Distance learning provides opportunities, challenges


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Students had to make a choice in the summer: attend school with the likelihood it would be from home, or sign up for Edgenuity, an online-based education platform for a semester.

Katie Hillemeyer, Editor

Students are needing to become accustomed to new everything: new ways of turning in assignments, contacting teachers, and hosting school activities. Perhaps the biggest change to Harding has been the introduction of an additional learning platform: Edgenuity.

For many students and parents, this is their first time hearing about the learning platform. Students on Edgenuity are able to set their own schedule as the lessons are asynchronous, with only the end of the semester and sparse due dates providing limits on when students get work done.

However, a Google search of Edgenuity will pop up with a fiery barrage of reviews from teachers, parents, and students alike. Complaints range from anything from bugs and glitches to the lessons and grading system which would make any prospective student or parent uneasy. One teacher wrote: “I am a teacher who has used this program in class. I have had complaints about all the glitches that have happened. I’ve heard things from losing progress when using a different device, all the way to it auto submitting quizzes if you close the computer with an unfinished quiz. I feel like this doesn’t even help any students.”

So how are Harding students taking to it? Results are mixed.

Some, like junior Korbin Nida and senior Kinlee McCurtain are enjoying the platform for the flexibility and security it provides them.

“I decided to do Edgenuity because I didn’t want to put my family at risk if we went back to in-person classes, and I’m finally getting the hang of it.  I like that it’s self-paced and allows me the flexibility to do my everyday projects while not getting bored,” Nida said. “I wake up around 6:30 a.m., hang out with my mom, and get started around 7:30 a.m. on my classes. Usually, I finish around noon, but I sometimes choose to work later if I’m feeling extra motivated. I try to stay as organized as possible.”

“I miss having the senior year experience, but I know that other students are missing out as well, so I know I’m not alone,” McCurtain said. “I really like Edgenuity actually! It’s self-paced, which is good on some tougher assignments and lessons.”

On the other hand, some expressed concern about the fact that Edgenuity’s biggest strength for many students – the fact that it’s self-paced – may be a double-edged sword. If a student doesn’t pace themselves with Harding’s teachers, they may struggle to catch up if they’re behind in content or, conversely, feel bored in class if they end up being ahead at the end of the semester.

“I think I’m going to continue Edgenuity next semester because I’m afraid I’ll be behind or ahead in my classes if I come back [to in-person/distance learning classes],” McCurtain said.

Another issue is that Edgenuity students are prohibited from coming on campus. However, club advisors and students are finding ways to create a “Harding away from Harding.”

“I’m so glad I’m able to participate in speech and debate and the school play virtually as stage manager because it’s being held virtually,” Nida said. She also is able to take part in yearbook, as the work for it is primarily digital to begin with.

Still, for various reasons, some Edgenuity students have chosen to return to distance learning such as junior Kamryn Downs.

“My parents chose for me to do Edgenuity because they thought it would be the safest option for me, but I chose to leave Edgenuity because I couldn’t communicate with teachers or classmates,” Downs said. “The videos were good because they allowed me to work at my own pace, but they still left some questions unanswered. This was especially hard in my AP classes.”

Teachers have also had to adjust to Edgenuity, some more than others. Although Edgenuity students receive lessons through asynchronous lectures, teachers are able to check up on how Edgenuity students are progressing through their work for the semester and answer questions from students.

“I really only am able to interact with Edgenuity students when they ask a question or have an issue. I used to teach classes online so I got used to checking that system once or twice a day to see what work had been done.  This is pretty much the same,” AP US History teacher Daniel Clark said.

“I think once students and teachers figure out how Edgenuity works it is easy to communicate but there is a learning curve.  One issue we had was learning Edgenuity has a separate email system that is not connected with our regular one.  Because of this I missed a few messages at the beginning of the semester because I was not checking that system,” Clark continued.

For another teacher, who chose to remain anonymous, what once seemed like a way to relieve some of the stress of teaching virtually has actually multiplied her workload and stress about the year.

“My initial reaction [to Edgenuity] was gratitude because I thought it would take some of the burden off teachers…I have ended up having to grade on Edgenuity every single day [because Edgenuity students] need something to be graded so they can move on. Plus, these aren’t assignments I developed, so I’m not familiar with so I spend a lot of time looking at rubrics,” they said.

They also expressed apprehension over how well Edgenuity is preparing students for AP tests.

“I invest so much time into my AP class to make sure that my kids are prepared- it’s my favorite class to teach,” the teacher said. “I don’t expect that any of [the Edgenuity students] will score a three or higher without outside study. I know that the students I see each day are forming solid memory of the things we are covering through and the Edgenuity kids are just clicking through each day.”

“The truth that we now know is that we will probably be learning virtually for the rest of the semester and the Edgenuity purchase will have been for not. My fear is that the Edgenuity kids will be short-changed as seniors,” they continued. “They will really have to play catch-up and hard work is the enemy of senioritis.”