WCTA Biotech Program Suffers Under Distance Education

By: Kyllian Thorne, reporter

When the matter of class functionality is discussed, distance education doesn’t usually come up. Unfortunately, with the discovery of COVID-19, distance learning is the new norm. This does, however, affect some classes adversely. In the case of West Tech, the Biotech program was hit hard.

“We can’t do any labs for our (senior research) project,” said Tiana Peez, senior in the Biotech program, “but Mrs. McKinney provided an… opportunity to use research journals to help us.” Tiana expressed a strong desire to return to the lab, preferring a hands-on approach to science and being understandably outraged at the strange system of reopening facilities, such as preferring casinos over taking the time to make the schools safer.

The Biotech program’s current progress rate is abysmal, with distance education setting the students back almost their entire junior and senior years. Projects that once involved bunsen burners and model organisms now consist entirely of simulations and internet searches, if that. Biotech is a program revolving around gene editing and practical application of research, and technology is now more than ever its bane.

Some have even needed to change the project entirely. Those unlucky enough to be found without the means of affording several thousand dollar tools at the flick of a wrist have been forced to rethink their approach entirely. This is because of a reliance on now-inaccessible school materials.

Andrea Jydstrup-McKinney, the teacher for the program, agreed with Tiana’s assessment, saying she prefers the hands-on portion of the program. “I’ve been trying,” she said, “to find ways to adapt the content and still get the content across. It’s just hard to find alternatives to the labs we used to do.”

Regardless of the reason, the Biotech program has found itself caught between a rock and a hard place; how is a program based around hands-on learning supposed to keep up in a world where hands-on learning is made impossible?

The answer simply is that it can’t. The program has reached a dead-end with the advent of distance education, but what alternative does the school system have? To send the children back is to pose a health risk, but to deny access to these school materials is to impede on the progress of the programs. It seems a dilemma to which there is no easy answer.

Photo Credit: Kyllian Thorne

The WCTA Biotech Wix site is a fascinating place to learn about the program, yet the virtual format is a sad reminder of how the class has fallen after COVID.

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