It’s the Phi-nal countdown

Written by Justine Leung

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Homework platform scrapped in favour of Google Classroom

Every Secondary student in RCHK knows Phi as the website so prone to malfunction that it functioned more as an excuse not to do homework when the site failed at its main purpose--to list homework set by teachers.

Well, students who used to exploit this must have been devastated to find out through their teachers that the school has finally decided to discontinue the function of posting homework on Phi at the start of this academic year. Instead, the College will be using Google Classroom to upload and check MYP and DP classroom resources and assignment deadlines.

Phi has been subject to criticism by both teachers and students for several years now, and it seems that the College has finally decided to take action.

Users complained about its irregular use and poor functionality. Although homework task information could be communicated to students by other means, it was expected deadlines at least would be posted by teachers on Phi. However, in reality this did not always happen. “Towards the end of last year, teachers started to get irresponsible by not putting their resources onto Phi which was really annoying and which is why I’m really happy that we’re using Google Classroom now,” said Amber Kwok, a Year 11 student.  

“I would say that Phi is a very badly designed website, because the homework function lags and sometimes doesn’t send to us,” said Angus Leung, a Year 10 student.

It was confirmed by confirmed by Vice Principal and Head of Learning Technologies, Ania Zielinska, that the resource sharing function used by teachers to post classroom materials for students (located under the “Courses” menu tab) will no longer be used this year either. Other functions such as the Student Bulletin and class timetables will continue to remain active, as well as the Data Hub feature used by teachers.

The future of Phi will be determined based on a comprehensive review of the website, according to Zielinska. Depending on the results, there is a chance that Phi will be repurposed so that it functions more like Gateway and Managebac, such as allowing students to record S&A/CAS entries, check their number of school absences, and, for Year 11 students, access their Personal Project files. Either that, or the rest of its functions will be fully closed down and discontinued.

Zielinska has also described three main reasons as to why Google Classroom has been chosen to take the place of Phi.

Firstly, Google Classroom is a part of the G-suite, which has been used by the College for eight years. It integrates with Google Drive and Calendar so that when a teacher posts an assignment on Classroom, an event is automatically created in teachers’ and students’ Google Calendars and the file uploaded is uploaded to a folder in the student’s own Drive. This simplifies administrative workflows for teachers and students so both can focus more on teaching and learning. Cameron Otto, MYP/DP teacher with six years of experience in using Phi, said that “[Google Classroom] is more user friendly, and the whole Google Suite is more integrated with one another, so it’s all really good.”

Secondly, the Google Classroom interface is more in line with modern platforms. It has a fluid interface that looks and works much better on desktop and mobile devices, irrespective of the platform it is being displayed on. In addition to this, RCHK students and teachers are already familiar with how Google Suite applications look and feel, making it easy for them to adjust to Classroom.


Thirdly, some teachers have already been using Google Classroom in their own classes for a few years even before the phasing out of Phi for all classes this year. “We have been using Google Classroom in some subjects for at least three years now, and feedback has been very positive. The use of Classroom grew organically because teachers really liked it,” Zielinska said.

However, some still believe that there are some positive aspects of Phi which Google Classroom is unable to match.

Anika Cheung, a Year 9 student, finds that all assignments posted onto Phi can be immediately viewed in one comprehensive list on the home page, whereas on classroom the calendar function makes it more difficult to view all assignments at once.

Phil Knight, a MYP/DP teacher with seven years experience in using Phi, also says that with Google Classroom the biggest issue for students is the inability to view all assignments at once in one comprehensive list. “You could log in, your parents could log in, and you’ll see where your homework is. Google Classroom is not good for that, because the notifications that go to parents are hard to follow,” he noted. While students on Google Classroom can view assignments one week at a time, parents do not have access to this calendar and can find it difficult to keep up with their child’s assignments.

And finally, we have the Phi exploiters who are sad to see the website’s primary function go out of use. “Honestly, I liked Phi because it told you everything, and if the homework wasn’t there, your teacher couldn’t tell you off for not doing it,” said Taylor Chung, a Year 11 student.