The unrealistic workload in distance learning

With a few changes, teachers could make their students feel much more comfortable with the work assigned in distance learning.

Currently, MacArthur is about three-quarters of the way through a distance-learning school year.  Since August, teachers and students continually adjust to the new normal.  How can we make school as functional as possible when we do not even visit the campus?  

The biggest challenge that most classes seem to face is the workload.  Flat out, there is just too much.


To be clear, students understand that work must be done.  That is how they will learn, and no reasonable student would ask for an end to all assignments.  However, when a teacher assigns three or four activities in one Zoom session, it is just overwhelming.

In order to make the workload more manageable teachers should structure their Zoom session to focus on one assignment and one activity at most.  An assignment might be a Google Doc with some questions or maybe completing a Google Slide presentation.  An activity might be filling out a Google Form or practice quiz in Canvas.  

One assignment.  One practice quiz or form.  That is a reasonable expectation for students to meet.  


Furthermore, some of the programs that teachers are relying on do not meet students’ needs.  Nearpod, for example, can be an interactive way to go through a lesson.  Unfortunately, many times teachers are leading the Nearpod, and it goes way too quickly.  In other instances, the Nearpods are taking 45 minutes or even an hour to complete independently.  That is way too long.

To make Nearpods better, teachers should allow students to complete them independently, and the Nearpods should be designed to be complete in a 10-15 minute time frame.  

The other program that causes way too much stress is Reading Plus.  Students understand that independent reading is an important part of school.  Again, some teachers have their expectations way too high.  It is too much work to finish five, six, or even seven See Readers in a week.  Even if a teacher dedicated an entire Zoom session, students would still not meet those expectations.

Instead, Reading Plus should be set to about two or three See Readers each week, and students should have in-class time to work through them.


The final missing piece is motivation.  Students can improve their own motivation by keeping a strong schedule and agenda for their assignments each week.  If students realistically budget out their time, they can help reduce their stress.  

Teachers, too, though, can help reduce the stress and make their Zoom sessions more engaging.  Sometimes, students want to get off-topic in the chat and maybe even be a little silly.  This is somewhat like having small conversations if we were on campus.  

Also, it really helps when teachers have video tutorials for the assignments.  If a student misses class because of Wi-Fi issues, they can always go back and rewatch. That will make the Zoom sessions less stressful because students will not be as worried about missing something the teacher says.

If everyone can work together, and some of these suggestions are taken to heart, the end of this school year will be much better for all students and staff.