By Emma Philbrook
The Times 

Online school: YouTube or Skype?


As the summer of 2020 winds down, a generation of students casts wary eyes upon the dawn of a new school year. With it will come many familiar bugaboos—homework, early mornings, regular bedtimes —as well as any number of new challenges related to the present pandemic.

More specifically, for many students from the sixth grade on up, at least some of the new school year will take place online. (And when I say “sixth grade on up,” I mean all the way on up – Whitman is moving wholly online this semester, as is Harvard.) Now I’m not an expert, but my GPA and I survived a whole quarter of online law school, so I’m more qualified than most non-experts to give you the following list of unsolicited online learning tips. Middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, and Whitties, take heart. (Harvard, you already took heart. My heart, specifically. And then you broke it into a million pieces and let it blow away on the cold Boston wind. Quit reading, because we have nothing more to say to each other. *sniff*)


You’re going to need to get a work area set up. You’ll need a steady internet connection, a place for the computer, a place to take notes or use scratch paper, and somewhere to stash your books. This place should be comfortable, quiet, and contain a minimum of distractions…she says as she tells you to put the computer within range of the WiFi signal.

There are two types of online classes: contemporaneous and non-contemporaneous, better known as “Skype” and “YouTube.” YouTube classes are fairly straightforward: press play, take notes. No need to worry about dress codes or tardies, hall passes are as easy as hitting the “pause” button, and there’s no rest of the class to share your snacks. Seems ideal, right?

There are a couple of major drawbacks to YouTube classes. The first is the sinister allure of the “fast forward” button. It is unhelpfully located right next to the “pause” and “rewind” buttons, which are essential to getting the most out of your YouTube educational experience. (We’ve all had at least one teacher who could benefit from a rewind button.) Be strong and resist, fellow scholars! The other drawback is that you’ll have to watch your teachers slowly go insane from the isolation, which will impact the quality of the lectures as the school year progresses and is just depressing in general.

Skype classes seem to be psychologically easier for most teachers. You lose some of the flexibility of YouTube classes, but you can still sit on your couch and wear bunny slippers, which makes it psychologically easier than regular school. Please do your part to protect the psychological health of your teachers and classmates by wearing normal-ish clothes. Everything from your knees up is liable to be on camera in the event you have to get out of your chair. (Bunny slippers generally stay out of the shot pretty well.)

Of course, there are aspects of school life that can’t be fully replicated over the Internet—extracurricular activities, casual hallway chats, sports, dances, and the like. Sadly, there’s not a good way to get around the deep-rooted need for authentic human connection and belonging. If you’re looking for a quick fix, usually us law students just study until the deep-rooted need for some ZZZs drowns the rest of it out. Your results may vary.


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