introspective and focused.”

In PART ONE, ten important lessons learned about online school were listed.  PART TWO was focused on Student Comments and Observations based on five of those ten lessons.  PART THREE touches on the final five lessons learned and focuses particularly on student lessons learned about self-motivation and time management.

(NOTE: This is a sampling of hundreds of comments received.  All comments and observations were drawn directly from responses to the essay question.  Based on student privacy requirements, quotations and comments are listed anonymously.) 


In reviewing the essays, we found that many students commented most heavily on their time management and self-motivation issues (See lesson #10, below).  The next most important category was the mental health element (#6, below).  Connections between teachers, students, and family concerned many students and we have combined lessons #7 and #8 to reflect the fact that “connections” was a blended concern for nearly every student that responded.  Very few students addressed the technology topic (#9) – likely because kids this age have grown up with technology and see no real problem with technology-driven learning because it has always been a major part of their lives.

6. New learning models must be directed towards learning experiences that support the well-being of both teachers and students. Many students admitted that loneliness affected their mental and physical health more than they thought it might.


“Most students [experienced] the freedom that online learning can bring, but they also lived through the crushing loneliness that fully virtual school can bring.”

“Learning online has for many students been difficult and mentally draining, affecting student health negatively and for many students having them fall behind in their studies.”

“The inability to interact with peers and classmates has been incredibly debilitating. Students have had to deal with declining sleep, prolonged screen time and growing concerns about mental health, specifically depression and anxiety.”

“I saw the world with rose-tinted glasses. When talk of a global pandemic became every news headline, it was impossible not to crack those glasses and see the world for it’s true self – a huge ball of imminent doom.”

“The most significant takeaway I learned about online education is the importance of peer interaction on my mental health and my learning experience.  Having other students around and sharing that experience together makes the stress of classes easier to bear.”

“This year has allowed me time to focus on my mental health. It [has become] easier for me to be honest with myself and notice when I was getting a little too overwhelmed or stressed. It opened me up to learning and using better strategies to cope.”

“All motivation had gone straight out the window. Online school forced me into a cycle of crushing pressure and persistent helplessness. I was inconsolably and indignant at my senior year being stolen away from me.”


7/8. Each person is responsible for the well-being of the others in their learning experience. Students    have learned the value of weighing their actions to consider the connection between what they do and the well-being of others including teachers, friends, and family. 


“The largest student takeaway from this year on online learning is that students need community.  Every student can point to a class/room/community they depend on and this year of remote learning has taught us just how important those groups are.”

“I believe that the most significant student lesson learned during the coronavirus pandemic was the importance of connection, as well as the importance of cultivating communities.”

“Until now, I never realized how much I benefitted from interactions with other students.”

“The feeling of isolation during the pandemic led students to understand that education is not solely about the facts that you may learn while in school but is also about the relationships you make.”

“From phones to TVs, to siblings, parents, or family members, learning from home is hard work. When there is no teacher or hard deadlines to keep students accountable there is no motivation to do classwork or homework.”

“It wasn’t until my mom’s workplace – a healthcare facility – had their first infected patient that I escaped my selfish mindset and began worrying for a completely different reason. My mother was assigned to the COVID unit and was risking her health to support me.  Every time she left for work I was concerned for her well-being. This newfound concern became my motivation.”

“Students may also learn [from this experience] that they haven’t appreciated their teachers enough. With online learning, students can notice all the hard work their teachers put into optimizing their education.”

9. Dependence on technology-driven learning is something that will not go away. It worked well, is getting better by the day, and there is no going back.


“I used [online courseware] to explore subjects such as computer science, engineering, and higher math classes that my school didn’t offer.”

“I believe that this [increased] breadth of education is the most beneficial part of online learning and that it is a shame that most students haven’t been exposed to it during this pandemic.

10. Students learned valuable lessons about managing their own time rather than depending on their parents and teachers to pressure them to meet deadlines.


“Some students lacked the motivation to focus during class….and had to figure out how to self-study and schedule their free time in accordance with their online class schedule.”

“Online education became easier to manage when I figured out what study method worked well.”

“Students have more responsibility and need to learn how to stay motivated during online school and complete their schoolwork.”

“Students [had to] develop the important skill of time management during online school.  Online school is teaching students necessary real-world skills such as time management, self-motivation and self-learning.”  

“Online classes give you the freedom to dictate your own schedule, for better or for worse. Many of my friends had an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the unstructured environment of online school.”

“Many classes [created a situation] where students had to schedule their own studying and self-motivate to learn the content. Other classes, like live Zoom lectures, were easy to zone out of in the comfort of their own homes.”

“Students have learned they must be accountable for their own education.”

“There is no adequate learning environment in one’s bedroom because there is no one around to keep students attentive to their classes. Students are struggling with being accountable for their own education.”

“The most significant takeaway we learned about online education during the pandemic was that ait is important to remain disciplined and focused, but also flexible and willing to adapt.”

“As a whole, I believe students have become much better at independently learning rather than having teachers and parents providing them with every answer or holding their hands along the way.”


IN CLOSING:  We could not have summarized the issues better than did these two students:

“The unnerving events of 2020 have drastically transformed my flawed perception of life and capitalized on the importance of persevering through difficult times, directing focus on not just myself, but all of humanity.”

“Online learning was not an easy adjustment for everyone.  Many students could not rely on someone else to stand beside them and encourage them to do their work.  Rather, they were left to handle the pressure on their own: they were required to take the initiative and get the work done. Students could not get stuck in their familiar ways. They had to persevere and make the best of the situation.  Overall, online learning helped many students grow, and the lessons learned during this time will stick with them far into the future.”




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