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Here's a look inside a virtual class and how it works as students return to class

Thousands of children are learning virtually this school year. Hundreds have started, and here's what they say has worked.

Thousands of East Tennessee children traded locker combinations for computer passwords and school bus rides for commutes from their bedrooms. Hundreds of students have already started school online, but many more are preparing for their digital debut. 

Students at Maryville Junior High School are in the first category: they started class, virtually or partially-virtually, two weeks ago. 

"It’s hard at first to set expectations," Eighth grade English teacher Jenna Hunt said. "When you’re at home you want to be relaxing, but when you’re in the classroom you know it’s time to work. So meshing those together to get students in a routine is taking a little while to settle in." 

One of her students, Noah Ellis, said a routine helps him get through the day. 

"It's good to have a schedule, a plan on what you're going to do and how you're going to complete it," he said.  He takes breaks to go outside in between classes. Otherwise, his back starts hurting and his fingers cramp up. 

Hunt has become a video virtuoso, creating clip after clip to help her students navigate their online class. 

"I recorded myself reading the entire chapter yesterday just so they could see my face while I was reading it," she said. "Because that's been a real challenge, never seeing their faces."

But it's up to the students on when to do the work. Eighth-grader Camille Oggs said she prefers to get it done quickly. 

"I get up really early so I can just get finished with it and then I'll have something else to do for the rest of the day," she said.

There are some unique eccentricities with working online-only. For band class, Ellis records himself playing the trumpet. The P.E. instructor operates on an honor system. 

In the Maryville City Schools district, working with technology is not new. The district has been one-to-one with devices and students for five years. 

Still, there have been hiccups. For Hunt, there was trouble authenticating students' access to their vocabulary list. For Ellis, it was trouble getting into his email. 

But both said overall, the transition has not been hard. 

"They’re learning the exact same curriculum, they’re doing essentially the same assignments but my virtual learners are completely online whereas my traditional learners might be using pencil and paper every once in a while," Hunt said.


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