Bishop Ready High School President Celene Seamen said the school’s pivot toward distance learning has been aided by having much of the necessary infrastructure in place.
Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered school buildings closed for the rest of the academic year.
As a result, Seamen said, all students are provided with tablet computers as part of the school’s 1:1 computer program, and they use the Canvas learning-management system.
“We were using that anyway for delivery of information and videos and blogs, and things along those lines,” Seamen said. “When we learned that we were going home at first for (three) weeks, which was the original order, we quickly reviewed with teachers how you would use the Canvas conference mode (to teach from home). They knew how to use the other aspects of Canvas, obviously, for delivering and sending material.”
Seamen said teachers started incorporating Zoom into their lessons after it was discovered the Canvas conference mode can slow down if several users are on at the same time.
Other than that issue, Seamen said the distance-learning systems have held up and its curriculums have progressed.
“That is going very, very well,” she said. “From all reports, the students like the Zoom aspect better than the Canvas conferencing – it’s easier to use. The Canvas for posting assignments, posting videos, sending and receiving materials back-and-forth is working fine. By all reports, the online learning is going well.”
Seamen said the school has kept tabs on faculty and students with surveys that allow administrators to assess how things are going. She said administrators have found that how well a student responds to distance learning tends to be consistent with how well they were doing in school before DeWine’s order.
“I think what we are finding ... generally speaking, if you were a student who did well prior to the online learning, you’re still doing well,” Seamen said. “If you were a struggling student prior to the online learning, you are still struggling. What we have found is that students are pretty much falling into the same patterns and habits as they did before the stay-at-home order.
“We have had some reports, though, that some students are doing better than they were before.”
Terri Rehner, a math teacher, said technology has eased her to transition into teaching from home and finds it has allowed her students to adapt quickly.
“I’m teaching almost like I would in the classroom, so to speak, because I would teach normally on my iPad and display it on an Apple TV,” Rehner said. “My students are still experiencing pretty much the same kind of instruction. They can ask questions, and because of Zoom, the class is recorded if they need it. I think my students are adjusting rather well.”
Most of her students are seniors, and Rehner said her classes have maintained nearly perfect attendance.
By logging into Canvas, the school can measure attendance by checking throughout the class period whether the student still is engaged.
“I might have one student who is having internet issues, but then they’ll always email me and say they’re having internet issues,” she said.
Distance-learning class periods last one hour and 15 minutes, Seamen said.
Although officials are happy with the instruction through distance learning, Seamen said student assessments still present challenges.
In particular, she said, online assessments aren’t as great a measure of a students’ skills as a test taken in person.
“We’re conscious that it is not exactly the same as the instructional piece. You can modify (instruction) somewhat for online, but the assessment piece with online learning is a bit more complicated.
“We’re discussing that and trying to find our way forward to make the assessments meaningful and skill-driven, and not just content-driven.”
In lieu of a traditional graduation, a virtual commencement ceremony has been scheduled May 30.