Students’ Favorite New Online Learning Methods

a student showing off their favorite learning method

Molly Troxel showing off her favorite learning method / Photographer: Molly Troxel

This school year is unlike any we have had before. With the majority of classes now online, both students and teachers have needed to adapt to this new normal. For better or worse, we are the guinea pigs for a variety of new programs and teaching methods.

Most of us at Orcas Island High School are comfortable using Google Classroom by now, as well as Google Meets. However, many of us still struggle to keep all the other programs, with their abstract names and unhelpful logos, straight. Edpuzzle, despite its misleading nomenclature, has nothing to do with board games, instead it is an app for playing videos and answering questions along the way. Flipgrid, on the other hand, is quite the opposite, providing students with a (seemingly) simple way to record themselves in short video clips. Perhaps the easiest to confuse are Parlay, which organizes group discussions, with Padlet, a website that allows teachers to interact with their students via slide shows in real-time. Finally, pre-made lesson plans have been popularized as well, especially those by AP Classroom and Khan Academy. While some students have experience from using them pre-COVID, to others they are completely new.

When asked to name their top new methods of learning, students overwhelmingly agreed on one program as their favorite: Edpuzzle. In fact, over 54% of interviewed students preferred this app over other teaching methods. Student August Moore said she likes it because “It’s very straight forward” while student Diego Lago said that Edpuzzles are “quick and helpful.” Not surprisingly, many students, 36.4% to be exact, preferred simply doing an assignment on Google Classroom without having a Meet at all. Student Ellie Wright prefers this method. “I like working at my own pace and taking my time to understand the material,” said Wright. In a system that some find confusing, student Paxton White said, “It’s nice and simple, easy to turn in.” One student did complain that sometimes teachers are not very clear when Google Classroom assignments are due, which can cause confusion. The third favorite new program of OIHS students is Parlay, with a 27.3% preference rate. It is very difficult to have debates and group discussions via Google Meet, and Parlay is meant to make these kinds of activities easier. Student Leonai van Putten prefers this program because it is “Very user friendly,” while student Landon Carter appreciates how “It allows for structured conversations that make it easier to go in-depth.” One of the hardest aspects of online school is missing interpersonal interaction and, in the words of student Sofia Fleming, “Class discussions all the way.”

On average, students were much more divided on their least favorite methods of online school. The highest voted category was lecturing alongside slideshow presentations at almost 32%. Simply presenting a slideshow is definitely the most common method of teaching, so it is interesting that it is so disliked. Most students explained that they get bored of sitting and watching a screen with no
interaction, while others said it was hard to absorb information unless the class is recorded and they can go back and watch it at their own speed. Wright said, “It’s hard to stay focused and I find that it’s easy to zone out”. Agreeing with Wright Lago said, “It’s the easiest to get distracted while you’re just listening.

Tied with a least favorite percentage of 27.3 are Flipgrid and AP Classroom. For the most part, students dislike the AP Classroom because they find it boring and not very user-friendly. While Flipgrid was numerically not the least liked, its opposition was overwhelm-
ingly the most fervent. When asked about Flipgrid, student Bella Evans said “All the homies hate Flipgrid >:( I don’t know if teachers know how awkward it is to record yourself repeatedly for the class to see. Sometimes it takes me like 10 tries to get the video right and nobody should need to stare at themselves speaking for that amount of time. Not to be dramatic but if they don’t stop using Flip- grid, I’m dropping out.” On a lesser scale, other students complained that this program is confusing, ill-functioning, and awkward.

It is impossible to keep everyone happy. Students learn in different ways. Some work best on their own, while others rely on scheduled meets and lesson plans. At least there is one thing we can all agree on: in the words of student Thian Armenia, “[we all] love Mr. Austin’s cartoon Padlets!”