A discussion of the digital learning options at UAHS.
BY GRETA MILLER, ’23. GRAPHICS BY MOLLY HENCH, ’22. PHOTO BY BELLA VANMETER, ’22.
COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of life. From social interactions, to travel, to school, little has remained the same. One of the largest evolutions that resulted from the pandemic was the increased use of online learning. Prior to the pandemic, UAHS offered only a few online classes with the most commonly taken one being online Health. After the pandemic, however, there are numerous alternative educational methods, but the lingering question is: What is the future of online learning at UAHS?
The pandemic brought the need for distance learning (Zoom classes), UA Online Academy, online courses through private companies and hybrid schedules. Of those options, the only methods still currently offered are UA Online Academy (OA) and online courses through private companies.
OA is a virtual learning option that allows students to learn at home with a curriculum specifically created for online education and monitored by UA teachers. OA has become the new way of school life for many students, logging onto the platform in the morning and completing their assigned tasks at their own pace.
“I started the year with 917 students in Online Academy last year, and I currently have 89 students, so a much smaller number this year,” Keith Pomeroy, UA’s
Chief Academic Officer who has been referred to as the principal of Online Academy for the past few months, said. Pomeory monitors the course offerings of Online Academy.
“[During the height of the pandemic], we offered a lot of options. We tried to expand elective options for kids as well,” Pomeroy said.
While the numbers of online participants have decreased, online options still remain, continuing to provide a new method of learning for students and bringing both positive and negative impacts. Sophomore Laila Dillard participated in the Online Academy last year, her freshman year, and the second semester of this year. Being that she was a member of the online learning community during both 2021 and 2022, she is able to compare the two years.
“Online [school right now] is okay. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. I feel like this year they did better than last. They’re more involved with the students, but I also feel like I lose an aspect of seeing friends and things like that,” Dillard said. Online Learning is a different method of learning—one that includes less face-to-face interaction and engagement. Online Learning does, however, offer the ability to pace and pause lessons so that students can complete tasks on their own time and even get a little ahead of the workload. Junior Kampbell Stone is also a member of UA’s Online Academy and enjoys being able to manage her own time through online learning, possibly even helping her overall performance in school.
“I personally think I do better online. I get to work on my own time,” Stone said.
The second online option currently offered at UAHS is online classes provided by outside companies, such as Trekka, BYU and Apex, where students can take courses on topics ranging from art to math to business to science. These online courses offer many positives for students, including access to infinite possibilities when it comes to course offerings.
“[The options are] limitless because there are institutions out there that I haven’t even heard of that can offer credit for high school. So yeah, it’s infinite,” UAHS counselor Allen Banks said. These online courses are also beneficial for students who are credit deficient as they allow them to get credits fast. With all of the positives of these online courses, there are also a few negatives, including making things more complicated for administrators, teachers and counselors. With all of the differing online institutions, it can be difficult to track who is doing what. Additionally, the accessibility of these classes could possibly allow for students to use the courses as a way to get out of classroom learning, missing the purpose of online classes. These online courses could also be a nightmare for students who seek face-to-face interaction with their teachers. Junior Liam Fimmen experienced online learning during the pandemic last year.
“It was excruciating and painful because we couldn’t be in person, [and] we couldn’t ask teachers questions,” Fimmen said.
UAHS plans to continue to offer both options of Online Academy and online courses with outside companies to students in the foreseeable future; however, next year, Online Academy will most likely only be offered to students 6-12, rather than K-12. UAHS is continuing to offer online options because of the belief that it serves as a valuable option to students in numerous circumstances, including those who prefer a self-paced schedule or the option to pause or replay a lesson whenever needed. It is also a valuable resource for students who feel overwhelmed by the in-person school experience or are very invested athletes who are pursuing elite and time-consuming sports. Finally, online options also bring benefits for those with health struggles that do not permit them to attend in-person school. With the continuation of online learning into upcoming years, many of the course offerings will stay consistent, and if students would like to learn more about their options, they can contact their counselors.