Jesuit Chronicle

Digital Learning: The Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

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Isabel Crespo

A student’s digital learning setup during distance synchronous learning at Jesuit High School.

With digital learning becoming the new reality for students due to COVID-19, administrators and teachers have developed new and innovative ways to conduct learning. 

Online learning can be categorized into three learning styles: synchronous, asynchronous, and a hybrid of the two.

At Jesuit High School, digital learning for the 2020-2021 school year is partially synchronous with intermittent periods of asynchronous learning through Zoom calls. In the spring of 2020, however, asynchronous learning was enforced.   

“When we talk about synchronous learning we are talking about activities that students are doing in real-time,” Alyssa Tormala, the vice principal of professional development and innovation at Jesuit, said. “It could consist of a class discussion over Zoom or online, as well as group projects as a class or in small groups.”

Asynchronous learning is taught without real-time interaction where assignments and instructions are posted online for students to work through.

According to TheBestSchools.org, asynchronous learning can take the form of pre-recorded videos, self-guided lessons, lecture notes, or online discussions. 

Based on the feedback Jesuit collected during the spring, while some students enjoyed the flexibility of self-paced asynchronous work, the majority of students struggled with a lack of structure. 

“There were students… struggling because they did not have that specific structure in the day to help them keep track with where they were and what they were doing in any given time,” Tormala said.

Other Portland area institutions, like Lincoln High School, are also online.

For Katlyn Kenney, a senior at Lincoln High School, her teachers’ material didn’t translate well through an online environment, which impacted her ability to retain information.

“I would rather have someone teaching and lecturing me, or showing me math problems to my face then giving me a worksheet to read,” Kenney said. “Watching a video a teacher made or watching a Khan Academy video just doesn’t really click.” 

Without face-to-face interaction during asynchronous learning, student morale also decreased because of a lack of connection with peers and teachers. 

“We got a lot of feedback from teachers and parents [saying] that they were missing the person-to-person contact,” Tormala said. “Students and parents reported that the lack of personal connection with classmates and teachers made students feel disconnected and isolated. Even though Zoom is not the same as being in-person, it still provides a level of connection that purely asynchronous learning did not.”

Because the asynchronous model wasn’t conducive to learning and mentally sustainable for students and teachers alike, Jesuit switched to a mainly synchronous model in the fall, consisting of three to four 80-minute zoom calls a day through a block schedule.

When asked about what led to the consensus on 80-minute Zoom calls, Tormala said it took a lot of research and communication with other schools nationwide and in the local Portland area.

“Most schools seemed to be moving toward that block schedule and 80 minutes appears to be the average,” Tormala said. “If you talk with other Catholic schools in the area, they are all using a similar structure of a block schedule of three to four classes a day somewhere between 65-85 minutes. So are many of our fellow Jesuit schools around the country.”

Throughout the 80 minutes provided for each class, whether or not students are required to stay on Zoom the entire period or break-off asynchronously is dependent on the teacher and subject they are teaching.

“If you as a teacher feel it’s important that students be in a synchronous learning situation, such as learning a new topic…where you want to keep everyone in the same sequence, you can use the 80 minutes for that,” Tormala said. “We trust our teachers to have good professional judgment about what the learning needs to look like at the point that they are in their unit and for a particular content area, and what their students are needing.”

Now six weeks into the school year, Jesuit has been gathering feedback from students, teachers, and parents on the new partially synchronous model.

“We all miss being in school with each other in person,” Tormala said. “But we have received deep gratitude from many of our students and our parents especially. We’ve had a lot of students say that they really like the block schedule as long as their teachers keep it interesting.” 

Among the students at Jesuit who are embracing synchronous learning is junior Eli Flamoe.

“It has actually gone a lot smoother than I was expecting it to, and it feels more like real school,” Flamoe said.

Tormala commented that having 80-minute class periods “gives teachers more flexibility” and a “clear structure so they know what is happening on any given day.”

Despite the synchronous model promoting more interactive and structured learning, the challenge that remains is maintaining engagement while spending hours on Zoom.

“It’s just so much harder to pay attention online,” Flamoe said.

“I think everyone is feeling Zoom fatigue which is kind of to be expected and kind of unavoidable,” Tormala said. “Yet we have to encounter each other through this lens. It is the only way we can right now.”

There are many factors determining the success of synchronous or asynchronous learning with the main takeaway being that there will have to have a lot of trial and error before consistency and normalcy is established.

“With anything new it takes a while,” Tormala said. “Learning is a struggle no matter what it is that we are learning and right now we are learning how to engage in this environment on a regular basis. It will get easier because our brains will build new pathways to figure it out.”

About the Writer
Photo of Isabel Crespo
Isabel Crespo, Junior Executive Editor

Isabel Crespo is an editor for the Jesuit Chronicle. She is a Junior at Jesuit High School and is excited to pursue her passion for writing on a deeper...

Creating lasting change in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department

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Miyako Barnett

2020 Jesuit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Logo

In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, many schools and companies have released public statements about their commitments to racial equity. Jesuit, too, has released such a statement and makes a commitment to creating lasting change related to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department has made tremendous progress in the last six years under the guidance of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Melissa Lowery. The office has extended its outreach with parent affinity groups, student clubs, community conversations, and a new webpage on the Jesuit website. However, Lowery asserts that lasting change is only possible with a shift in culture. 

“We are a resource for DEI, but for real change to happen, it requires all hands on deck in the community to do the work,” Lowery said. 

The DEI program continues to grow with the addition of a full-time staff member, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Brenda Cruz Jaimes. Cruz aims to support current efforts in DEI and work to implement curriculum changes and community dialogues in the near future. 

As a former counselor at De La Salle North Catholic, Cruz has seen an overwhelming number of students working for change. 

“All of the clubs that are under the DEI umbrella have really stood out to me,” Cruz said. “Without the support and leadership of our students, we wouldn’t be able to make as much lasting change.”

While the institution is committed to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community, Lowery argues that a shift in Jesuit culture is needed for lasting change. 

“Culture is a big factor in how communities work, feel, and move,” Lowery said. “It affects curriculum, programming, policy, and all the things you can think of.”

In addition, Brenda Cruz emphasizes the importance of dialogue among students, parents, and faculty. While Jesuit has assisted open dialogues with the monthly Community Conversations and Peer-2-Peer conversations, the community needs to continue making genuine efforts to have discussions about race, identity, and culture Cruz says. 

From a student perspective, senior Miyako Barnett calls for representation of underrepresented voices. She asserts that a culture change can only be achieved through hearing from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underrepresented communities. Barnett also stresses the importance of accountability and awareness. 

“We need to hold each other accountable for our actions,” Barnett said. “Avoiding passiveness and actively working together is how we create change.”

Lowery, Cruz, and Barnett are hopeful for the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Jesuit High School. They are committed to working with the Jesuit community to create lasting and sustainable change.

About the Writer
Photo of Reet Chatterjee
Reet Chatterjee, Staff Writer

A senior at Jesuit High School, Reet Chatterjee strives to better humanity with his writing. His writing focuses include social justice, politics, reform,...

Math teacher Mr. Skokan to be deployed to Kosovo

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Courtesy of Michael Lang

Comparing and contrasting Active Army Duty vs. Army National Guard

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Math teacher Mr. Skokan deployed to Kosovo

By Michael Lang

Mr. Skokan, a United States Army National Guardsman, is being deployed to Kosovo in Eastern Europe for a year, beginning in January of 2020.

While Mr. Skokan’s role doesn’t fully entail the aspects of active duty personnel when not deployed, it does include training that occurs at least once a month and two or more continuous weeks a year. However, National Guardsmen complete the same training as active duty Soldiers, and attend the same Army schools as their active duty counterparts.

This gives Mr. Skokan the opportunity to serve part time while still carrying out a civilian career.

Additionally, this is his first deployment anywhere as a National Guardsman.

“Five years ago, we were supposed to go to Afghanistan, but there was a draw down at the time, so our deployment was cancelled,” Mr. Skokan said. “This [mission] is a go.”

As such, the federal government plays a part in allocating soldiers to certain areas where additional support is needed. In the case of Mr. Skokan, Oregon Army National Guardsmen are being sent to Kosovo due to past turmoil in that country.

Following World War II, modern-day Kosovo was established as a province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with Serbs primarily making up the ethnic group of the region. In addition, the predominant religion was Christian Orthodox, which conflicted with the Islamic religion of many Albanians, the former majority ethnic group that resided within the region of Kosovo.

By the 1980s, many Albanians living in Kosovo rioted and called for the independence of the country. Albanian leaders organized a referendum, declaring Kosovo independent in 1991.

Serbia responded with repressive actions and later conducted a campaign that led to massacres and expulsions of ethnic Albanians from their homes, displacing thousands.

This further escalated to the involvement of NATO forces. In 1999, NATO began airstrikes over Serbian forces for 11 weeks until a peace accord was signed in June.

Since then, tensions have begun to ease within Kosovo. However, sporadic violence continued to occur early in the 21st century with riots claiming the lives of several individuals.

NATO forces have been deployed to Kosovo during the country’s recovery since then, including U.S. forces, including the brigade Mr. Skokan is in, the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The entire mission for Mr. Skokan will begin on January 4th and, because of this, a few structural changes to the math department have been made.

Mr. Cowal is now the head of the math department, taking on the former role of Mr. Skokan. Calculus classes have also been shifted to different teachers in the absence of Mr. Skokan.

While Jesuit will miss Mr. Skokan when he leaves, many students continue to respect the duties of teachers at Jesuit that have served.

“I am honored to have teachers that have served us before and are serving us now,” senior Kyle Leglar said.

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About the Writer
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Michael Lang, Alumni 2019-2020







Michael Lang is going into his senior year at Jesuit High School. Born in Portland, Oregon, Michael has two older siblings at the University...

New Faculty and Staff

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New Teachers answer shadow questions

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Francisco Hernandez

If you could make a mix of any politician and food, what would you do?: I think I would take Pete Buttigieg and a burrito. I don’t really know why but I feel that he has something about him that makes me think that would be a good combination.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you have entered the Jesuit community?: The thing I am looking forward to most in joining the Jesuit community, is to continue growing. I want to continue growing in my profession as a teacher, as a coach, as a member of the community, and as a Catholic. 

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Sara Holman

Would you rather have super strength or be able to fly?: I’d rather fly so that I could travel quickly and easily to see places and people I love.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: The community of Jesuit has been so welcoming and so I am very excited to be a part of it and everything it stands for. I look forward to participating in all types of events throughout the year.

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Teri Calcagno

Would you rather be able to read minds or fly?: I would rather fly!

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: I haven’t been in high school for a while, so I am excited to be back with students. I am also excited about the campus ministry at Jesuit and the sustainability measures!

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Lauren Blumhardt

If you could make a mix of any animal and food, what would you do?: I would mix a puff Cheeto and a giraffe. So a life-size puff Cheeto in the shape of a giraffe.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: I am excited for a tremendous school year with my world history and seminar crews! I love the culture of Jesuit and all of the awesome people who are apart of the Sader family. OH! And I always look forward to lacrosse season. GO CRUSADERS!

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Wes Hueston

Do you think cereal is soup?: Yes, if SpaghettiOs are Fruit Loops.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: Getting to spend every day here!

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Kim Basatble

Would you rather only eat pineapple pizza forever or pistachio flavored ice cream forever?: Ice cream forever!

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: The most exciting about being at Jesuit is the hope I see in the student population. I see the hope in the way students have reached out to me to welcome me as a new face on campus, empathetically asking me how things are going.  If we keep treating each other like that, with respect and love, this world is going to be ok.

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Michele Hoover

Is a hotdog a sandwich?: I think a hotdog is a sandwich.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: I am most excited about getting to know the students and being able to support them.

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Terry Moore

Would rather fight a chicken sized horse or 100 horse sized chickens?: One chicken-sized horse is the way to go.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you have entered the Jesuit community?: I’m most excited about getting back in the classroom again. It’s a great way to help others and watch students grow!

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Austin Salzwedel

Would rather fight a chicken sized horse or 100 horse sized chickens?: One chicken-sized horse is the way to go.

What are you the most excited about this year now that you have entered the Jesuit community?: I’m most excited about getting back in the classroom again. It’s a great way to help others and watch students grow!

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Kirk Soule

Would you rather have spoons for arms or forks for legs?: I would rather have forks for legs…as long as they were “full sized” ones and NOT salad forks!

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: I am excited to RETURN to Jesuit this year(I started teaching here 40 years ago but left for a while). It’s wonderful to reconnect with many old friends and coworkers.

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Wally Waibel

If you could make a mix of any natural disaster and politician, what would it be?: I don’t like politicians…. So I guess I will lump them all into one group and call them a plague. 

What are you the most excited about this year now that you’ve entered the Jesuit community?: I have actually been involved in the Jesuit community ever since I graduated from JHS in 2008 so I guess what I am most excited about is being more deeply involved in the lives and growth of the students. Jesuit helped grow and shape me into the man that I am today… I am also excited for the student/staff basketball game! 

About the Writer
Photo of Jayla Lowery
Jayla Lowery, Alumni 2019-2020

Jayla Lowery is a current senior at Jesuit High School. She enjoys biking, reading, swimming, music, daydreaming, watching movies, and writing mediocre...

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