Virtual Learning a Success, Not without Limitations

Krish Shah
February 17, 2020

With the news that virtual learning will continue through March 16th and possibly beyond, Junto looks at the positives and negatives from our first two weeks on Zoom. 

School as Normal, Thanks to Teachers

Our first attempt at virtual learning, all the way back in Semester One, left students behind and confused due to unclear expectations and incomplete lessons. This time around, credit the administration and faculty for resolving these issues — mandating that every teacher hold class and  communicate work clearly, as well as expecting us to remain on schedule. The phrase “school as usual” has defined the early portion of virtual learning. Despite a different location, classes have continued moving along through the curriculum normally. In ensuring some normalcy, HKIS has reduced the chance that students will have to give up more than Interim, hopefully allowing us to still go on spring break and leave for summer on time. None of that would be possible without the extra effort of the faculty. Students and parents owe them a great deal of appreciation for spending extra time to get comfortable with Zoom and retooling lesson plans to be effective in the virtual setting. 

Summative Testing Needs Change

Virtual learning has mimicked school as best it can, and that includes the testing. Teachers have begun to hold summative assessments virtually, using a variety of precautions to try and preserve their integrity. Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, there will always be students who will search for avenues to cheat, and in the virtual classroom those avenues are increasingly abundant. Moreover, the risk of getting caught decreases and more people are likely to cheat. This puts students who don’t want to cheat in an unwinnable position. For many classes that assign grade distributions after the fact based on class performance, students who cheat “raise the curve,” placing those who don’t at a disadvantage. This means that students either have to sacrifice either a potential lower grade or their moral hesitations. HKIS should not put any students in this situation. It is the responsibility of the school to provide a fair assessment process for all students, and to deter cheating to the best of its ability. 

To preserve the integrity of our assessment process, teachers need to adapt their testing procedures for the remainder of virtual learning. When possible, teachers can assign summatives that would already involve work outside the classroom (like projects and essays) or assessments that are “for learning” where the difficulty of the problems makes them harder to cheat on. Perhaps more drastically, teachers should abstain from giving traditional in-class summatives at all, instead giving these assessments as formatives. Then, upon returning to school, students could take a “cumulative” to summatively assess the knowledge that was taught during the virtual period. If there are concerns about overloading students with summatives, a pseudo-exam week schedule could be used. Considering the unique circumstances that virtual learning presents, we need to adapt what we are comfortable with in order to ensure an equitable learning environment for all.