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Parents and students continue to face obstacles with online learning

EDMONTON (CITYNEWS) – Online learning in Alberta exploded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but parents say it’s been a bumpy road so far.

“At first it was, ‘oh you’ll probably have a meet on Thursday,’” said parent Nadine Riopel. “But then it’s Wednesday night and we still don’t know who our teacher is. And then it’s, ‘well maybe something on Friday. The information kept changing.

“Part of me just wants to be like, ‘you know what, call me when you have it sorted out. We’ll be at the library.'”

Riopel is part of a three-family cohort with a 5-, 6- and 7-year-old. She says there’s some confusion when it comes to scheduling, accessing resources and where teachers are holding their classes.

“They’re all like, in their living rooms,” she said. “And sometimes you can hear their kids in the background. And I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it’s one example of how everything is catawampus.”

Riopel adds her son was forced to switch virtual classrooms just days into the school year after more students transitioned online.

“When we found out that we didn’t have the old teacher, who my son was just getting used to, he was like, ‘I don’t want a new teacher.’ And I’m like, ‘I know, I don’t want a new teacher either.’”

The drastic shift is also being felt by teachers who have been given little time to prep for the new online model.

“It’s a fair bit of a concern when teachers are feeling this exhausted by the start of September,” said Jonathan Teghtmeyer of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. “Some of the platforms that were used in the spring aren’t the ones being deployed now, so teachers have some stumbling in order to figure out the platforms.”

Complicating matters: some teachers are being asked to wear two hats.

“We’re hearing that some teachers are being directed and assigned to be responsible both for student learning at home and in person at the same time,” said Teghtmeyer.

At Edmonton Public Schools, where nearly 30 per cent of students opted for virtual classrooms, space limitations have forced some online teachers to work offsite. But because all online classes have started, families can no longer swap until the start of the second school quarter.

Riopel is hopeful the kinks have been smoothed out. But even if not, she says opting back to in-person classes isn’t currently on the table.

“Part of my brain wanted to reconsider in-person,” she said. “But then you take one look at your social media feed, it’s outbreaks at this school and cases at that school.”