Bruin Country Goes Online; The Aftermath

Online Learning Systems


Mckenna Gradine, 10, works on her laptop during lunch.

Grace Geddings, Journalist

Over the past two school years, Western Branch High has been one of the many schools converting to virtual learning. Although the school is moving towards online learning, it was a forced decision that caused many to scramble and jump in headfirst. Now after more than a year, faculty and students have formed their final opinions on the virtual classroom. It is important for these voices to be heard in order to settle the storm that is Online School

While both students and teachers are continuing to master the platform of virtual learning, some still prefer the traditional paper and pencil technique.

“That’s tough, I think in the past I would probably tell you paper but with Schoology and having learned new features and how it all works, I think I’m 100% online now,” Mark Anderson, English teacher at WBHS, said.

“Schoology will provide our teachers the power to extend their classrooms into an online platform that will facilitate both scheduled teacher-led and independent at-home learning,” an article on the Chesapeake Public Schools website said. “Teachers can share announcements, special dates, pictures, newsletters, discussion boards, lessons, videos, and more on Schoology.”

Mr. Anderson has spent the last two years working with the learning management system. He was one of the many teachers using Google Classroom when schools were closed for COVID.

“Some of my hesitancy before I think was because I just didn’t know that much about it,” Anderson said, “In March 2020 when we were forced to go online and make the switch to google classroom I think that myself and some other teachers just weren’t as prepared to do that. So now in this setting, the teachers are just more prepared,”

As much as teachers have found ease in operating online, students are looking for a reprieve from the screens.

“I like paper better just because it’s easier to keep track of your work if you get lost in online stuff,” Kaelin Krebill, 10, said.

In a blog about education, The Southerner spoke about the technical difficulties with Schoology. The Southerner is based in Atlanta, Georgia which proves that Schoology’s flaws aren’t just a local problem.

The user interface [of Schoology] is dated and difficult to navigate, … Managing assignments is unnecessarily confusing, … New materials posted by teachers appear at the bottom of the course page or folder, meaning that keeping up to date with new materials and assignments will only become harder as the school year progresses,” The Southerner said.

Students also faced many mental challenges during the switch to online school and felt that teachers didn’t understand their side of the situation.

Online school has impacted my mental health in a bad way, it stresses me out a lot. We’re already on screens so much, I feel like we need to get more time off of the screens. It makes it depressing, especially when we first started at home because I know some people wouldn’t even leave bed all day and just do their classes online,” Mckenna Gradine, 10, said. “It made me feel very unmotivated.”

In a poll of about 500 WBHS students, an astounding 78% of students said that online school has impacted their mental health in a negative way. In the same survey, 85% of students said they retain information better with paperwork versus online. Finally, 66% of students said that their grades were better before the COVID-19 pandemic versus present day. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said: “Now we are learning about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.”

Most of the frustration seems to lie with learning from home rather than learning online. Students reported a drop in their mental health when at home versus in the school building.

“We learned a lot more before COVID I think. Now we just take notes for 15 minutes and then do our homework,” Gradine said. “We also can’t do group activities now so we just kinda sit there. I think if the school did more paper assignments and less online that would help us all.”

It was also common for students to see a dramatic change in their grades due to the switch of being in or out of the building.

“I had all A’s in 8th grade before COVID. When COVID hit they went down and now being back in the building they have gotten better,” Krebill said.

Students agree that being back in the classroom helps, but the main difficulty is the huge change in the environment.

“I feel like nobody talks anymore in class,” Krebill said. 

Transitioning to this new way of learning has resulted in a drop of enthusiasm from the students and teachers alike, but also created a more sympathetic group of learners.

“We’re [teachers] still learning, the students are still learning, so we can continue to give each other grace and patience and we’ll continue to improve,Anderson said.