Why Digital Learning Days Need to Change

They’re too long and grueling, with some assignments more meaningful than others


Emily Hawkins, Staff Reporter

The frigid snowstorm and icy roads in January of 2017 put a pause on life, preventing people from going anywhere for several days. A severe case of cabin fever was felt by nearly everyone.

The unexpected weather did not cause students at La Salle to stop studying, though.

Mr. Kuffner, La Salle’s principal, introduced Digital Learning Days, which have now become widely known as DLDs. Participating in these days prevented the administration from having to add additional days at the end of the school year to make up for the unscheduled closures. The goal was to keep students actively engaged in their studies and to remain on track with the curriculum. La Salle’s solution was even recognized in the Clackamas Review and The Oregonian.

In the 2017-2018 school year, two Digital Learning Days were scheduled in advance. They were not due to inclement weather. Instead, the purpose of these pre-planned Digital Learning Days was to allow teachers to plan lessons accordingly and practice this new idea more. The idea is part of a shift towards new methods of learning and is meant to prepare students for changes happening at the college level. La Salle recently had their second planned Digital Learning Day last Monday, April 16th.

After our latest DLD, it’s clear that Digital Learning Days are a very innovative idea, integrating our iPads into our learning experience almost perfectly; however, to make DLDs more productive and efficient, they need to be reconfigured in a few key ways.

Surely, Digital Learning Days offer flexibility and freedom that the structure of the regular day-to-day school schedule doesn’t allow. Many students, myself included, appreciate that they are able to stay connected with their teachers and on top of their school work despite being out of the classroom.

But based on my own experience and that of my peers, we as students often feel extremely overwhelmed by the massive amount of work assigned. As a student who takes school seriously, I remember working continuously for eight hours straight on a majority of our Digital Learning Days, and this is without Netflix playing in the background or stopping to refresh social media.

A lot of the assignments that I have been given for various Digital Learning Days feel as if they are just “busy work,” not actually extending our learning. I have also been given a separate Digital Learning Day assignment, while still being expected to continue work on an ongoing project. This left me feeling that I now had, unfairly, twice the amount of work to complete for that certain class.

On the flip side, I find it beneficial to our learning when teachers give us assignments that specifically apply to the unit we are currently studying. For example, screencasts have the ability to imitate the feeling of being in a classroom. I also think that Schoology discussions are an interesting way to compare thoughts and opinions, especially with students who might not regularly volunteer to speak in class.

Digital Learning Days feel so long and are more grueling than attending classes because you are working for hours on end, as opposed to having class discussions or lectures. In class, worksheets are not given just to pass the time; instead they are often accompanied by things such as discussions, activities, and guided practice. However, in my experience, extra worksheets assigned on Digital Learning Days often do not enrich learning.

I understand that this is still a fairly new addition to the academic experience at La Salle, and teachers are most likely still learning what works, and what doesn’t.

However, I think that the length of time students should be spending on each assignment needs to be enforced in a stricter manner: fifty minutes for each class period on block schedules and thirty minutes for each class on straight seven schedules. The work completed should take a shorter amount of time, as opposed to the actual amount of time that would be spent in each of those classes if it were a normal school day. I have had many instances where the work has taken a longer amount of time than a regular class period, which is stressful and exhausting.

The assignments given also need to be an extension of our learning, rather than “extra work” just to have something for students to do.

Digital Learning Days are a positive addition to La Salle and it is beneficial to practice them; however, they should not become a frequent occurrence, and should be limited to no more than two pre-scheduled days per year. And even despite their downsides, they are an extremely valuable plan to have as a backup if students and teachers are unable to attend school safely.

Photo by Taras Shypka on Unsplash. Used with permission.