How Could the Administration Improve Online Learning?

We are now almost 5 weeks into the Belmont Hill Online Learning ExperienceTM and in that time, we have learned some of the strengths and weaknesses of the program. The most obvious, and perhaps infamous, feature of the OLE has been Zoom calls, which now punctuate much of our days. The incessant calls can result in “Zoom fatigue,” a condition which leaves boys feeling tired and headache ridden, despite being seated for nearly 5 hours straight every day. Furthermore, Zoom itself is suspect, with frequent security problems, including “Zoombombing,” and nearly 500,000 Zoom accounts for sale on the Dark Web. Zoom fatigue and Zoom itself are clearly not the perfect options for our OLE, but are they the best?

Zoom has proven itself to be a less-than-secure program over the last few weeks. As the country moved into quarantine, and schools and corporations moved online, Zoombombing arose as a real problem. Zoombombing is when the login information for a Zoom call is somehow leaked online, enabling an unintended visitor to join the call. Though the problem was supposedly quelled by the rollout of waiting rooms, even afterward,  one Congressional House Oversight Committee Meeting was invaded thrice, with Rep. Jim Jordan R-Ohio commenting, “it is clear Zoom is not an appropriate platform for Committee business, which may be particularly sensitive during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Furthermore, many Zoom accounts themselves, not just the meeting IDs, have been stolen and are for sale for as little as ⅕ of a cent on the Dark Web. These accounts contain victims’ emails, passwords, and personal meeting data. 

There is a much safer, and more secure, alternative to Zoom made by a much more well-known company: Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams recently made their much more secure program free for public use. At this point, the only argument against shifting to Teams would be the effort of it, though it doesn’t take more than ~5 minutes to download and install.

The second, and more important, problem facing the OLE is that of Zoom fatigue. Zoom fatigue has proven to be a real problem for many boys, including myself. For the first week or two, it wasn’t awful, but by the third and especially fourth weeks of sitting in the same place, day after day, hour after hour, it has really started to mount. The best counter-balance to Zoom fatigue is, obviously, less Zoom. For instance, in my English class, my teacher has been sending out the work for the whole week and having us meet to discuss only once or twice. Furthermore, the class is split in two, so our discussions last only 20 minutes each. While it is saddening to miss out on half the voices in the class, I, and my classmates, really appreciate the lessened amount of screen time. While I know it is difficult for many classes to lower the amount of Zoom, it will certainly prove necessary for the student body’s sanity since now we’re in this for the long haul.

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