Given the current global pandemic that continues to pose a risk to the public health, Concord Academy has decided to opt for a distance learning model for the fall semester. This is a difficult transition for many, including returning students hoping for a familiar environment, and new students looking forward to a new experience. Despite the variety of reactions this decision induced, the underlying reasoning and concerns that presumably played a part in this final decision can be easily inferred. Health risks, scheduling, and logistics all needed to be considered. But it is what it is, and for now, we students must do our best to adapt to what this treacherous year has yet to cease from offering us.
Personally, the online experience thus far certainly contrasts positively with last spring’s more “hectic”—although very much understandable—course of action. For many of my classes last semester, the organisation of Zoom links, recordings, homework, and other course files varied greatly from class to class. Usually, this is quite normal: given an in-person model, variation between the organisation of classes can be easily discerned by customised methods—binders, folders, notebooks. Yet during online classes, the situation is different. The identical and repetitive nature of Schoology can easily distract from the exact location of whatever information is needed in an instant. At least for my classes this year, the Zoom links and class expectations are all posted clearly. All in all, it is clear that effort has been put into overhauling the whole online class experience.
With the “user-experience” aside, the content has also undergone a clear shift.
Given the abrupt shift to online learning last spring, teachers seemed to be hesitant to make big changes regarding course work. As a result, some content was either too much of a stretch for a virtual class or seemed to be adapted for a virtual setting at the last minute. Of course, this is expected given the circumstances. This year, it is refreshing to see course work, as well as methods of presentation, to be of a much more appropriate nature for our given setting. The ways classes were designed adhere, for the most part, to the expectations and limitations of a virtual classroom.
That being said, one of the concerns of many, myself included, is the matter of workload. One of the problems that contribute negatively to the workload concern is the STAC model. While the model is a reasonable readaptation, it does have this drawback. There is a potential for the module classes to either coincide all in the same STAC, increasing workload drastically, or to have a STAC in which there are barely any classes. This skewed workload could be detrimental, as it calls for a lot of shifting and adapting in terms of the study patterns and habits on the student’s part. In comparison, although the old schedule had a noticeable level of workload, it was evenly distributed.
In the end, CA has made a laudable and noticeable effort to make this year better to the best of their ability, albeit with imperfections and flaws. In a way, it’s too early in the semester to tell precisely what might become of the current distance learning model, with talks and expectations of a potential reopening in the foreseeable future. As the year 2020 has shown thus far, a good degree of resilience and tenacity is necessary to carry through all this discomforting unpredictability.