Zooming In Online

During the current COVID-19 situation UPrep has been forced to transfer to teaching remotely


Photo: Devan Harrison

Sixth-grader Colin Harrison watches his teacher speak as he learns online through Zoom.

Since Monday, March 9, UPrep has converted to remote learning. The main way for the UPrep community to communicate has been through Zoom Video Communications. Most students and teachers agree that Zoom works but cannot fully replace any in-person interactions. 

“We chose Zoom because we were looking for an app that was the most popular and functional,”Jeff Tillinghast said. Tillinghast is the Director of Learning Design and Technology at UPrep. Tillinghast was recently part of a team that selected how UPrep would handle online learning during an unusual time like this.

While UPrep may have handled the situation quickly, many major changes in the class environment have changed. Every class is only about 30-45 minutes long and many students have trouble communicating with friends. School can be a way for many students to see their friends. Sometimes class time can become somewhat social.

“I know some people may be lonely or something, but that doesn’t mean you should derail the class to try and have a conversation with your teacher about your cat. This keeps happening every other class I have, and it pushes the class into 45 minutes cause people end up trying to socialize for 15 minutes. You can do that in the 30 minute passing period,” eighth-grader Kellen McHugh said.

Now, all students are learning from the comfort of their homes. This gives them more flexibility with their schedules, which has pros and cons. 

“Since we started Zoom, all of my classes have had 100% attendance…but I don’t think many students are as mentally present,” English-teacher Mark Smith said.

He observes that while students are coming to class every day many are laying on their beds and are less attentive. 

Another problem Zoom faces is that sometimes strangers not part of the UPrep community can get into classes. 

“One time during Jazz, some guy came into our Zoom room and shared a very graphic image,” eighth-grader Sophie Biernacki said

In the beginning of online learning, random people could freely enter UPrep’s Zoom rooms. Some critics comment that Zoom has some safety issues. To stop this UPrep added the waiting room at the beginning of class where teachers can select who can enter the meeting.

“We also have communicated with Zoom to make it safer. For example, we negotiated with them not to send our calls to China and to keep it here [in the United States],” Tilinghast said. 

UPrep is not the only school closing down. According to the Washington Post about 36 million students have been affected by school closures in the US. Many states’ governors have called for all schools in the state to be closed during the pandemic.

Zoom has given UPrep advantages towards learning online. According to a Schoology poll, most students think that Zoom works and may be the best UPrep can get. When UPrep made the decision to transfer to online learning, it had already planned what to do and how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“I have friends in New York and their schools aren’t doing as much for their students as UPrep,” Biernacki said. 

Many others have similar comments about UPrep’s response.

“All my friends are educators and many at Seattle public schools say that ‘they couldn’t really teach for the first week of closure.’ I think UPrep has handled this situation very well,” Smith said.