Three months ago, from faraway Los Angeles, California, I watched COVID-19 enter the media from my Twitter account. I couldn’t even point Wuhan out on a map. Then, it was in Europe and it hit Italy hard. Then it, entered the states. Like wildfire, it spread, and then it was in my state. And now, Californians are living life under shelter.
The Impracticality of Distance Learning
Technology has solidified its place as my best friend. Online schooling, or “distance learning” as it’s been referred to as, is the new normal. Video chats and online forums are kings, forcing teachers to struggle into the 21st-century under impossible circumstances. There’s never been a worse time to be a competitive public school student.
Online learning doesn’t compare to the environment fostered by the in-person teacher-student exchange. There’s a personability that’s lacking between screens, even though I’ve known my instructors for 7 months. As a student who’s currently enrolled in 3 AP classes, this is detrimental to my experience. I can’t learn Advanced Placement content from behind the confines of a screen with the limited access I have to my teachers. I can’t interact with the AP curriculum without the buffering of a Zoom call. My learning is impeded by the slow loading period of Google Classroom under the strain of my home’s Wi-fi.
And the College Board fails to recognize this. I think their announcement of shortened, free-response Advanced Placement exams is noble. I’m not blind to the fact that they’re granting service to many high school students (most importantly, graduating seniors) by allowing us the opportunity to accumulate college credit. However, I think it’s a poorly made decision, given the current circumstances of thousands of schools across the nation.
Online, Out of Touch
Primarily, I know how difficult it is going to be to prepare for the altered exams. As a second-year AP student, I speak from experience when I say that preparing for Advanced Placement exams is a serious business. Prep books, flashcards, and hours of in-class review are necessary to achieve a desirable score. That doesn’t look like something that’s going to happen this year. Online exams are not the forte of AP teachers. My teachers are familiar with the pencil-and-paper examinations that the College Board offers every year. My teachers know how to prepare me for an exam of that caliber.
An online, 45-minute free-response exam? Not so much. Online testing is an unprecedented move by the College Board, and therefore, one that there are no instructions for. My teachers know as much about the content and structure of this exam as I do, and it seems like a disadvantage to students across the nation to allow unprepared instructors to ready us for exams. Expecting all AP students and teachers to adjust to and be ready for the format come May is a tall request.
Not to mention, there is a massive likelihood of cheating or collaborating on online exams. Even the most honest of students could fall prey to calling up friends to discuss the test content in real-time. There is no streamlined method of observation the College Board can install for the millions of AP test-takers. There is no safeguard against cheating in the digital sphere. Even within the same household, students could ask parents or siblings for assistance with prompts or problems and the College Board would be none the wiser.
As considerate and important as AP exams can be to students in their journey to college, I don’t think this virgin online format is the right approach. I can’t see myself being adequately prepared for the new type of exam, and this is no fault of my teachers or mine. The College Board overestimates their constituents’ ability to adapt to high-stress exams in a home environment; the College Board overestimates the amount of preparedness that’s possible under shelter-in-place conditions. As wonderful as it would be to receive college credit for the classes I’ve taken this year, as wonderful as it would be to have my $94 per exam pay off, this system is not the solution.