Opinion: Distance Learning Technology Is Not Intuitive


As the fall semester comes to an end, students and staff review the two new distance learning platforms we have adopted for this school year— Canvas and Zoom. Based on an anonymous survey sent out to the school, the responses were generally positive, but not without criticism. 

The majority of people agree that Zoom is an effective platform for conducting online lessons. It is easy to navigate and compatible with Canvas. Teachers praise the participant’s tab that enables shyer students to interact more and the breakout rooms that simulate the small groups students would have worked in if the instruction was in-person. However, there have also been numerous complaints regarding how pre-set breakout rooms never save, and the nuisance it takes to reorganize the students into their respective groups, eating into the valuable class time. On the other hand, students appreciate the private chat feature that allows them to communicate with their teachers discreetly. 

But, a drawback of the chat is that when students are put into breakout rooms and the teacher sends a message to everyone from the main room, the text only briefly appears, making it difficult to refer back to if it had contained instructions. Yet perhaps the most common issue is Zoom lag, experienced by students and teachers alike. While recent updates by the company appeared to mitigate the problem, there is still no permanent solution to completely eliminate a buffering internet connection. 

Likewise, Canvas has also received praise and criticism. The most common compliment is how Canvas was able to incorporate multiple platforms onto its site— Google Drive, Nearpod, and Edpuzzle just to name a few. 

Students appreciate the To-Do list and the simple filtration of assignments that allow them to stay on top of their work by easily viewing what is set to be due next. 

However, some students have pointed out that grades are actually more complicated to view on Canvas compared to previous apps like Schoolloop. The student is required to navigate through several menus, first selecting the specific course they wish to view and then the grades tab for that class. Therefore, it is more difficult for the students to notice any changes to their overall grade and contact the instructor in an appropriate time frame in the case of being able to make up assignments. 

On the other end of the spectrum, most teachers are somewhat unsatisfied with the Canvas, preferring the grade books we have used in the past such as Schoolloop or Google Classroom. Several have complained that Canvas, with its numerous features, had been difficult to learn how to operate. The design is not intuitive and the organization is messy. 

Overall, with the upcoming spring semester looking to adopt a distance learning model with in-person instruction, perhaps the complaints of the students and staff can be addressed to design a better plan for the new year.

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