Survey: Most District 303 students spend over 3 hours daily on e-learning, report lack of engagement

Updated 5/15/2020 5:33 PM

Since schools closed in March amid the coronavirus crisis, a majority of St. Charles Unit District 303 students say they have been spending at least three hours a day on their remote learning assignments.

They've been getting the help they need, for the most part, from parents and teachers. They've been able to catch up on sleep, go outside frequently, spend more time with families -- all classified in a districtwide survey as benefits of their new environments.


But the study also revealed some downsides to e-learning, coupled with a new bout of stressors related to the health crisis. Many students don't feel as engaged online as they do in a normal classroom setting, the results show. And overwhelmingly, they're missing social events, extracurriculars and face-to-face interaction with their peers.

"The kids miss each other," said Kelly Taylor, a member of the citizen advisory committee. "If that's not evident by the data, I don't know what is."

Created in partnership with Northern Illinois University, the survey was sent to district students and parents across grade levels to gauge their insights into e-learning and capture their social-emotional well-being amid an unprecedented situation, said Patti Palagi, director of instructional interventions.

The results were presented for the first time this week to the citizen advisory committee, a group of community members that acts as a sounding board on hot-button issues.

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Administrators have warned that if students return to school in the fall, their classrooms and schedules may be structured differently to adhere to social distancing standards. Should e-learning be included in those plans, officials said, they hope to implement what they learned from this two-month stretch and ensure families feel supported and connected.

An average of 34% of students reported spending one to two hours a day on their schoolwork during this time of remote learning, while 61% of students and nearly 69% of parents say they put in three or more hours, according to the survey results.

Roughly 62% of all participants said the workload is just right, and a majority feel they are given support and clear instructions on assignments.

Questions about whether e-learning has been interesting, engaging and helpful in their overall education, however, received a wider range of responses.

To keep kids and families engaged, some committee members suggested offering more face time -- albeit virtual -- between teachers and students, as well as a providing regular check-ins or "office hours" specifically for parents. More consistency among educators, classes and programming also could be helpful, they said.


Remote learning may be especially difficult for students with special needs, low-income families, parents with a language barrier and others with unique challenges, committee members said. It's likely those families are underrepresented in the survey.

Committee member Jaclyn Vasquez noted that the needs of students vary by grade level. Teachers also are "going through crisis," she said, as they navigate remote teaching while caring for their own children or other obstacles at home.

"We understand there are going to be a lot of changes. We're all going to have to work through them, and there will be a lot of kinks," she said. "But we want to make sure we're offering as many opportunities for parents and children to access (e-learning) in different ways."

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