Claire Rives’ essay selected to represent Cardinal Battalion in annual contest

The Challenges of Online and In-Person Learning in a Pandemic Environment

An essay written by Cadet Corporal Claire Rives has been submitted to the 3rd JROTC Brigade to compete in an annual contest and possibly win a six-day trip to Washington, D.C.

The United States Army Cadet Command and the College Options Foundation sponsor an annual essay contest open to all JROTC cadets. 

This year’s competition essay topic is “The Challenges of Online and In-Person Learning in a Pandemic Environment.” 

All cadets enrolled in the Webb City Junior ROTC program were asked to write the essay. Through a rigorous selection process, including review and voting from a panel of Webb City High School communication arts teachers, the best essay was identified. 


Cadet Claire Rives

For Rives to win the trip to Washington D.C., her essay will have to first beat out competitors from nine other states in the 3rd Brigade. The 3rd Bridade winning essay will then be judged against those selected from seven other brigades.

The Challenges of Online and In-Person Learning in a Pandemic Environment

by Claire Rives

How does one feel when something is taken away in an instant? Does stress immediately consume individuals and cause physical, social, and emotional hardships? During the coronavirus pandemic, change was guaranteed, but no one could have predicted such pandemonium. Small businesses were shut down, the biggest cities became ghost towns, and half a million Americans dead with numbers still growing. For students all around the world, one of the biggest changes was school. As a student, I felt like I was at a loss, and I know many other youths dealt with the same complex emotions as the life we knew started to fall apart. Schools had to find new ways of teaching adolescents. People were being forced into having a curfew and staying home because of the terrible virus. Nevertheless, I think I can safely say that no matter what one’s view on the world is, we all learned something about ourselves during this trying time.

Digital learning was new for most students last spring, including myself. I enjoyed getting to wake up later in the day and listen to music while doing my work, but it was difficult to find motivation. When you only have a computer to use, teaching and learning methods can become very limited and mundane. It can make one feel ennui. Most work was given just to keep students busy and this made me curious, did students learn anything while online? The three high school students I interviewed all said they did not achieve anything academically. In fact, they said it made them stressed because of all the work they were doing while not actually obtaining anything and I felt anxious for the same reason. Students could not use hands-on learning, which is the way most students learn with positive results, according to In the present century, we look at screens all day, still, when I had to do it for six hours every day it got difficult. Let alone, it is terrible for the eyes to look at a screen for long periods of time. It made my vision blurry and gave me headaches. Online learning was definitely an unforgettable experience, but one I am not so sure I would willingly do again.

In-person learning was definitely more for me. I could follow a precise schedule and know how to be prepared for class. I understood topics with ease because my teachers and my peers were both there to encourage the educational aspect of my life. I could ask a question and have an answer in a matter of seconds, while online learning only had email to connect with instructors. However, because of friends and teachers being in such a close proximity, it was easier to get distracted. For example, kids interrupting class by talking to friends, people getting up from their seats, and snacks being passed around the room. JROTC helped me realize I am a visual learner, so actually being in a classroom environment helped me concentrate better. Being able to see how things work face-to-face was a huge benefit because I could see a process being written out right in front of me. Traditional school is definitely more effective for me than if we were still stuck online.

During these unprecedented times, I have learned many interesting lessons about myself. I learned that online learning is not as cruel as it is made out to be, but I am definitely more an advocate for in-person learning. It is hard for me to acknowledge the fact that some of the procedures we are doing are going to be the new normal. One example is having to wear a mask all the time. My mom told me she never thought she would live to see the day where she would have to remind her kids to bring their masks with them to church. Online learning made things difficult to comprehend and made me learn I can’t perform as well at home as I can in school. I might not say it all that much, but I’m grateful to be back to face-to-face learning.

This year has kept all of us on the edge of our seats, just waiting for the next disaster to strike. It is what I could only describe as the second sinking of Atlantis. It was something no one saw coming and the world is still trying to understand what has occurred. The recent coronavirus pandemic is a historical event that has affected everyone. Looking back at the Spanish flu, it is appropriate to say that a century later, history has repeated itself. During both pandemics, students all over the world adapted to a big change with schools closing their doors. I try to remain optimistic and remember that both virtual learning and traditional learning have challenges, provide real-life lessons, and make me use critical thinking strategies. The poet Oscar Wilde said it best, “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” Nonetheless, I know I can safely say we have all learned something about ourselves during these unfortunate, yet unforgettable times. I do not know what will come next, but I do know that we can use these new found lessons to our advantage and teach the next generation that if you are not careful, history will repeat itself.