Challenges of Remote Learning

Troy Peternell

On March 12, 2019, school districts throughout Washington closed their doors on on-site education. After two weeks of getting all students connected and familiar with distance learning, the school districts voted on how students would be receiving education for the remainder of the school year. While the district has made an admirable attempt to bring the best possible education it can to students under difficult circumstances, the current system in place could be improved upon in several ways. Students deserve the highest quality of education possible, even during a time like this, delivered in a way that replicates their regular school experience.

Zoom, the most widely used platform for face-to-face communication between students and teachers, has been a problem for multiple teachers. Alex Parker, a Spanish teacher at Capital High School, said that “the delay through the digital platform, having students muted, and a lack of interest, all make it really hard.” He talks about how this is especially difficult in a foreign language class, where “you have to be able to turn to your partner and talk.”

Another major issue is the lack of a single system in place; instead, teachers use various different platforms to send their students assignments. The current system lacks the kind of structure and uniformity that is vitally important in a time like this. “We need to simplify it,” Parker says. “There are too many websites, logins, resources, etc. It’s nice that the district allows us to do what we want to do, as we see fit, but now is the time for us to come together. We need a system. Either Schoology, or Google Classroom, or the school website, or something uniform.” Parker, who teaches at the high school level and has a child at the middle school level and another in elementary school, says that he has “realized this both from (his) experience as a teacher, as well as a parent now.”

However, the biggest problem seems to be one that can’t be fixed; the fact that students can’t be in class in person. “I really miss my students,” says Michael Deakins, a history teacher at Capital. “I think that is the hardest part.” He goes on to talk about the chemistry his classes have and the way the students jell with one another, and says that “it is not only difficult, it is impossible to recreate that virtually.” Elizabeth Shine, an English teacher at Capital, thinks the district is doing the best they can given the circumstances. “The reality is we did not choose the format. We did not design the situation to work well. We are surviving a pandemic.” 

While there are issues with the current methods through which students are being educated, in particular the free-form approach that has been taken to providing that education, in the short-term the school board is doing the best it can under the circumstances. As it becomes more and more likely that distance learning will be at least partially implemented next year, however, changes need to be made in order to improve the level of education students are receiving.