Virtual learning impacts DBHS students, teachers

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Diamond Bar High School students have been forced to adjust to a virtual learning environment that varies from teacher to teacher.

AP European History teacher Emily Clark has used Google Classroom, Screencastify and other online platforms to teach her classes.

To prepare for the AP exam, she and history teacher Lindsay Arnold showed students how to structure their Document Based Question and provided a sheet to help them get organized for the test. They also focused on the themes that were taught and applied to the DBQ.

“Since DBQs require a lot of skills, we generally teach this last in the curriculum, building up to it all year long,” Clark said via email. “So when the closure happened, we had just started to really get a feel for this type of question.”

To answer any questions students had and conduct lectures, Clark offered individual and group meetings over Google Meet. On the morning of the exam, students could leave any last-minute questions on a Google Chat.

Clark said her biggest challenge with virtual learning has been missing out on seeing and teaching her students in person rather than through a screen.

“There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction in a classroom setting, and I genuinely miss seeing all of my students and talking with them and interacting,” she said. “It is very hard to teach [through] a computer screen.”

Prior to distance learning, math teacher Lisa Arionus used a “flipped” classroom environment with her students for the past couple years, where they would learn the lesson at home via EdPuzzle and do homework during their class period.

While her Trigonometry/Math Analysis students were already turning in their homework online through WebAssign and their work for math problems through Google Classroom during the school year, she still had to get her Algebra 2 students set up.

Aside from videos and worksheets, Arionus also assigned projects to all of her classes. For one project, students went outside and measured a tree or their house. Another project had students record videos showing how they solved a problem.

Arionus pre-records her lessons so that they don’t conflict with the students’ schedules.  She also holds office hours twice a week so students can ask questions about assignments.

Similar to Clark, Arionus notes that one challenge she’s faced is not interacting with her students as much as she would like to.

“I may see my students’ names, work, [and] score on a video quiz, but that doesn’t replace seeing their faces and knowing whether they get what I am saying or not just by looking at their eyebrows,” Arionus said.

She has overcome this challenge by trying to connect with students through leaving comments on their assignments and mailing them notes.

“The perception can be that teachers are just more adults that are trying to interfere and control the lives of teens,” she said. “I’m just trying to be there for my students during the often challenging teen years and hopefully inspire them to love something that they didn’t have any interest in loving [math].”

To reduce any cheating on her assignments, English 2 teacher Lisa Pacheco has dropped  multiple choice tests and vocabulary exams and instead focused on reading and writing assignments as well as projects. All of her students’ assignments are submitted to

Pacheco noted that adjusting to virtual learning wasn’t easy for her as she misses interacting with her students in the physical classroom.

“I am not a big fan of virtual learning, but like it or not, we all have to adjust,” she said.

Pacheco’s biggest challenge has been trying to motivate her students to complete their assignments. 

“Some of them have been meticulous about completing their assignments, even some of my students who had an ‘A’ in their 12-week progress report grade,” she said. “However, others have become quite complacent. Sadly, I have a few students who haven’t done any work at all.”

To overcome this, she grades the assignments every week and inputs the scores into Aeries Portal.

“When they see those blank red spaces glaring out at them for assignments they failed to turn in, that seems to motivate a lot of them,” Pacheco said.

Junior Aileen Park and senior Brian Lee have encountered some challenges with virtual learning, but they both are pleased with the new grading policy, in which students’ grades can’t drop below what they were on March 13.

Park said she could learn while reviewing, but she found it hard to wake up in time for her teacher’s meetings.

“If I had to say, I prefer in-school learning because I get to be with my friends while also living that typical high school life,” she said via Messenger.

A challenge she has faced is laziness, but she focuses on finishing her assignments for that week in a day. She believes that the new grading policy can help students who are trying to boost their grades.

“The new grading policy allows students to get a chance to raise their final grade, but I also believe that students should have made sure their grades didn’t fall under their own specific expectations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Lee spent his time practicing free-response questions for his five Advanced Placement classes and attending his teachers’ Zoom calls before the exams started.

“This practice in conjunction with being able to ask any teacher any question at any time provides quite an auspicious environment for succeeding in one’s AP exams,” he said via Messenger.

Since virtual learning started, he said his sleep schedule has improved and he has more time each day to do activities like learning the programming language Python and writing short stories.

Lee also said he believes that the new grading policy lets students get the grades they deserve.

“The new grading policy is fair and gives the best of both worlds: it allows people who want to raise their grades to raise them with effort put in and it allows for people heavily affected by Covid-19 to shirk some of their homework,” he said.