By Sydney Pacheco
The pandemic has changed the way we work, the way we live, and the way we learn. We have all had to embrace the change that has happened in one way or another. One of the big changes students have had to embrace is to their learning environment. All students within the TDSB are taking part in some form of virtual learning, but some students have opted for an entirely virtual school experience. I had the opportunity to interview one of Harbord’s own students who selected completely virtual learning instead of the hybrid learning that was also offered.
Below is the virtual interview I conducted with Jasmine Pridham, a grade 11 student here at Harbord.
Sydney: So Jasmine, what model of learning did you pick for the first Quadmester?
Jasmine: So I’m doing full online for this quad and have already decided I will do virtual for the next quad as well.
Sydney: Are there any particular reasons you decided to do completely virtual as opposed to hybrid learning?
Jasmine: I live really far away from Harbord and I would have to take a bus, and then a subway and after all that I still have to walk to get to school. And also my mom and I we’re both very susceptible so if we were to get the Coronavirus we would become very ill. So as a precaution I decided to do the online learning option.
Sydney: That’s a very good reason to have picked virtual. What two classes did you get assigned this quad?
Jasmine: So for this quad I have French and then accounting.
Sydney: Are those two classes structured in similar ways? Or are they completely different from one another?
Jasmine: They are the COMPLETE opposite. My French class is very like - we just go with the flow and we get assignments that we do on our own, but we don’t really have worksheets that we’re doing or slides or presentations. Whereas my accounting course, it’s not really assignments, it’s more like every single class we see a presentation that my teacher gives, and then we read over a chapter of the unit that we’re doing, and then we do homework questions and we submit those. Today I had a test and then we had an assignment last week with different questions. But, yeah, the two courses are very different from each other.
Sydney: So far which class would you say you prefer in terms of structure?
Jasmine: I definitely prefer my French class to my accounting class. I think that my accounting class is definitely more put together, but my French class is a lot more enjoyable and the work is a lot easier to handle, because I find that my workload in the accounting class is a lot more and we’re moving way quicker than in my French class.
Sydney: Would you say the workload is a lot heavier in virtual school than you would expect it to be in hybrid learning?
Jasmine: I think it would be about the same for hybrid and online. I think it’s just you’re paced differently, because when you’re in class you can ask questions and if you’re confused it’s a lot easier to get help. Whereas when you’re online and they throw 15 review questions at you, and you don’t understand it’s harder to ask and have things explained.
Sydney: When you think about your experience so far this quadmester would you say you have been able to grasp the concepts as well as when you were in a normal school setting?
Jasmine: My French class has been so understandable, and I am doing really well in it. But my accounting course, it’s been more of a struggle, especially last week. I was switched from one class to another unexpectedly. I mean it was still accounting, but it was a new teacher and new kids, and I had to catch up on 3 units that had already been covered by my new class by myself. So catching up on that material along with keeping up with my class was quite hard. Also because we were doing assignments and tests, I barely knew what was going on. So that was definitely a lot harder. But now I’m caught up and everything, and it’s definitely not as bad as it was before.
Sydney: That’s great to hear! So would you say those online classes we had last year from April-May prepared you at all for this entire quad of virtual learning?
Jasmine: Oh absolutely not! It was completely not what I was expecting when I started my first day of school online, because last year I would wake up at 11:30, I would do an hour and a half of work for all of my eight courses. Then I would bake or I would read, or I would watch Grey's Anatomy and now I’m spending my entire day from the minute I wake up until 7:30 at night doing work, getting myself up to date with everything. So yeah, definitely not, I was nowhere near prepared for this. I was not expecting this much work.
Sydney: I’m curious what’s the environment like in these classes? Is it different from how you think a google meet or zoom call would be for Harbord students?
Jasmine: So the first few days of our class, it was the most awkward thing ever, because no one had their monitors on, except for the teacher and everyone was typing in the chat, no one was talking with their mic on. It was so awkward. My accounting course is still kind of like that - my teacher talks for the entire time and that’s it. My French class on the other hand, we all get along with each other and joke with each other and we talk every morning. It’s definitely different from an in class experience where you're with your friends and you’re comfortable with everyone and you’ve met your teacher in person before. Whereas this is all very - I don’t know - weird and awkward because for the first few days no one knew each other, but now we have group chats on like instagram and stuff, so it’s not as bad as it was for the first few days. It’s definitely nowhere near comparable to regular school.
Sydney: Would you say classes you had last year had a bit of a more organic feel then?
Jasmine: Yeah it was definitely more natural. Whereas this feels more forced like... “Hi! I’m Jasmine! What school do you go to? How old are you? Do you have siblings?” It’s very awkward, very weird.
Sydney: And are all the students in your classes enrolled within the TDSB or are students from other boards in your classes as well?
Jasmine: So there is one student in my French class who isn’t in the TDSB, she lives in Alberta - I have no idea why she’s doing French class with us. And then in my accounting course there are about 3 or 4 students not from the TDSB - 3 of which are from Vietnam and 1 who is from Korea.
Sydney: It’s really interesting that there are some international students as well as students from other provinces enrolled in your classes.
Jasmine: Yeah! And I know that in one of my friends' courses, who is also in the TDSB, she has students from Vietnam as well, so I don’t know how that happened.
Sydney: How many students are there in each class?
Jasmine: I’m not sure of the exact number in my accounting course, but I know that my French course has 35 students. I’m pretty sure that my afternoon course has 25, because they’re trying to cut down class sizes
Sydney: Is that why you were moved from one accounting class to another, because of class sizes?
Jasmine: Yeah, they are trying to make class sizes smaller, so they booted me out of my first one and into my current class, so now it’s 25 students rather than 35.
Sydney: Overall how has your experience been with virtual learning? What have been positives? What have been negatives? And just any other parting thoughts you would like to share.
Jasmine: So well a big positive is that both of my teachers now are like if you don’t understand something, “send me an email, ask me a question, I'm here for the entire class time”, even when we’re doing our individual work, so they’ve been good and been helping out a lot. A downside is that if you don’t understand something and you are trying to catch yourself up, you’ll just become more behind as more work comes in. Because you won’t understand what’s going on, and you’ll be doing the homework from like two days ago. It can be very stressful if you don’t quite get something. But if you get into the groove of it, it’s definitely a lot better.
Sydney: I have one last question for you. So I know you said at the beginning that you were doing virtual school again for the next quad, but are you considering doing hybrid for the last two quads? Or do you think you’ll go virtual for the full year?
Jasmine: I’m hoping that for the last quad and maybe the second last quad I'll be able to go in because this really is not how I wanted to do my grade 11 year, but depending on how Covid progresses, I’m probably going to be staying with online learning because it does not look like it’s going to be getting any better. There’s no way I’m doing hybrid in the winter, I am not making that commute with like a foot of snow outside, that’s just not for me.
Sydney: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to be interviewed and share your experience so far!
Jasmine: Of course!
Photo By Rongyi Chai