EU campus reacts to remote online learning amid COVID-19

Category:  News
Thursday, April 9th, 2020 at 3:08 PM
EU campus reacts to remote online learning amid COVID-19 by Shayma Musa

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On March 23, Edinboro students began adapting to a newly online spring 2020 semester, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. For most of those students, that meant moving back home with their families and adjusting in a myriad of ways: with different schedules, possibly changing employment status, reduced social activities and more.

The Spectator checked in with students and educators after two weeks down in the new online environment.

Alicia Craig, a junior English literature major, had what she called a “disastrous” first week back. “I had trouble with D2L. Zoom classes are fine, but my brain isn’t made for online learning anyway.” After two weeks, Craig had adjusted, but “still doesn't enjoy online learning.”

Gabi Hind, who is completing an associate degree in liberal arts/communications, said: “I had serious issues on day one. [I had] trouble signing in, and then I had to completely restart a test because the test froze up on me. Very hard first day, but the rest of the week was fine.”

Danielle Bowser, a junior biology major, talked specifically about acclimating to online laboratory courses.

“Labs, for me, are [now] mostly busy work, by analyzing provided data or watching simulations and answering questions about them. I am definitely missing the hands-on work and being able to not only learn about how something works, but to also see it in action.”

While stating that, “overall labs are going well,” she continually maintained her preference for the physical setting. “I would much rather have the satisfaction of successfully completing a lab and analyzing my own data as labs should be done.”

Other students expressed frustration relating to new routines and gaining the motivation to complete schoolwork. “Online classes don’t feel as engaging. Everything feels more optional since I’m simply participating through my laptop,” said Derrian Ulmer, a junior.

Josh Bennet, also a junior, echoed this sentiment. “I'm not too much of a fan of it because I don't really have a routine now.”

Victoria Hedderick, Interim Edinboro APSCUF President, mentioned that the faculty union is not requiring any one mode of instruction for the online finish to the semester. “Some faculty might use Zoom, others are doing voiceovers of PowerPoints, etc. Classes that are a little harder are labs and art studios.”

For faculty that need instruction regarding online learning, The Center for Faculty Excellence, as well as the university IT department, is offering training sessions for Zoom and D2L. These are continuing over the next two weeks.

Hedderick mentioned that all faculty were officially notified of the online change when the students were, “however the provost did send out an email about beginning to think about a plan, and he had me on speed-dial for most of spring break.”

“Provost Hannan has been very upfront with communicating with me and very interactive in keeping faculty involved,” she continued.

Lisa Austin, a professor in the art department, talked specifically about transforming her courses. “Like other faculty, I've been spending many, many hours searching, learning and planning. Each course has taken a different format in this digital realm. I redesigned the second half of the semester so that students with spotty Wi-Fi could still complete the course work just reading emails and D2L instructions. However, Zoom meetings are scheduled for every section of every class and for many individual follow-up meetings.”

Austin noted that as a sculptor she’s “at home in an analog world,” and had never used D2L before the transition to completely online instruction.

“Prior to COVID 2019, I had barely dealt with D2L and Zoom because they seemed like a lot of bother without any clear advantage. Now I know I'll never go completely analog again,” she said.

Other professors, like Dr. Timothy Thompson in the communication, journalism and media department, and Cappy Counard in the art department, highlighted the continued importance of interpersonal interaction between students and faculty.

“My favorite thing about teaching is spending time with students individually and as a group, and having that community, and that feeling of comradery when everyone is making in the same space,” said Counard. “And I certainly miss that. And I’m trying to do my best to maintain that sense of community through Zoom.”

Thompson said: “The biggest hurdles we have seen are for the classes that typically require a lot of group interaction or presentation ... in my ‘Organizational Communication’ course, we run a semester-long marketplace simulation in which students plan and present different aspects of an integrated marketing communication project. And then it ends in a trade show where they display their company and buy products. The pivot to online has brought much of that to a screeching halt. We're still doing it, but it's not quite the same.”

Another thing that Hedderick mentioned was that she worried students would discount the seriousness of their classes. “I don’t want students to minimize it. For some students it might require more work on their end ... for students they now have to read and interpret their [course material] whereas in the classroom it was more interactive.”

EU announced on March 16 that the rest of the spring 2020 semester would be completed remotely and online. It then extended that decision to all scheduled summer 2020 classes. There is no word yet regarding if in-person instruction will resume in the fall.

Tags: coronavirus

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