Slow Computers and Failing Wifi: The Frustrations of Online Learning

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David Rudd, Editor

Sydebts In these strange times, everyone has had to adapt to the changing circumstances. Palm Beach County Schools, for example, are doing their best to imitate the regular school experience. From the safety of their own homes, students are sitting on video calls for the entirety of their day. On these calls, students are oftentimes assigned work to complete online. This can range from typing an essay or creating a powerpoint. The combination of all these digital tasks is wearing on people’s computers and their WiFi. However, connectivity problems have not only stemmed from the students’ end. On the first day of school, the school district admitted that thousands of students across the district could not access Google Classroom or their district portal. This particular issue was solved just hours later, but concerns of digital classrooms continue.

Throughout the opening week of school, students and teachers have been losing connection to their class meets. Usually, everyone can hop back in just a minute or two, but sometimes the internet issues are prolonged. One student told a story where both their parents were working and they and two siblings were on calls with their class. This resulted in their internet going down for nearly an hour. All three kids needed to email their teachers in order to catch up on missed classwork and notes.

Another teacher expressed her frustrations with the county’s mandatory recording policy. Every teacher must record their Google Meet sessions. However, teachers have oftentimes had their computers crash, immediately after they start recording, further delaying the class.

A less severe, but way more common issue faced is a steady but slow connection. While connected to their class’s calls, students have struggled to connect to other web pages. Teachers commonly ask students to research topics, write, take notes, and create presentations. All students should have the ability to do this, but when connected to a video call, their computers slow down and can’t complete the assigned task. Students regularly resort to completing assignments after class or on their phones.

No one planned for a pandemic to hit. Everyone is adapting to the best of their abilities and in general, distanced learning has been successful. The Palm Beach County School District implemented a very strong plan in order to best imitate regular schooling. Their plan is solid, but they need to allow teachers to teach. Teachers are required to stay on the call with students for the entirety of class. This frequently slows student learning. It limits how much students can work independently. Some classes are dependent on students working alone. While working independently on call, students struggle to communicate with other classmates and spend a significant amount of the period on loading screens. While the county clearly wants to enforce mandates to ensure students are learning but doing so limits learning.