The school adapts to online learning

The+school+adapts+to+online+learning

Graphic by Benji Thernstrom

This year, sitting at a computer for hours has become the normal way to go to  school — for both students and educators. Kiesha Sumlin, the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the school, and freshman Elizabeth Puchalla have been navigating challenges throughout the strange new school year.

“We did a lot of prep before the first day making sure everybody was able to get in, checking our network systems and everything,” Sumlin said. 

Students have been facing their own troubles and working as well.

“It’s a very different environment,” Puchalla said. “We’re doing school from home, and it’s also hard to really meet new people, when you don’t necessarily see them or anything. It’s definitely less interactive, but I think it’s more difficult to do online.” 

Technical issues have abounded, especially those dealing with GlobalProtect, a VPN system used by schools. 

“GlobalProtect fails half the time,” Puchalla said. “It says I have WiFi and then if you go onto Safari or anything, it just says no connection. Mostly that was at the beginning of the year, but sometimes it still happens every now and then. “It can require difficult log-ins, and one network failure resulted in a day off on October 21.” 

Staff members have worked to counteract those issues.

“Instructional technology has already specified the issues that we’re having with logging in and everything, but I think we’ve worked all of those things out, which was at the beginning of the year,” Sumlin said.

Of course, some things have gone well. Other years’ use of online learning (although not to the same extent) have been good practice, and everything may only get easier.

“Since we’re already used to Canvas and things then it’s not such a huge change, especially for submitting homework and assignments and stuff like that, since we’ve already been doing that past years,” Puchalla said. “So, I think that went well. As the year goes on, I think this will be better too.” 

Much of that success is due to the many staff members working hard to make things easier. Technical difficulties are being defeated through collaboration and preparation. 

“We need to make sure that we as a school system understand that we’re all in this together, and that we give this new distance learning a chance to work out,” Dr. Francisco Duran said at the August 20th school board meeting.

Puchalla said she appreciates the problems faced and overcome by the staff. 

“It’s definitely weird, especially with technical difficulties and certain students are having certain problems with things,” Puchalla said. “It’s probably harder to figure out what each student needs when you’re not actually seeing them. But I think they’re doing pretty well and trying to get our input.” 

Of course, that does not mean the virtual method is as good as the real thing for everyone, socially and academically. 

“I think [there’s been] less [learning] so far, because I think everything’s going slower, especially because the actual instructional periods and the synchronous time is shorter…Online is not my thing,” Puchalla said. “For some people I know it is, but not for me.” 

No matter the problems, the school year is continuing due to everyone’s efforts. 

“I think everything is moving well,” Sumlin said. “I think we’re working together to make sure everything runs well for the students, and making sure that the students as well as the teachers have everything that they need to make sure that the students stay productive.”

Still, many would welcome a return to normality.

“I just hope that we can go back to school,” Puchalla said.