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Student Voices: A view from the trenches of online learning

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Navya Singhai/Town Crier
Local students are completing classes online after schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a junior at Los Altos High School, the news last week that we would not be returning to campus for the rest of the school year was bittersweet. Distance learning has already had its ups and downs, leaving me confused about whether I love being able to create my own study schedule or hate the responsibility of ensuring I study with the same efficiency as I did during regular school.

Since we, unfortunately, still have Advanced Placement exams and three more months of school to finish, schools have transitioned to purely online learning, so we can access all the necessary resources at home. My best friend these past two weeks has been Google Classroom, which teachers are using to dole out assignments, make announcements about grades and due dates, send surveys asking how we’ve been spending our time and even take attendance via daily check-ins.

There has been a steep learning curve for both students and teachers regarding online learning, from forgetting to submit work on Classroom to canceling virtual office hours on Zoom.

For me, the hardest parts of the transition are maintaining productivity while working at home and restraining myself from grabbing a snack every time I pass through the kitchen. Without the rigid bell schedule dictating where I should be every minute from 8:10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I have fallen into a routine of doing whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.

Instead of giving daily assignments, teachers have been assigning work every other day or at the beginning of the week, which means I don’t actually need to do work each day. And with my laptop always at my fingertips, it’s hard not to make excuses for why checking out TikTok or scrolling through Instagram won’t hurt my learning.

Especially now, social media apps are getting a lot of attention because of how blatantly teenagers crave social interaction. Even though some teachers are trying to implement Zoom calls with the entire class to allow us to collaborate with our peers, it just isn’t the same without seeing our friends and teachers in person.

All of my teachers, and most others, I presume, are making themselves as available as possible to students via email or Google Chat. While I greatly appreciate the effort they are putting into being there to answer our numerous questions, it is next to impossible to have a discussion about a book’s theme with my English teacher or have my math teacher explain a confusing concept in detail through online messaging.

Test relief

This has forced us to turn to other resources for explanations, one of which is the Advanced Placement YouTube channel that the College Board has started to help students study and review for AP tests at home. This channel offers 45-minute to hourlong review sessions recorded by teachers from across the country on every AP subject. For the next six weeks, these live sessions will cover every unit the augmented AP tests will assess.

To accommodate the challenges of online learning, the College Board has decided to reduce the formerly hourslong AP tests to 45-minute tests with only Free Response Questions that can be taken at home. Furthermore, probably in an effort to reduce the incentive to cheat, the tests will now be open-book. As a junior taking four AP classes, this might be the biggest relief I have felt all year. Although it means that colleges will focus on standardized test scores less and more on GPA and essays, the changes with online learning have done a lot to relieve stress.

As much as I miss spending time with friends and leaving the house for long periods of time, the measures the district, colleges and the College Board are taking to smooth the transition go a long way in helping students feel more comfortable with the changes. I’m enjoying waking up at 10 a.m. and staying in my pajamas all day, but I still wonder if I’m receiving the same level of education without the classroom environment and structure provided in school.

Navya Singhai is a junior at Los Altos High School and a Town Crier intern.

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