Communication challenges
Ups and downs of dealing with Sycamore

– by Elizabeth T, freshman –

Online school has been in play for quite a few weeks due to the coronavirus initiating social distancing; however, the rate at which this transition occurred led to extreme measures in order for students to get back to schooling. FBTA is using the Sycamore online grading and communication system to organize online teaching and assignments. Students will be spared alternatives such as summer school by utilizing this platform. 

Up until March, Sycamore was used  mostly for communication and recording grades. Although it contains some features for online school, it wasn’t primarily used for that; naturally, this has created some struggles for both teachers and students.

One of the most notable issues with Sycamore is the level of tabs to navigate going from page to page. On older computers, this can be a slow and inefficient process to check each tab for each section of each class. 

“It’s [Sycamore] not bad, it just takes time to navigate,” said David T, sophomore. “My biggest issue has been the navigation because of how many clicks it takes. The class homepage does display the majority of needed information which is helpful.”

Some of the features, such as the “pass a note” feature, have been annoying for both parents and teachers, and most teachers have just switched back to email for communication. Teachers have met several times to synchronize their teaching methods, so it is less confusing for the students, although there are still many adjustments being made. 

“Sycamore is based on platform that is not designed for online learning,” said Mrs. Tatum, parent. “I think a good idea would be for the school to talk to online institutions such as Liberty University which is already well-established [with online learning]. Overall, I appreciate the effort being made in this unprecedented situation.”

The Fairfax Public School system took three weeks off to plan for their online learning, but has also run into its own problems, having to switch from Blackboard Learn 24-7 system to Google classroom. 

The challenges involved are having to adapt quickly to a system and doing the best with what is available. Should these changes become even longer term, FBTA may want to look into a more online purposed platform.

There are definitely pros and cons to a temporary online school system. Fortunately, the schedule is much looser; however, unfortunately, students experience some strife with the platform.

In talking with the seniors on a Zoom session, Mr. Bradford, school administrator, got an update on how they were progressing.

“While they are bummed with all the things they are missing out on because of the virus, they were quite positive regarding the distance learning,” said Mr. Bradford. “They felt the workload has balanced out, and they seemed to be doing pretty well.”