Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 8

Online Learning during COVID-19

Graphic by Yiying Zhang

Overall, students are required to complete less work during online learning than they had with classroom instruction.

 Beginning March 16, 2020, the Acalanes School District switched to online learning and in order to engage with the curriculum, students are expected to log-in to School Loop and review assignments  and due dates. Generally, teachers post work and deadlines each Monday for that week. 

The reduced workload is related to the philosophy the district has adopted in developing the online curriculum. The district is refocusing its efforts to “teach what is essential for students to know to complete their courses and be ready for their subsequent courses.” The district explains that “essential” relates to those “standards for the courses that have been identified in the prior years as part of our district curricular work.” 

One of the challenges teachers are facing is that the district does not possess an online platform to execute a full teaching experience that includes instruction, assessment, and communication. As a result, there are significant limitations with this learning process. Generally, students and teachers are working together with the familiar School Loop, and the district is providing guidance to teachers to use  Zoom, Google Hangout, or Google Classroom to supplement and enhance the learning experience. Most, but not all teachers are offering office hours virtually to support students who need help with assignments. 

Within the learning curriculum, the district has established specific guidelines for the amount of time to spend on work that should be completed each week. According to Lissa Wentner, an AP Human Geography teacher at Las Lomas, there is no clear “distinction from schoolwork as it usually is, so if all work is “homework,” most classes are supposed to be in the 2-3 hrs /week range.” 

In essence, that is a significant reduction in time spent on a typical course in classroom learning as students spend at least three hours in school and then additional time on homework. But, as Ms. Wentner explains, “AP classes are exempt from that” requirement. For her class, she assigns 2-4 hours of work each week which is again still less than the amount of work that was expected in the typical learning environment. Even with these reduced expectations, Ms. Wentner notes that “there is definitely more late work than when we are in school.” However, sophomore Keilah Wright disagrees with Ms. Wentner saying that she has “about the same amount of schoolwork now as I had homework when school was still in session.”