Distance Learning Present Challenges For Teachers, Students

FCPS has been using the ‘schoology’ platform to replace actual classroom instruction  during the COVID-19 pandemic;


Frederick, Md (KM)  It’s been a challenge for Frederick County public school teachers as they try to continue their classroom instructions on line. All schools in Maryland have been closed since March 16th to help stop the spread of rhe coronavirus. The closures have been extended to May 15th.

Frederick County Councilman Jerry Donald is a social studies teacher at Middletown High School, who says he and his fellow teachers  have been using a platform called “Schoology,” where teachers e-mail their assignments to their students, who complete them and send their back. “Now, fortunately, I have a textbook that I can use. Every student that I have has a textbook at home so that I can have them read that and do work in the textbook and send that to me remotely. That’s a lot of what I’m doing now,” he says.

But  it does present some problems. “The biggest challenge, I think, is that a lot of things that I have  to teach we use a lot of classroom instruction. Well, that’s more difficult this way, especially since we don’t do any live teaching. The School doesn’t want us to do that,” says Donald.

Even though he;s not there in the classroom to lead discussions or answer students’ questions, Donald says he does maintain “office hours” on line, which is time he’s set aide to receive student questions via e-mail and he sends back answers.

Being a social studies teacher means Donald has classes in American History and politics, which have textbooks. But he says one class he teaches is “Philosophy of Knowledge,” which has no textbook. “It’s a fairly small class with seniors so they’re pretty good with the technology that they need to do. So I just send them assignments and they send it back to me if I e-mail it through schoology,” he says.

Another challenge is testing. “If I give a test, I have great difficulty knowing if the students can access other information while they’re doing the test. So basically, honesty,” Donald says. “There is no way I can guarantee that. So I’m shying away from tests, and leaning more toward other assignments for their grade.”

Needless to say there will be no final exams, says Donald.

It’s  been more than a month since schools in Maryland were closed due to the coronavirus, but Donald says, even with distance learning, he can complete the curriculum he’s mapped out for his students before the academic year ends. “Unfortunately, we had about a two-week lag just trying to set everything up. We couldn’t just go  right to remote learning day one. And we didn’t know how long it would be. So I lost a little bit of time but I’ll catch up by the end of the semester,” he says.

In the end, Donald says he would prefer being in the classroom teaching as opposed to doing so remotely. “This is my 32nd year. So this is definitely  trying to teach an old do a new trick,” he said



By Kevin McManus