Distance learning disappoints


photo by mikayla mellis

Alycia Wong

As the second state to announce the closing of all public schools on March 12, questions erupted from teachers, students and parents across Maryland. How would students learn? What about AP tests? These issues were solved the way most are in this modern world: through technology.

Distance learning and online test taking have been the solution to the educational crisis caused by COVID-19. Dulaney’s virtual system consists of two parts: Google Meets and online assignments. Students have had classes through Google Meet twice a week (A-days on Tuesdays and B-Days on Wednesdays) for 30 minutes with classes starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 11:45 a.m. Aside from online meetings, teachers have given two lessons per week with the turn-in assignments being due Friday night.

This has elicited a mixed response from students. 90 Dulaney students answered a series of questions via Google Form about their feelings and experiences with distance learning. A majority answered that they did not enjoy distance learning nor thought the Google Meets were helpful. When asked for a more thorough response, some students replied that it was because they felt that the learning style was inefficient.

Junior Meghan Gaumont was one of those students and explained her line of reasoning.

“I am not in love with distance learning because I feel that a lot of classes are giving busy work and I am not benefiting as much,” said Gaumont.

Government teacher Chad Boyle explains what he would have done differently that could have addressed the efficacy problems expressed by the students.

“I would have preferred individual teachers to have some input […] Perhaps BCPS could have provided us with choices or content to cover over a period of weeks and allow the individual classroom teacher to set their classes’ schedules based upon the skills and pace of their classes,” he said.

Providing a different perspective, English 10 teacher Britta Schaffmeyer shares her concerns about the blanket approach to distance learning in respect to the different home lives and mentalities of each student.

“My concern is that not all students will be able to access the materials, and this will mean a loss of learning for certain students for more than a quarter of the school year,” Schaffmeyer said. My second concern is about rigor of instruction. […] I fear that there will be a significant loss of learning and instruction for students who are not intrinsically motivated or for students who do not have adequate support at home,” she said.

However, while most do not believe that Google Meets are useful, some students have expressed that it has been refreshing to see classmates and teachers while alone during quarantine.
“[Google Meets] are the only part of distancing that I like. It breaks up the monotony of being at home, lets everyone interact,” said senior Shane Gorman.
Schaffmeyer concurred, as she expressed the joy she felt in seeing her students.
“One of my students had a broken camera on his computer, and he turned his camera on for the first time today. I was overjoyed to see his face,” she said.

Though students are split about their feelings toward meeting twice a week and their course load, uniform opinions were seen in regards to AP testing – 60 percent of students feel that they are unprepared for the 45 minute online tests that College Board has presented in response to the pandemic. According to junior Gwen Sutton, however, this is not due to ineffective teaching.

“I definitely think that my AP teacher has given us a bunch of resources and either mandatory or optional practice and I think it’s really up to the student whether or not they are going to put in that extra effort to adapt to the way the test is this year,” she said.
A positive aspect of distance learning, however, seems to be the improved dynamic between teacher and student as a result of the shared experience of living through a pandemic.

“I think teachers have been very accommodating and helpful during this crazy time. I really have no concerns about that,” said junior Cate Caslin.

These circumstances have also led to improvements and developments for schools.

“A silver lining that I believe will emerge in the educational world at the end of this pandemic is new industries will develop that provide teachers and school systems more effective tools to reach students in a distance learning environment,” said Boyle.