Zooming Back Online

Leo Saperstein, Assistant Sports Editor

When broken down to their core components, in-person and online instruction are not so different. Both challenge student engagement, retention and curiosity. After the shock of returning to in-person school, students are re-accustomed to and sick of the toils we were so used to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past two years, we endured online instruction when in-person school was not an option, but now, we can begin occasionally using asynchronous learning as an alternative to in-person learning.

After an email from President Rick Commons detailed a return to online instruction for Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said families felt concerned for their children. In a school-wide email, Slattery said the school’s plans for future online instruction are subject to change.

“The school is committed to staying in person, but I cannot promise that circumstances will always allow for that,” Slattery said. Families are justifiably worried about returning to virtual learning. After the quarantine of 2020 and 2021, Commons’ email may have evoked memories of the initial COVID-19 shut-down. Zooming from home left students isolated from their peers for nearly a year. However, writing off online instruction neglects the benefits of virtual days such as Jan. 4 and Jan. 5.

When implemented properly, online instruction promotes productivity in a relaxed environment. As an occasional alternative to in-person school, asynchronous work helps students learn the critical skill of creating their own schedule. 

A school day from home challenges a student’s ability to organize their time with efficacy, as we learn to work for our own enrichment.

 As we learn to work for our own enrichment without a teacher setting standards in the classroom. Pre-published asynchronous assignments provide students with a preview of their upcoming workload, allowing them to take a personalized approach to their assignments.

While some members of the school community view virtual learning as less rigorous than in-person instruction, the asynchronous days would need to have the same standard as days on campus. Teachers should use distanced learning as an opportunity to implement new types of assignments.

For asynchronous days to be most effective, the administration should release the dates of these days at the release of the yearly calendar, as it already does with Flex Days. Due to the block schedule, teachers who instruct the same course on both even and odd days face the challenge of assessing both sections with the same test, as testing from home makes cheating on assessments more feasible. Teachers would schedule assignments around these virtual days.

Though life on campus can foster meaningful social interactions, such activity can be overwhelming and even create additional anxieties. The administration should find a balance, where students can benefit from both social stimulation at school and a less regimented list of assignments from home. For two years, the connection between online instruction and the isolation of quarantine led us to resent virtual learning. Each day, as the media flooded with COVID-19 updates, we logged into school from our computers and hoped to return to campus.

Zoom was the barrier between us and a meaningful, complete education. Despite online learning struggles, we may have inadvertently hit the jackpot of schooling. Online instruction can be used as a tool, if we can separate the idea of working at home from our experience with COVID-19. Learning remotely—with the knowledge that the next day will be spent in person—will break up the stresses of life on campus, promote the growth of untapped skills and allow students the time to recuperate on their own.