At the beginning of this school year, many Berkeley High School (BHS) students were grateful that they would not be forced to handle all six — or more — classes at once. The term system, an adaptation made by the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) for distance learning, allows high school students to attend online classes for three of their subjects at a time for about a month. During the subsequent term, students switch to the remaining three classes. This system lightens students’ workloads by reducing the amount of subjects they focus on at a time. Though this was a wise decision for BHS, a new problem has arisen that must be addressed, which is that it is difficult to retain information if students aren’t consistently reviewing during the off-term. To address this issue, BHS must reconsider how they utilize asynchronous work days and lighten the assigned workload from the current term so that students can stay up to date in all their classes.
Due to the term system, curricula have been accelerated to double their normal paces, resulting in many students feeling bombarded with information during their classes. When the next term starts, they aren’t using the information from the last term anymore, and therefore it is easy to forget it. Then, students are re-immersed into these classes a month later, and expected to pick up right where they left off, an expectation that causes a lot of additional stress and difficulty.
Plenty of teachers are aware of this issue, and make efforts to review during the off-term. For example, some science teachers hold labs during the zero or seventh periods throughout the off-terms in addition to during their teaching terms. Teachers of various subjects sometimes post optional review or extra credit assignments on Google Classroom.
Aadi Weber, a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC), empathized with the workload of teachers in these situations, and described how this affects students. “Teachers are already trying really hard to grade everything, so teachers are busy [and] kids just fall behind.” Weber said, “I find that when we go back, we have to take a step back as a class.”
There’s clearly no easy solution, and the teaching staff are also learning as they teach virtually. BHS should develop a method for students to effectively remember the information from their classes without adding on to students’ and teachers’ workloads. A good way to establish this would be to have assignments for off-term classes as asynchronous work on Wednesdays, rather than having assignments for current-term classes. Weekend homework assignments from current-term classes should also be lightened and replaced with assignments from off-term classes.
This system would be extremely beneficial for students in language and STEM classes, where practice is essential. Without it, the continued cycle of forgetting material could be detrimental to second semester test scores. Weber said, “If we’re speeding through new material and getting minimal practice, sure we can get by on a few tests, but when it comes to the final exams we are going to see a decrease in excellence.”
For educators and students alike, there are various struggles that come with distance learning, but making these adjustments to keep students up to date in their classes would significantly improve the virtual learning environment.