Week 1 of Remote Learning: A Review

To improve upon it in the future, several lessons should be taken away from the first week of remote learning.

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photo by Kristen Kinzler

For many students, the beginning of remote learning was filled with work and stress.

Well, we’ve survived our first week of remote learning, and I can officially say that this has been the longest five days of my entire life.

I don’t think anyone was necessarily looking forward to online learning. After all, given our current circumstances, most of us would much rather be back at school. We all knew this week was going to be weird, confusing, and a little frustrating.

The bar was low, and yet, this week still managed to disappoint. 

To be completely honest, I thought remote learning was going to be easy, especially this week. North Allegheny stated that assignments could only be worth ten points and were to be graded strictly on completion. Every class was also supposed to assign fifteen to twenty minutes of work. I was sure I could handle that. 

And then Monday came, and I saw what it was really going to be like.

There was a certain sense of disorganization that made the experience very overwhelming, and this was, in large part, due to Blackboard’s structure. In most cases, to thoroughly understand an assignment, you’d have to check the remote learning tab on Blackboard, then go to a certain chapter’s folder, and check your email for even more instruction. You’d also have to keep a close eye out for announcements, which would be sent out throughout the day. It felt like there was no single direct line of communication. Rather, there were almost too many options. Everything was coming in bits and pieces. 

And since this occurred in almost every class, it felt exhausting to keep up. By the end of the day, I had finished all of my work, but I was afraid I had missed something. What if I didn’t see an announcement or a small block of text within the remote learning folder?

Additionally, the workload itself, at least in my experience, was excessive. In many cases, the fifteen to twenty-minute suggestion was ignored, and students had to work for nearly an hour on some daily assignments. Much of the material assigned was not consistent with work that would normally be completed in that particular class, and several tasks throughout the week were, against district guidelines, graded for accuracy. 

Many teachers and administrators have asked for patience as we navigate remote learning, but it felt like this privilege was not equally extended to the students. Instead, in many classes, students were slammed with information, tasks, and assignments.

Many teachers and administrators have asked for patience as we navigate remote learning, but it felt like this privilege was not equally extended to the students.”

It seemed as if some staff members failed to consider that this is all new to us, too. We are in a new environment, we miss our friends, we long for our normal routine, and we are trying to figure out how to independently learn. I began this week prepared to deal with technical difficulties and rocky lesson plans and a little disorganization. I just wonder if all the teachers were prepared to handle imperfect students.

To be clear, nothing I’m writing here is absolute. Several of my teachers did provide clear instruction and ensured students that they didn’t have to have everything figured out this week.

I’m sure that the teachers who didn’t accomplish this or assigned too much work have good intentions. I know that every adult at our school has patience and empathy. They want to support their students. I also realize that’s an extremely wonderful thing, and I’m grateful for it. If anything, this whole experience has made me appreciate the interactions I have with my teachers on an everyday basis even more.

But it’s okay to say that those intentions aren’t producing the best results. And, in my view, it’s always okay to think about how we can be better. In fact, sometimes, it’s necessary. Now feels like one of those times.

Obviously, we’re going to continue with online learning for the foreseeable future, and if we want it to be successful, there must be some standardization. This seemed to be the administration’s goal with the guidelines they originally laid out for the week, but, unfortunately, they weren’t always applied.

Looking forward, those recommendations should be respected. It’s a way to ensure that all students are getting a fair, manageable amount of work.

Establishing a consistent method of communication in the future can be beneficial to everyone, as well. Instead of posting instructions in a remote learning folder and an announcement, keep all of the necessary information in one place. Maybe it’s just a section in the remote learning tab, or maybe it’s just an email. Either way, when students know what to expect and where to find it, it allows them to set up a reliable routine.

During its most crucial first five days, it felt as if remote learning did not provide students any room for error.”

Easing into things would also be incredibly helpful for the students, like myself, who are struggling. This week felt very sink-or-swim, and I was constantly plagued with worries that I was a horrible student for not being able to focus or thrive under the pressure. Students should be patient with themselves, and, if they are able to, teachers should consider slowly building back up their curriculum to help students who may feel overwhelmed.

Simply, there should be room for error in such a new endeavor. But during its most crucial first five days, it felt as if remote learning did not provide any.

I don’t think that remote learning will ever feel as welcoming as normal school, but I’m optimistic it will get better. It takes time to adjust to change, so a period of discomfort is perfectly normal. But the learning curve will be shorter for all of us if we remain flexible, compassionate, and cognizant of how our actions impact others.

The bottom line is that we’re all feeling a lot right now. A symptom of social distancing is that, without our typical everyday distractions and routines to serve as coping mechanisms, many of us have to face some heavy emotions. This is in addition to the worry, fear, and isolation the pandemic is causing. It’s a very fragile time, which is exactly what our school system needs to understand and empathize with.

When facing challenges like this, we must be there for each other, and part of being a good community member is being kind. Sometimes, that just means acknowledging the fact that everyone’s doing the best they can and that they deserve a little patience, too.