Students Test Distance Learning (eLearning) in Virtual Classes
by Megan Ardovini ’13
Nothing gets a high school student more excited than an extra two days off school. On Nov. 23rd and 24th, students had two extra days added to their Thanksgiving break.
Was it a break from having to go to the school itself? Yes. Was it a break from the school work? No.
Flooding in McNamara was the cause for our ten-day Thanksgiving break. On Oct. 7th, Principal Marco Clark sent a notice to the Bishop McNamara community to inform them of the repairs. But most likely, it was the headline “School Closure on November 23rd and 24th,” or the bold, underlined sentence in the middle of the page (“the school will be closed on Monday, November 23rd and Tuesday, November 24th) that stole their attention. In all of their excitement over the new prospects available over Thanksgiving break, some may have failed to read down to the third paragraph where Mr. Clark states that in an effort to not lose the two instructional days, distance learning, also known as E-learning, would take place. He also informed us of the reason for the school closure; major underground water leaking necessitated that the water be turned off throughout the entire building for repairs to begin on Nov. 23rd and and to be concluded no later than the end of that week. With the intention of maintaining the 23rd and 24th as days of instruction, the administration decided to initiate distance learning to be available to teachers to stay on track in their classes.
With the spread of the H1N1 concerning many schools in the DC metropolitan area, the school board wanted to prepare the administration for the possibility of a long term closure due to this influenza or other catastrophic event. The distance learning that took place on the 23rd and 24th was a “test run” of sorts that was meant to show if the school could sustain a distance learning program in the case of a unexpected closure.
The administration hoped that this would serve as a way to reveal the weaknesses of the program as well as what needed to be altered to better accommodate the students and teachers. Some confusion was expected when trying E-learning for the first time, but it was a great chance to learn more about this process that may be of great use in the future.
Not only would online learning keep us from getting behind in our work, but it will also teach us how to use new types of technology. With so many programs out there at our finger tips, it would strongly benefit us to learn how to use them.Teachers were not required to administer online assignments or projects, and many chose to the stick to the packets, book work, or papers. Yet, some teachers were excited to try the new technologies available to them, and discovered a variety of new sites and programs available to utilize. The Assistant Principal for Academics, Mindi Imes de Duclos said, “[Distance Learning] challenges teachers to try something new and keeps the students on track with their content so they don’t fall behind.”
Principal Marco Clark tells us, “This is not meant to be a burden over your Thanksgiving break.” Yet as expected, some students feel that it would prove itself to be a hassle anyway. Daniel Deplata III ’13 says, “Break should be for sleeping and relaxing.” Many students feel the same way. The truth of the matter is we had two extra days off. Although students are asked to complete work on these two days, administration did not expect them to spend the same amount of hours in front of a computer as they would in a classroom. “[It is] a way to still learn, even though not all of us are together,” said Mrs. Imes de Duclos.
SO, HOW WAS IT?
Upon returning from Thanksgiving, students had mixed feelings about the distance learning assignments they had just completed. Generally, most students felt that there was too much work assigned. “It didn’t feel like a vacation for me with all the work,” says Michelle Anne dela Paz ’12.
Some could even be heard saying they would have rather been in school for those two days. Some believe less work would have had to be done if they were in class opposed to at home on break. Either way, we would have had to complete some form of work on those two days. The distance learning that took place was in lieu of these two full days of school that we missed. Students were not asked to do work all break or to alter their Thanksgiving plans because of this work either.
When an informal survey was conducted, the result was that roughly one-third of the teachers actually assigned an online assignment. The other two-thirds of the teachers assigned packets, papers, take home tests, book work, or other miscellaneous assignments. Colleen Fleming ’10 makes a good point when saying, “Effectiveness depends on whether people actually did it.”
Although it will take a little more time to discover whether this process to maintain these instructional days was successful, it was a great way to discover how a system like this would work, and now we can go from there. Mrs. Imes de Duclos reminds us, “You can always get better at something.”