E-Learning: Why it’s worth E-xpanding

David Dupuis, Staff Writer

It was a cold and windy day, with emphasis on the cold. In fact, it was so cold that it was making the history books. Highs around -13 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills pushing it below -30 were on the horizon, and we all were anticipating a day off. Then, it happened. Right as third period began, we got our wish and then some: two whole days off.

However, the question lay in the back of the minds of students and teachers alike: how would we make up these missed days? Would we need to attend school further into June? Would we sacrifice a day we’d otherwise have off? After all, both had happened before. But, as it would turn out, the answer was neither of those: it was E-learning. And little would we know, but it would be the right answer.

But what is E-learning? It’s actually a very simple concept. You get assignments just like any regular school day, except assignments are counted for attendance. Perhaps most important in the E-learning equation is that you don’t actually go to school. It’s working from home, plain and simple.

E-learning may seem like a flashy new concept, but in technicality, it isn’t. In fact, it’s barely new to us. Think about it: we have been doing work on Chromebooks for years, and there aren’t many fundamental differences in E-learning. It’s done on Chromebooks, and it’s also done at home, just like any other homework assignment.

So the technology is here, and it’s been here for a while. We’ve gotten that hurdle out of the way. But what exactly is so special about E-learning?

One reason is exactly why it was introduced; it’s a good way to make up snow days without needing school to actually be in session. It’s one less day where students and faculty need to worry about getting up at a certain time, getting to school on time, and working. Working at home saves energy, gas, and money, and “electrifying” the process makes one’s physical workload more manageable.

Additionally, E-learning is a great vehicle for the school to move towards further integration of technology. If everybody is working remotely, there would need to be upgrades in not only our technology, but also its availability. Not everybody has WiFi, so it was necessary that the ChromeZone rented out portable hotspots for students. And if we are to “electrify” math, we’d need to make changes there as well. After all, you can’t easily do math in a Google Doc.

We mustn’t forget that all of the advantages that Google Classroom has comes with E-learning. It makes backpacks lighter by decreasing the amount of paper we need to carry around. It also makes workloads more manageable by storing everything on one machine, and decreases the chance of losing work, which in theory decreases stress upon students.

But E-learning isn’t perfect, and concerns that go with expanding it are justified. Perhaps one concern is that students will simply blow off online assignments since the accountability of handing in an assignment to a human being, or being present in class, just aren’t there. Accountability is a major part of education, and if it’s an issue, there needs to be a greater incentive to do these assignments and turn them in on time.

Second, there’s the simple yet incredibly important part of actually knowing when E-learning will take place. If there’s a day off, or more logically, a long weekend, people likely have things planned, and suddenly learning of an E-learning day would undoubtedly throw a wrench into their plans. To safeguard against this, it would be a good idea to mark “emergency days” as “possible E-learning days,” and to have a week’s notice if one of these days would be used. That way, students and administrators alike can prepare for E-learning and keep confusion to a minimum.

But as important as our student experiences are, it is also important to gain insight into the logistics behind E-learning. Gionmatthias Schelbert, a science teacher at ETHS, was on the team of organizers behind the E-learning day. He says the idea for E-learning came from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)’s expansion of what could be considered a school day, and it was an involved process organizing the day as a whole. However, he also reports that it was a success. Out of the two options given for attendance, a Google Form and completing assignments, around 90% of students were marked present. He supports the expansion of E-learning, but at the same time, he believes it’s important to streamline the attendance process in the future.

Technology is the future of learning. We’ve seen it happen, and E-learning is just another part of the equation. We weren’t the first to use it, far from it in fact, but that only makes expanding it all the more important. E-learning isn’t a crazy new concept, but it has shown to be successful, which only means there’s potential for the future.

And if nothing else, at least you won’t have to get up super early and go to school.