[PRO/CON] Do synchronous schedule adaptations offer stability or stress?
May 22, 2020
Learning adapted to the stay at home order, first with a class schedule in April that involved one 30 minute synchronous learning time and two 40 minute tutorials for each class. After the mid-month survey sent to faculty, students, and families, the schedule changed again in May, creating two 40 minute synchronous learning blocks and eliminating tutorials. This spurred a debate about the schedule change and what has been most effective.
New schedule brings communication and structure in uncertain times
The goal of all schools in the status quo is to create an atmosphere in distance learning that can simulate as close to an average school experience as possible. After rolling out the initial distance learning schedule, which included just one thirty minute class in each subject along with about three hours outside of class per subject, the school administration sent out a feedback form to parents, students, and teachers.
In these forms, it became clear that students were struggling managing the schedule which varied heavily from week to week, rarely went to faculty tutorial sessions, and were having a tough time keeping up with their classes as they not only had to do the work but learn it outside of class as well.To help, the school administration introduced a new schedule that was rolled out on Thursday, May 7th. After following the new schedule for a week, the benefits are clear.
The new schedule sets it up so that students and teachers are following a very similar block schedule to the one that was used before the breakout of COVID-19. This block schedule has students taking the same amount of classes a day as before and students have two online meets with their classmates and teachers for each subject. The length of each class has also been extended from 30 minutes to 40 in an effort to allow for more discussion. These changes, already in this week, have increased the time that students can spend asking questions and engaging with their class and limited the time working outside of it on homework.
Having more time in class does not only provide students the chance to get a better understanding of the subjects, but it also keeps them connected to their peers. This connection is critical in times like these where many are forced to stay inside and away from human interaction. Getting more chances to be in class allows students to regain a sense of normality seeing familiar faces which is very important.
No matter the weather outside right now, or how weird everything is right now, without the pandemic we would still be in school from 8-3 and have probably even more work. Because of this fact, the new school schedule is a great step in the right direction as it brings a sense of familiarity to students in a time when it is needed most.
Stressful times call for reducing synchronous class time
Figuring out how to navigate the effects of COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially schools. With differing access to technology and learning styles combined with the effect of learning in a completely different environment, at home, adjusting to online learning has been a challenging or at least new experience for all. SPA’s synchronous learning schedule requires too much of students, and teachers, at a time when everyone is feeling stressed and nervous about what the future might hold.
Recently SPA made adjustments to their synchronous learning schedule after “concerns” were voiced in a survey sent to both students and parents regarding distance learning. The new schedule requires students to meet with their classes twice a week to “address the need for more in-person interaction between our teachers and students” according to an email Principal Delgado sent to parents on April 30th. This means up to four 40-minute classes a day depending on your schedule. Not only that, SPA’s classes have not switched to pass/fail. Students not only have to keep up with synchronous class meetings, homework, and capstone projects, but also the fact that if they don’t finish their work it could harm their cumulative GPA. The weather is beautiful, and at the end of a lesson it’s not uncommon for teachers to tell students to go outside that day if they haven’t yet, but it’s hard to find time to enjoy being outside when days are spent in synchronous classes, nights are spent doing homework, and an underlying anxiety about the future fills any gaps.
However, this synchronous learning schedule is not inherently bad. It is important for students to see their teachers and have face-to-face time with other students. But it feels like overkill at a time when there is so much chaos happening all over the world. Are students supposed to ignore the pandemic that is responsible for people they love losing their jobs, experiencing huge levels of anxiety, and even dying, so they can spend upwards of three hours in online classes? This would be a good schedule had it been implemented, say, this fall, when we might be in online classes, but some of the unknowns about COVID-19 will be known. Was it really worth implementing this new schedule with only a month of school to go?