After months of isolation and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students finally returned to the halls of Black River Falls High School–or at least some of them did. A handful of students opted for online school, a task that has not come without challenges.
“My mic on my computer doesn’t work at all, and I had to miss out on an assignment because it was an audio recording, and I couldn’t access it on my phone,” said senior Maddie Suchanek.
This isn’t the only case of technical difficulties coming from the online students, although the majority of the issues are related.
“My camera doesn’t work on my laptop and I’m supposed to do a video introducing myself so I’m kind of being held back,” said senior Keara Wallace.
When students run into technology issues, they’re instructed to reach out to the tech team. However, many have not received anything back.
“I wasn’t offered much help from my teachers and the tech team took two days to respond,” said senior Genesis Cernik.
On top of unreliable technology, some online students are struggling with the overall set up of the ‘integrated classrooms.’
“My teacher is putting the laptop in the back of the classroom so that ‘I can see everything’ but the board becomes overexposed and I have to turn my volume all the way up to even hear him,” said one of the students.
In many classrooms, online students miss out on in-class discussion due to connection issues or inability to make out clear conversations between the whole class.
“It’s hard to understand what’s going on in class just because I can’t see the screen and the teachers often forget about the online students,” said Cernik.
For some students, the feeling they have in class isn’t being forgotten, it’s being ignored.
“My advisor doesn’t even talk to me during the advising calls. She mutes herself and turns off the camera every morning,” said another student.
The struggles of online classes have pushed some students even further from their advisors, adding to the stress of the situation.
“‘I’ve never been close with my advisor. In fact, she thought I graduated last year. I have had little communication with her, and so I was marked absent all week,” said another student.
Going into the year, some teachers pushed for combined advising including all of the online students, allowing the advisor to devote the first half hour of their day to those students, answering their questions and building connections.
“I think all teachers and students are facing challenges with being blended. Whether it be on our side or the students, technology can be faulty which throws off learning,” said social studies teacher Eli Youngthunder.