Panther Exploration Projects become virtual

Sophomores+join+a+zoom+at+home+on+early+release%2C+PEP+days.+Due+to+transportation+issues%2C+all+students+leave+school+and+sophomores+have+to+go+home+and+join+a+zoom+to+participate.+

Sophomores join a zoom at home on early release, PEP days. Due to transportation issues, all students leave school and sophomores have to go home and join a zoom to participate.

Janie Akers

It is that time of year again at NC, Panther Exploration Projects are in full swing. Previously known as the “Personal Project,” PEP is the new name for essentially the same process past sophomores have been through.

Other than being a graduation requirement, the point of PEP is to encourage students to learn more about a topic they are interested in. Students have the freedom to choose any task or topic they want to explore, and then they need to compile their newfound knowledge into their choice of presentation.

Sophomores meet approximately once a month to work on their PEP after school on early release days. In previous years, these meetings have been in a classroom. This was originally the plan for this year’s PEP meetings. However, a change in plans led sophomores to join a Zoom meeting from home instead due to transportation issues.

I think PEP meetings moving to Zoom are very unfortunate. It is guaranteed to result in a lack of student engagement and participation. We saw last year that virtual learning is not nearly as impactful as being in a natural classroom setting, and I foresee PEP to be no different.

“I think there will be a slight decrease in submissions, but more than anything, there will be a lack of effort in the projects,” sophomore Jack Glassley said.

During each meeting, students are supposed to meet certain checkpoints in the project to complete it on time. Spacing out the project over the school year makes everything much more manageable. I worry that students will ignore PEP altogether and put it off until close to the due date because the meetings are virtual. 

I plan on attending all of the PEP Zooms, but I know this is not the case for many students. Coming home from school on an early release day and going straight into a Zoom meeting takes lots of integrity. Unfortunately, forcing students to hold themselves accountable like this does not consistently deliver ideal outcomes.

Zoom seems to disincentivize students to work hard. Something about being in the comfort of one’s own home versus in a physical school building causes laziness across the board. So, unfortunately, a process that is supposed to be an enjoyable, thought-provoking project, will just become another virtual assignment to check off of a to-do list for many students.

Hopefully, the sophomore class will surprise me by rising to the challenge and completing the PEPs to the same level of quality as classes before us. At this point, only time will tell the outcomes of the projects.