NORTH CRAWFORD - When the COVID-19 pandemic led most public schools to develop new forms of virtual learning for the 2020-2021 academic year, local administrative and teaching staff were tasked with the logistical issues of creating an online system of education in a matter of months.
The North Crawford School District adopted a hybrid method of virtual learning, which consisted of virtual attendance facilitated by zoom meetings combined with weekly in-person classes.
It was a primary concern to the district that students should have access to the internet at home. North Crawford integrated much of their virtual system developed during the previous spring into their hybrid model. This included allowing students to take a personal laptop computer home with them.
In addition to the laptop, most successful students would utilize an extra device, whether it be a mobile phone or another personal laptop. Being able to access the internet more often and from different areas creates more opportunities for students to access and finish their school work.
This new accessibility has led to classes substituting their typical in-class work with online variants of the assignments. Students have never before had this type of online accessibility.
Some subjects have thrived with the online assignments and systems; other classes have experienced a difficulty with using the online setting.
When asked about the discrepancies in difficulty for various subjects from last year, North Crawford sophomore Emily Schmidt said, “More hands-on classes are way better in the classroom. Core subjects are more compatible with zoom, but not being in person takes the fun out of learning. It’s hard to power through a high workload class on zoom without the engagement and excitement of in-person learning.”
For students, especially high school students, education is intertwined with the social aspect of the classroom. Students view interacting with others and seeing friends as part of high school just as much as the educational aspect.
To make up for lost in-person time, North Crawford holds an ‘advisory day’ each Wednesday. During the advisory day, students sit in two, one-hour long meetings and do their work under the virtual supervision of a teacher or staff member.
Students must attend their zoom meetings and zoom class periods, as well as fill out an attendance sheet for each virtual class period to avoid being recorded as tardy or absent. The forms take little to no time to fill out, but students have had difficulty seeing the value of checking themselves in virtually.
Junior Kade Boland commented that he oftentimes will forget to fill out his attendance sheets during their allocated time slots because he’s already preoccupied doing his coursework for the day.
Alternatively, attendance could either be removed completely or be tied to completion of assignments. Regardless of what system is used, it’s difficult for the district to ensure students will be at home during the allotted time periods, while they’re also being given more day-to-day freedom. Students can fill out the forms from anywhere on any smartphone.
Though many people, staff and student alike, have voiced their complaints about the redundancy of the attendance forms, they serve an additional purpose; to keep students on a stable schedule.
“I think that the attendance system works well for me, but I do know of some students that take advantage of the system...,” junior Faye Brassington noted. “I follow the school's schedule even though I may be at home and it keeps me on track. The more I follow the schedule, the more I get done during the day.”
Faye uses the school’s bell schedule to keep herself organized. Whether students use the school’s bell schedule or other methods of timely organization, many students have begun to develop their own personalized schedules, for better or worse.
“I used to hate the online school, but being able to stay home and sleep is pretty awesome,” junior Sever Stovey bluntly observed.
As students have begun to operate on their own schedules, they’ve been forced to be increasingly more responsible for their learning than in previous years. With most of the work now being done at home, as opposed to in the classroom, teachers and staff members won’t be around to remind them to keep up with their schoolwork. For high-achieving students like Faye and Emma, this isn’t a problem; in fact, it will likely prepare such students for the high demand of self-responsibility in their future academic endeavors.
There is concern, however, for the remaining members of the student body. Without the assistance of the teachers, it’s easy to get a few weeks behind by ‘slacking off’ on the virtual days.
One of the larger issues facing staff members is convincing students to regularly check their email. As the foremost communication line from teacher to student, it’s critical for students to at the very least stay updated with their email inbox on virtual days. Although there are plenty of students like senior Devlin Smith, who checks his email daily, there are many students that miss the important details of their classes because they ignore their email. When some members of the boys basketball team were asked how often they look at their email, most responded it was once or twice a week.
At the end of the day, virtual high school is still just high school. Teachers are typically lenient with grades and due dates, as long as the students put in the necessary effort.
The biggest problems that teachers and administration face with a virtual setting arise when students aren’t motivated enough or aren’t interrelating themselves with the tools and academic habits necessary for success.
Not all students have the developed sense of self-responsibility that helps so much when they’re forced to do things on their own.
Junior Stephen Munson summed up virtual learning situation well, when he was asked whether or not the overall student workload was becoming a problem.“School is a little hard, but we still have to do it,” Munson said. “You just have to sit down and do the work, and you’ll pass.”