In light of the pandemic, virtual learning has become a norm for students everywhere in the world, making education easily accessible through Zooms and learning platforms like Google Classroom. It’s no surprise that districts are embracing “asynchronous” learning days or “virtual snow days” instead of tacking on days to the end of the year.
Most teachers and students here share the same opinions on this new snow-day learning; they are a good way of avoiding losing summer days.
German teacher Brittany Logana said, “I am happy that the asynchronous days have been approved because they give us the opportunity to not have to make up a school day at a later date.”
Most students brought up the same point–not losing vacation days for snow is a great compromise. Senior Trinity Sandefur said that “It’s better to have the virtual snow days so that there aren’t any more days added to the end of the school year.”
Another benefit is the continuous learning that virtual snow days provide. For example, during the three days for snow early in the winter, students continued to have educational material to keep their minds active.
Both Logana and math teacher Rick Meinl said they like that a virtual snow day keeps material fresh for students, so they aren’t losing a day of learning and creating gaps in their knowledge.
Advanced Placement (AP) teachers are thankful for the continued learning, as the exams occur at the beginning of May. AP Literature teacher Sarah Buttiens said, “If we make up days at the end of the year, those are lost preparation days for my AP students. Whereas, if we can have a virtual snow day, I can continue to provide education and preparation for the exams in May.”
On the other hand, some classes may struggle with what kind of material students can do virtually. Senior Kaley Gilland said, “most of my classes are technology electives, so it’s hard to continue with regular lessons.”
While teachers want to provide continued, uninterrupted learning for students, they are also being mindful of the kind of work they assign during these virtual snow days. Many are only assigning review materials, not teaching anything new. For example, support teacher Bonnie MacLean usually assigned a few math problems for students to review material they had already covered.
“[Students] find most teachers are fair in the amount of work they assign, and they are able to mentally relax, which is needed during this time,” said Logana.
Both Sandefur and senior Avery Logue agreed that the work assigned is easy enough to complete on their own, and that most teachers provide work that is focused on the most relevant content so students can complete it without spending hours to try and learn new material.
English teacher Joel Logan said that he will “give work that students can complete on their own without in-person direction. My assignment load is fairly low.”
While teachers attempt to be mindful of assigning smaller assignments, some students still feel like they have too much to do. Senior Aisley Bergdoll said she felt like teachers gave inconsistent amounts of work that often take her a good deal of time to complete. But, she did note, five of her seven classes are honors or advanced courses.
Ultimately, between a lighter workload and time to complete the assignments any time throughout the day, students and teachers alike seem to appreciate the flexibility of asynchronous school days.
Logana explained, “Students seem to appreciate these days as they find time to catch up with schoolwork and focus solely on that without the pressure of sports practice or after school activities.”
While it is enjoyable to complete work at home, some students are struggling with motivation. Gilland said, “I seriously lack motivation to do anything when I don’t have to wake up early. I usually end up not doing any of the work assigned, mainly because of not having motivation.”
Some appreciate the day, but feel stressed by the due dates. Seniors Levi Tartt and Justin Walls plow roads as part of their jobs. While they like having the day to do their jobs and earn money, they noted they are stressed to get work done on time, so they’d like to see extensions on due dates.
Another benefit of a virtual snow day is that it ensures the safety of our students and staff. Cancelled school allows beginner students that have been learning to drive for less than a year to avoid car accidents from bad road conditions.
And despite the fact some news outlets claim we are taking childhood away from children, even superintendent Dr. Nathan Van Deusen encouraged a balance between work and play when he stated “So, take time to go outside and play in the snow, go sledding, and build a snowman on the “Inclement Weather Day” webpage on the school website.
Most students disagree with the sentiment that virtual snow days are ruining childhood. “Although we still have assignments due, since we are doing asynchronous learning we are able to complete our assignments at any time throughout the day [… which leaves] plenty of time to do whatever they want during their snow day,” said Logue.
So, in order to avoid disruptions to learning, virtual snow days permit students to use their brains and activate learning but still find time to relax and enjoy the fun of a snow day–like sledding or sleeping in.
So it seems these new forms of snow days are widely accepted, from students to teachers. Both parties are very happy with the new format, and it looks like that may be the new normal moving forward.