The Uncharted Waters of Webex

By: Jess McComb

On most weekdays in April, the shrill sound of an 8 o clock alarm signals what’s to come: a rushed breakfast and a groggy race to claim the closest spot in a packed parking lot. This sacred tradition, however, has fallen to PJs and pillows, the new normal of digital classroom environments. 

Scrambling to uphold academics during a pandemic, most schools have resorted to the trusty internet for a virtual learning experience. While the luxuries of WiFi and a school-provided iPad have helped maintain learning to a certain degree, Webex meetings are no match to the actual classroom. 

In second period AP Language and Composition when I was called on I found myself scrambling to find the unmute button on my frozen Webex screen, taunted by the quiet virtual sea of students expecting my response. In third period Spanish Four, my teacher’s audio cut out for five precious minutes of our brief class period. In that same class period several students were locked out of the chat room and had to text a frantic plea to their peers in order to inform the teacher of their status and absence.

The app in question, Webex, is an online platform that, like Zoom, allows many devices to congregate in one virtual “classroom,” equipped with audio and video from each device. While the app accomplishes several technological feats, it has received less than complimentary feedback from the Summit high school students.

“It’s really hard to learn when only given thirty minutes of poor reception communication,” junior Alexis Blonder said. “My time would be better spent doing work off of Canvas or Google Classroom.” 

Blonder is not the only student expressing such displeasure. In a survey of 75 Summit students, 45 percent feel that they have not learned at all while participating in Webex meetings and of the 55 percent that have learned, 40 percent claim that it’s on a very rare occasion.

Not only are the meetings short, with a duration of only thirty minutes, they are also infrequent. Nearly 60 percent of students say that their teachers only host Webex meetings once a week and these meetings are not held on a reliable schedule. Due to this, many students have expressed confusion on when their class meetings are being held. Over 55 percent of students have claimed to have missed Webex meetings because of confusion regarding instructions and where to find them. With the addition of Canvas, information regarding class assignments and meetings is often hard to find. Students find themselves orchestrating a treasure hunt between class websites, Canvas, emails and Google Classroom just to stay informed. Unfortunately, with such confusion and infrequency comes a lack of accountability.

 “I’m worried that I’m going to get behind on assignments because I’m not being held accountable in the way that I would if I was actually going to school,” junior Aidan Ramsthel said.

So the question remains: should Webex meetings be halted altogether or should it be mandatory for teachers to hold a meeting at each assigned class period? Normalizing the schedule to a higher frequency of meetings would help with confusion over meeting times as well as provide a greater sense of accountability. However, it is uncertain that increasing the amount of Webex meetings would facilitate actual learning. In a battle of pros and cons the solution of total elimination takes the cake

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