In the past, Collin classes have always been different from other Plano West classes, meeting only three days a week instead of five. This year they are even more different. Some Collin courses are entirely online, even for students who are doing in-person learning, and some are mixed, with the teachers balancing both online and in-person classes.
¨The virtual Biology classes are completely asynchronous, we meet once a week for questions but only for five to ten minutes. The teacher, however, does record herself giving lectures that we can watch later,¨ senior Breanne Huston said. ¨We are given assignments, and they are due along the week. We normally have a homework assignment, a quiz, a practice, and labs.¨
Collin Literature 1 for senior Carter Ranton is also fully online and comes with even more differences.
¨There are a few West kids in the course, but most of them are actual college students, some being in their twenties,¨ said Ranton. ¨I know maybe about five kids out of about 100, and even then, I can only actually talk to about 3 of them.¨
While it is an adjustment to get used to sharing a class with college-age students, Ranton has no issue with it.
¨I personally don’t have a problem with the people around me because I am more of an independent learner,¨ said Ranton. ¨However, I am slightly bothered by the fact that we don’t even see our professor, not even over zoom calls.¨
Some classes, including Rantons English class and Huston’s Biology class, have a fully asynchronous schedule where teachers give the work and there is little teacher-led instruction.
Even classes with teacher-led instruction are affecting interactions between teachers and students, according to Economics professor Daniel Sattizhan. He is finding it more difficult than usual to foster a relationship with students. He attributes this to the first three weeks being virtual, meaning the first meeting was via a screen.
¨If given the option, I would opt to exclusively teach students who were physically able to sit in my classroom, as I think that is much more beneficial to their learning and much more satisfying for me as well,¨ Sattizhan said. ¨Developing connections and relationships with my students is of the utmost importance to me. That simply does not happen to the same degree when we are all looking at each other through a computer screen.¨
The online classes have led to different learning experiences for both teachers and students
¨We have these things called discussion posts, where we have to talk about certain topics for the literature we’re reading. When we have to respond to other [college age] students, it’s a little overwhelming reading some of their responses,¨ Ranton said. ¨You can tell that they actually understand what they have read to a far more in-depth extent than everyone else. Even reading some of their responses to other people is daunting because they analyze everything.¨
Even classes with fellow Plano West students have their differences that have affected learning.
¨Virtual learning has affected the learning experience in Collin biology, especially in labs,¨ said Huston. ¨Normally we would do the labs in person and as a group, but we have to do them online alone.¨
These labs, according to Huston, are done on a website called Mastering. A student is given the procedure on the site, and then it is completed like a regular lab. Huston said she enjoys doing them this way, and under the circumstances, thinks this is the best way to do them.
While students like Huston do not mind the course curriculum, online teachers like Sattizhan do.
“I do not feel that students interact with the material as deeply. This is partly because many, if not most, of them, work on the assignments on their own and not in a group dynamic,¨ said Sattizhan. ¨Another part is there is no real “back and forth” that a typical classroom provides, so there is no real exchange of ideas or debating of concepts.¨
Sattizhan notes that this leads to a superficial learning experience that does not really settle in; however, he does not think the subject must be taught in-person.
¨I think it is much more effective being taught that way [in-person]. I teach econ in a very “hands-on” way, pushing my students to interact and manipulate graphs,¨ said Sattizhan. ¨I feel this makes the concepts easier to understand. I often tell my students, ‘don’t memorize anything. Understand it!'”
Huston and Ranton do not regret choosing to take online Collin classes; however, this is where the similarities of opinion end.
¨I think I would have learned better this year if classes had been in-person,¨ said Huston. ¨I can have a lot of trouble focusing and managing my time evenly.¨
For Ranton, the shift to fully on-line learning has not been as jarring from an educational perspective, although the effects were felt in other ways.
¨I think I would be getting the same amount of learning material [in-person] as I do now. However, socially, it’s a completely different story,¨ said Ranton. ¨Last year kids would have study groups together occasionally, helped each other out when we needed help, etc., but that just isn’t possible anymore.¨