VBCA Series Part 1: VBCA is Good, but How Do We Make it Better?

Emily Hashem

This article is part of a series. 


  • Part 1 
    • Preface and methods 
    • Survey results and analysis 
    • Updates from student council 
    • Helpful links and resources
  • Part 2 
    • Looking forward
  • Part 3 
    • Repeat survey and updates 


It’s been a huge adjustment. 

A month ago, I doubt that many of us thought it would get this far. COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) has spread vastly beyond its epicenter in China, and as of March 18th, 2020, BCA is closed until further notice. Despite many of us that despised the stress and workloads, the BCA community feels a sense of longing for a normal routine and a semblance of the academic rigors we’ve become accustomed to. Does virtual schooling —or “VBCA” as many are calling it— address this need? So many new questions have arisen, so in this series, I hope to both chronicle our experience for the purpose of keeping students and administration informed about how VBCA is going and to document this historic period for our society and school. I will do this through a series of school-wide surveys as well as some personal opinions I’ve gathered through my first-hand experience as a student.

To start off, I would like to express my utmost gratitude for the staff and teachers of BCA. BCA was among the very first to implement online schooling, and this was due to the proactivity of our administration and teaching staff. I would also love to thank our student council, especially president Leena Memon, for actively advocating for students and epitomizing the role of student government in this trying time. This article will also include updates on their efforts


A survey of student responses with 10 being most similar and 1 being most dissimilar.

A survey of student responses, with 10 indicating “much more work” and 1 indicating “much less work” 



Question: “What classes were most effectively taught online? Which were not? Why do you think that is?” (83 responses) 


These responses became even more interesting when compared with survey question two, which asked students to assign a binary rating to the quality and quantity of their virtual learning. Overall, students were able to expand more upon how learning quality was a “spectrum” at VBCA. Some things were good, some things were bad. When students had to pick a binary answer, they rated VBCA poorly. However, when allowed to explain their responses, some students expressed that the same level of learning might not even be possible in a virtual setting. A common theme? That classes are “close” to being adequate: good, but not as good as regular school. 



Out of 33 total mentions of the subject “math”, 17 students described math as being effectively taught due to reasons including: subject matter content, the prevalence of a “flipped classroom” in regular school anyway (a flipped classroom being when students learn new material independently, then come into school to ask questions and receive extra guidance), reliance on a textbook, ability to teach themselves, videos and other visual aids. Some students expressed that it was easiest to learn material by doing practice problems. 

The remaining 16 responses described math as difficult to learn virtually or as their “least effective” class. This was due to lack of visual aids, difficulty or inability to teach oneself, and/or lack of an in-person teacher doing problems in front of them. Students struggled the most when teachers did not provide videos of themselves actually doing assigned problems. 



English received positive feedback from the crowd. Students really enjoyed that the “discussion” aspect of class was preserved through Schoology chats (though refreshing was a pain). The fact that English is largely reading-based was also conducive to effective learning. There were several specific mentions of IB Literature and Language as an effectively taught course. However, there were some students who didn’t think virtual discussions were sufficient or who thought lack of hands-on activities negatively affected their learning experience. 


World Language 

Overall, there were 28 mentions of a world language class, 18 of which were negative. Learning new topics online for language proved to be very difficult, and many students also suffered from lack of opportunity to practice speaking with others in that language. Additionally, the learning experience also hinged on a few factors for some individuals: personal ability, teacher’s ability to use technology, and length of class time/ workload, as many students felt they had to rush in class to complete their assignments. Overall, world language seemed to suffer from lack of in-person interaction, but the ten students who gave world language a positive review stated that this was because it was “similar” to their real life classes and that online resources simulated discussions and teaching well. 



As for history, 29 students mentioned this subject in their responses, and 19 responses were positive while 10 were negative. 

From the 19 positive responses, they were similar to the feedback English classes, some students cited effective classroom formatting and good simulation of class discussions in their history classes. Youtube videos explaining content seemed to be a valuable tool. Interestingly, many students stated that the compressed “class time” of VBCA streamlined history and provided for decreased “dead time” in class. 

On the other side of the spectrum, many students agreed that online discussions and lectures just weren’t the same. A few acknowledged that what is being done is the best that can be done under the circumstances, highlighting the futility of trying to bring a class discussion home. Interesting, a unique concern with history was that it was difficult to gauge what students were expected to know content-wise. I interpreted that to mean that expectations for course material to be assessed and applied were not clear. In person, teachers are able to emphasize what to focus on. However, in a virtual setting, the breadth of information may be overwhelming. Overall, how well students learned in virtual history classes depended on how well students felt they could participate in in-class discussions without them feeling chaotic or disorganized. 


Science classes (chemistry, biology, and physics) were mentioned 48 times (7 physics, 19 biology, 22 chemistry). 29 of those were positive responses, most of them regarding chemistry. Chemistry received mostly positive responses while physics received mostly negative responses. Biology received a nearly even split between positive and negative opinions. Students primarily mentioned video lessons as the reason that chemistry classes were so successful. However, a few individuals mentioned that certain chemistry teachers were not communicating well. Overall, several students even mentioned that they liked virtual chemistry better than regular chemistry. 

On the flip side, physics students suffered from a lack of a visual aid. The students who received video explanations fared better than those who did not*. When it came to biology, students missed in-person explanations but stated that, when thorough and  applicable review material was assigned, biology could be learned effectively at home. Many individuals stated that biology teachers were doing the best they could and making the experience as similar as possible to real life biology classes. However, many students still said that they thought a lack of hands-on experience and communication with teachers adversely affected their learning experience. Additionally, one good thing students noticed with virtual biology classes is that they could learn at their own pace. However, teachers would simply assign note-taking or powerpoints or textbook readings—a method of learning that only worked for some students. A few students liked this, but some students said it didn’t help them learn and also made it so that they often didn’t notice that assignments were due. 

*In my personal experience, my teacher used a virtual whiteboard platform called Twiddla, which I appreciated.

Question: “Was virtual school, more, equally, or less stressful than regular school? Why?”

The important takeaway from this question may be how the student responses can be applied to improving regular school. In reality, the responses are a transparent look at what causes student stress. 

83 total responses 

27 indicate “less stressful”

The reasons: 

  • Less work and more time to do it
  • Time to relax
  • No commute, stay in pajamas
  • Choose your own pace
  • Less workload
  • Got less stressful over time
  • Less test stress/fewer assessments
  • More sleep!
  • Getting downtime 
  • Better wifi
  • No constant reminder of work or pressure to perform
  • Don’t have to interact socially or get dressed
  • Teachers are more available 


15 indicate “equally or some of both”

41 remaining responses indicated “more stressful” 

The reasons: 

  • More work 
  • Hard to identify due dates
  • Self-teaching isn’t always effective
  • Submitting things virtually doesn’t always work
  • No review days for exams 
  • Students are more responsible for knowing the content
    • Can’t go over answers easily
    • Not enough opportunity for teachers to help
  • The transition between classes is too abrupt
  • Ambiguous due dates, easy to forget to do assignments
  • Too many tabs open 
  • Class length is not long enough to complete the assignment, so classes overall feel “rushed” 
  • The same amount of material but less depth of learning
  • Too much time needed to complete homework
  • More test anxiety because of ambiguity or time limits 
  • Attendance is hard to manage


Based on the responses, what I would say are the greatest struggles with VBCA are rooted in organization. Students relying on schoology is not reasonable in this situation; schoology is consistently flooded and sometimes crashes, and the layout isn’t designed for the constant assignments and updates. The results might also be skewed based on the individual students’ course load, as indicated by the fact that many of the reasons for “less stressful” contradicted the reasons for “more stressful”. Overall, I would recommend finding a solid organizational approach; personally, I used a google doc where I write down my classes, copy paste agendas and write other notes beneath them, and highlight assignments that need to be completed outside of class time. 



As a junior in high school, even with thousands infected and hundreds dying, the thought of my college prospects still crosses my mind. For many juniors and seniors especially, major events in their highschool timeline have been altered or wiped out. It’s important to realize that, while this is a pandemic and most of the issues that directly affect us aren’t the priority, it is still okay to feel sad, angry, or confused. Nonetheless, I urge you to feel no resentment toward the actions being taken by the state and by the country that may affect your daily lives. While not every aspect of the pandemic has been alarming, the rate at which the situation has changed and evolved is. It’s extremely necessary to take measures to curtail the spread of the virus as quickly as possible, and there are people that experience great suffering as a result of these measures. Some families have become increasingly financially unstable, and those on the front lines fighting the virus put themselves at risk. On top of this, the death toll is not insignificant: as governor Phil Murphy said in a press briefing a few short days ago, “this is a pass or fail exam”– a “few deaths” or “a little bit of spread” isn’t a victory. These deaths matter, and the fear is real. 


Thank you to Mr. Davis for being communicative and going to great lengths everyday in order to better the student experience. Additionally, thanks to the teachers for their continued cooperation. Importantly, special thanks to Leena Memon for providing me access to the student council’s continued initiatives. In the past couple of weeks, the student council has taken the following measures to improve VBCA: 

  • Communicated with teachers to: 
    • Post agendas ahead of time 
    • Provide ten minutes for students to sign in to class and be considered “on time”
    • Inform them that video lessons were rated the best learning tool by students 
    • Follow up on specific teachers whose students are experiencing “time crunch” 
      • Inform all teachers of student difficulty to submit assignments within class time 
    • Provide a “reading day” 
    • Assign no more than 2 hours of homework per week (teachers who did not comply were subject to follow-ups)
    • Remind teachers to submit tri 2 grades
    • Work on making the schoology calendar less crowded
  • Postponed tri 3 electives/projects
  • Requested to central admin for powerschool to be open 24/7
  • Implement morning announcements on schoology
  • Survey the student body. 




  • Hotlines and help links for those struggling under these trying circumstances: 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

National Suicide Prevention chat service: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat

NAMI (national alliance on mental illness): NAMI HelpLine

Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST

(800) 950-6264


“NJ Mental Health Cares, the state’s behavioral health information and referral service, will now also offer help to people dealing with anxiety and worry related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. New Jerseyans can call 1-866-202-HELP (4357) for free, confidential support.  NJ Mental Health Cares will be answered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week by live trained specialists.”(https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/news/press/2020/approved/20200323b.html


If you’re concerned about coronavirus symptoms, dial 211, not 911. If you have a medical emergency and know/suspect you have coronavirus, inform the operator. 

  • How to help: 
    • Donate PPE to hospitals (Mt. Sinai among others currently accepting donations) 
    • Donate food (shelters, assisted living, those affected in your community) 
    • Donate to organizations in need (like ambulance corps)

This story is developing. This has concluded part one of this series. Click the link below to check out part two, and keep an eye out to respond to the survey for part three!