A screenshot of Fremont Union High School District’s distance learning schedule, taken March 17.
This was the schedule used for my high school’s virtual learning plan, which officially started on March 23. Each class would have a 90-minute period once a week, with “virtual office hours” every day at 11. When I first saw this schedule, I was surprised at how little time each class got compared to “normal” school. However, I realized that it was definitely harder for me to focus and get work done outside of a normal school environment, which made working a lot harder. Keeping up with a “normal” school schedule at home would just not have been possible for me, and I assume that it would not have been possible for most people, which is probably why the district did not make the distance learning schedule very intense.
A picture of a virtual Zoom Calculus class, taken May 18.
Virtual classes were done over Zoom, a video conferencing app. I did not like Zoom classes very much. For one thing, it seemed very awkward to talk to people over video call when I was in my house with the rest of my family. For another thing, since “classes” were just one big video call, it was hard for teachers to assign classwork, so basically all of my schoolwork became homework. For some reason it was a lot easier to do work when I was physically in a classroom, so I struggled a lot with distance learning and ended up turning in a lot of assignments late. I am definitely looking forward to going back to physical school, hopefully sometime next year.
Each teacher had a slightly different setup for their class. There were several platforms that teachers could use, such as Google Classroom, School Loop, and Schoology. Most of my teachers used Google Classroom, probably because it was relatively easy to use and could easily connect to your Google Drive account. Different teachers also had different kinds of virtual Zoom classes. For some of my classes, like my Literature class, there was often no Zoom class at all, and the teacher just sent out a Google form for students to fill out to take attendance. However, for a class like my Spanish class, which usually involves a lot of active participation and speaking, it would have been hard to continue the class without having Zoom meetings for the speaking component.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about throughout this situation is that I’m lucky to live in a time when the internet exists and to have stable access to the internet. If a pandemic like this had happened 50 years in the past, people wouldn’t have had access to the kinds of tools that I have access to that let me keep going to school in a way, and that let me stay in touch with people who are not in my immediate family. Virtual classes are still not a perfect replacement for in-person classes, but they’re definitely better than nothing.
Submitted by Emmy Gallagher, Santa Clara County – Palo Alto.